A dynamite and appropriately scathing critique by Prof John Whitehall of the ABC Australian Story episode which lionised Dr Michelle Telfer. Anytime someone who claims to be practising evidence-based medicine says "I know we are doing the right thing" as Telfer does, we should be alarmed.
Prof Whitehall demolishes Telfer's claim that puberty blockers are reversible and essentially harmless, demonstrating the adverse effects they have on cognitive processes, mood (causing depression in females), behaviour and multiple bodily systems:
"In females, blockers resulted in 'profound effects' on behaviour, interpreted as depression (despair-like behaviour), and on the neural activity in the hippocampus, 'a brain region crucially involved in stress processing, depression and cognition'. Blocked males exhibited 'pronounced differences in locomotion [they were hyperactive] and social preference [they preferred the company of males, and showed none of the usual interest in the opposite sex], and increases in neuroendocrine responses to stress'."
He argues rightly that if we're deranging someone's brain through interruption of normal maturation (and the brain does a lot of this development during puberty), how can we possibly claim that we're benignly providing a "pause" to facilitate wise decision-making about major life issues? No rational person would normally argue that causing cognitive dysfunction helps anyone, let alone kids, to make better decisions, especially such momentous, irreversible decisions. Or in his more eloquent words:
"The question is, how can society permit agency for such massive interventions when the vagaries of cerebral development are already known, and there is established proof of interruption to function and structure by the very chemicals about to be administered?"
He further argues:
"Society recognises the imbalance of adolescence and denies adolescents access to alcohol, tattoos, driving cars and joining the army. To the contrary, the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne insists on a special exemption for gender-confused children: they should be granted special “agency” for massive intervention of lifelong importance, despite lack of supporting evidence and the growing ranks of “desisters” who regret they were not protected from their immaturity."
When it comes to the progression of kids from puberty blockers to cross sex hormones (aka opposite sex hormones), what Dr Telfer is viewing as a decision based on "wisdom" is in fact, Whitehall argues, further evidence of iatrogenic harm (i.e. harm done through treatment):
"Two other biological factors are relevant to consideration of the capacity for informed consent in children on hormonal intervention. First, the observation that almost all children who start on blockers proceed to cross-sex hormones is argued to be confirmation of maturity of decision. But, studies on blocked sheep and rodents suggest an alternative, iatrogenic explanation: blockers interfere with the limbic system, reducing exploration and increasing fearfulness. The animals prefer the familiar to the novel: they avoid change. Thus, the decision to progress to cross-sex hormones may not represent wisdom, merely the role of chemical tram-tracks.
"An associated psychological pressure to proceed to cross-sex hormones is that of the difficulty of rejection of the adopted persona in the face of all those authority figures in the family, the school, the web and the hospital."
He then goes on to detail the various countries and US states that are recoiling from "gender affirming care" and re-embracing psychotherapy and compassionate caution and asks if these clinicians would be facing up to 10 years jail for practising the dreaded "conversion therapy" were they in Victoria?
Further on he undermines the suicide rationale for drastic early treatment:
"Although it is well known that children suffering social and mental burdens may harm themselves and, therefore, demand special attention, there is no evidence that gender dysphoria per se leads to suicide and therefore justifies the massive intervention of hormonal transformation."
In fact, the treatment itself appears to be exacerbating suicide risk:
"To the contrary, there is epidemiological evidence that transgendered adults suffer a rate of suicide some twenty times higher than the general population. Thus, one way for prevention of that tragedy might be helping the child to become more comfortable “in the skin in which it was born”.
He speculates as to the reasons for this increase in suicide among those "affirmed":
"Proponents for “affirmation” blame ostracism for the high rate of adult suicide, but of equal importance might be associated mental disorder, failure to find expected gold at the end of the rainbow (ask any of the growing crowd of desisters) or, dare it be said, the alteration of pathways vital to a sense of well-being by iatrogenic administration of chemicals."
Finally he lambasts the ABC:
"Impartiality is claimed to be 'one of the most fundamental elements of content making in the ABC'. Its stated goal is to ensure audiences will receive 'fair and unbiased information which will help them to gain a reasonable understanding of an issue and to make up their own minds'.
This 'fundamental element' is lacking in the ABC’s portrayal of gender dysphoria in children. Its repeated proclamation to the masses of a few simple, unquestioned, one-sided assertions better deserves the appellation, 'propaganda'.
Suppression of alternative opinions characterises all revolutions. Will it be cancelled in such platforms as the Australian [newspaper]? Remember: powerful activists in Victoria have proclaimed the need to abolish “public broadcasts” that hinder the “affirmative” model of hormonal therapy for confused children.
How long will the tax-funded ABC remain a voice for cultural revolution?" https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2021/07-08/a-litany-of-abc-transgender-myths/