News recently emerged that one of Sydney's most exclusive boys schools, Cranbrook, was facilitating the 'transition' of a student from a boy to a 'girl'. According to a story published in The Daily Telegraph, the Year 12 cohort were given a lengthy class-time address by gender identity counsellor Dr Elizabeth Riley.
Dr Riley claims to have advised 25 schools and families in the past three years. Coupled with her doctoral dissertation, "The Needs of Gender-Variant Children and Their Parents", she comes across as an authority on transgender issues. Confidently, she asserts that gender dysphoria "is a naturally occurring phenomenon, not a disorder." This, despite the fact she is neither a medical doctor nor a psychologist.
Dr Riley's position that gender dysphoria is "not a disorder" conflicts with the longstanding view contained in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is considered the foremost authoritative text regarding the diagnosis and classification of mental illnesses. The latest edition, DSM-5, maintains that gender dysphoria - also known as gender identity disorder - is, well, a disorder. Moreover, it holds that most children who identify as transgender will most likely "grow out of it" if parents simply watch and wait. This view is backed by the Endocrine Society which recommends against "a complete social role change and hormone treatment in prepubertal children" because of a "high rate of remission [of gender dysphoria] after the onset of puberty."
It's a claim that bears worth repeating: there is a "high rate of remission after the onset of puberty". And yet children are being prescribed puberty "blockers" so that they can make life-altering decisions before puberty runs its course.
Someone who is medical doctor (and a Professor of Paediatrics at Western Sydney University, no less) is Dr John Whitehall. In his article in Quadrant, entitled 'Gender Dysphoria and Surgical Abuse', Whitehall describes transgender advocacy as "a kind of utopian religion" guided solely by "faith".
This reliance on faith is more-or-less admitted by Dr Riley, who wrote in her dissertation that, "...approaches encouraging transgender normalization, flexibility, and validation have come to the fore" but that "Unfortunately, a lack of ongoing and long-term systematic data using controls has made it impossible to ascertain treatment outcomes with any confidence."
What can be known with confidence is that life-long cross-sex hormone treatment carries potential side-effects such as "cardiovascular and thrombo-embolic disease, cancers of the opposite sex, and worsening of psychiatric disorder."
Cranbrook School has undoubtedly tried to manage what is a difficult situation. Its decision to affirm a student's "transition" from male to female-identifying undoubtedly comes from a place of sincerity and good intentions. However, there is much to caution against setting children on a path into the world of hormone blockers, cross-sex hormones, and irreversible surgical interventions. Because, as we know, people can be sincerely wrong.
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