I am certain that in my lifetime, we will see a royal commission into the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones on children. There is no question about that. But I do question which side of that commission our federal and state governments and individual members of parliament will find themselves on, when the reckoning finally comes? From the look of what has happened in recent weeks, it seems that many of our federal senators, as well as the Victorian Government, will find themselves siding with ideology over child safety.
At the end of November, the Victorian government this week announced it would underwrite the cost of training more GPs to prescribe cross-sex hormones to kids aged 16 years or older. According to a report in The Age, there are already 1790 health professionals who have been trained in the past four years to prescribe cross-sex hormones to assist a person in changing their physical appearance from male to female, or vice versa.
Despite this significant investment in training (which far exceeds that for specialities such as palliative care, medical oncology or obstetrics), the Victorian Government is looking to have even more general practitioners trained to prescribe cross-sex hormones, because it is concerned of a reported drop in the number of children presenting to gender clinics in Melbourne’s major hospitals. The drop has been attributed to the backlog of cases, partly caused by the multidisciplinary approach taken by these hospitals, which ensure the child sees a psychologist or psychiatrist before hormones are prescribed.
Having GPs trained to prescribe cross-sex hormones will avoid the automatic involvement of child mental health professionals when it comes to prescribing drugs to minors that have many irreversible side effects, including infertility. Instead, the decision can be made between a child and their GP alone. The push from the Victorian Government to increase the availability of cross-sex hormones to minors, and remove the safeguard of a mental health assessment before they are prescribed, is alarming when considered in the context of what is happening elsewhere in Australia and around the world.
Earlier this year, one of Australia’s biggest medical insurers, MDA National, ceased providing medical indemnity insurance to those doctors who prescribe cross-sex hormones to children. At the time the ban was announced, MDA National’s president, former head of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Michael Gannon, said the decision was not ideological, but was made because of the unquantifiable insurance risk that the prescribing of cross-sex hormones to children posed. He said that the problem might not present for five, ten or even twenty years, making it very difficult to determine what insurance premiums should be charged.
Not long before that announcement was made, senior doctors at Westmead Children’s Hospital’s gender clinic warned that giving access to gender-affirming medical treatments to children who do not meet the diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria could expose those children to “inappropriate medical treatment, future regret, and potential harm.” And as I wrote last week, each of Norway, Sweden and the UK have banned the prescription of cross-sex hormones to children, which makes the Victorian Government’s insistence on expanding their availability and limiting the barriers to access even more striking in comparison. When this future royal commission occurs, it will be difficult for those involved to plead ignorance, because the risks are widely publicised.
Then you have what is happening in federal politics. About six weeks ago, South Australian Senator Alex Antic tabled a bill that would prohibit puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and gender reassignment surgery being prescribed to, or performed on, minors except in the most exceptional of circumstances. His bill was co-sponsored by Senators Ralph Babet, Malcolm Roberts and Matt Canavan. While the bill itself has no chance of passing given Labor, the Greens and some of Senator Antic’s Liberal Party colleagues have indicated that they will not support it, there was a conscience vote to determine whether the bill could be sent to a Senate committee for inquiry. Such an inquiry would have been the first opportunity for a proper parliamentary hearing on some of the risks of these gender-altering drugs. Disappointingly, this vote also failed, leaving the federal Senate also guilty of burying its head in the sand so as not to see the mounting evidence against this practice.
I honestly don’t know how much longer the political class can pretend to be unaware of the real risks the pursuit of gender ideology poses to vulnerable children. The evidence is becoming increasingly clear. No doubt it would take some political courage to even examine it impartially. But wouldn’t it be better to have a Senate inquiry now—and prevent a generation of lost childhoods, chronic illness, and regrets—rather than a Royal Commission later?