Is there really a federal inquiry into transgender medical treatment?

The Australian newspaper and broadcaster Sky News are reporting that Health Minister Greg Hunt has ordered a national inquiry in to the medical treatment of transgender youth, but there is scant evidence it’s actually happening.

The Ministers office will only confirm that the issue has been referred to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

“The Minister has referred the issues raised to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians as the expert clinical body for consideration.” a spokesperson for the minister told OUTinPerth.

The question of whether the Health Minister himself believes there is a need for a national inquiry, or if he had actually asked the Royal Australasian College of Physicians to conduct an inquiry, were not answered. Follow up questions from OUTinPerth to the Minister’s office have also not had any response.

The Australian announced the launch of the inquiry in an exclusive report on Saturday, saying Hunt has given it his backing. News of the inquiry has been reported by stablemate broadcaster Sky News, but has not been picked up by other media outlets.

On the newspaper’s website today columnist Chris Kenny wrote the minister had ordered the inquiry promoted by a series of articles primarily written by roving editor Bernard Lane.

Lane’s report a week ago highlighted a submission sent to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and copied to the Minister. Tasmanian based sociologist Dr Geoff Holloway put together the submission that argues that the current treatment model used in Australia is too focused on affirming a person’s gender dysmorphia and researchers are ignoring studies which suggest the treatment approach may be harmful.

The submission was endorsed by Tasmanian feminist group Women Speak Tasmania and political group United Tasmania Group and Senior Australian of the Year Dr Suzanne Packer. Dr Packer has subsequently offered an apology for the hurt and distress the submission caused to transgender youth and their families.

The call for more research into the way transgender youth are treated for gender dysphoria has also been backed by Sydney psychologist Dr Dianna Kenny, and Professor John Whitehall from Western Sydney University.

On Saturday the Royal Australasian College of Physicians told OUTinPerth that they had received the submission from Dr Holloway and appropriate experts within their organisation to respond to his correspondence.

“The RACP has received correspondence in relation to treatment of gender dysphoria in children and adolescents, and we are seeking advice from our relevant expert groups to inform our response.

“The RACP urges careful and respectful discussion of these issues in consideration of the potential impacts of public discussion on the health and wellbeing of highly vulnerable people.” a spokesperson for the organisation said.

While The Australian claims the minister has ordered a national inquiry, the statements supplied by both the minister’s spokesperson and the RACP only acknowledge the submission has received; with the  minister’s office saying it’s a matter for the medical body, and RACP saying they’d send a response.

While The Australian and Sky News are claiming there is a national inquiry – OUTinPerth has not been able to get confirmation that it is occurring.   

With the national newspaper recently launching a new webpage dedicated to its reporting around gender issues, The Australian has been accused of running an anti-trans agenda.

Last week The Australian Professional Association for Trans Health (AusPATH), which has over 250 members who work in the field, raised concern over recent reporting on transgender health by News Corp.

“Our organisation is concerned that the recent reporting in The Australian newspaper regarding health care provided to TGD children and adolescents is biased, emotive and is not based on fact.

“The reporting ignores available scientific evidence which strongly endorses supporting transgender children through social and medical transition to improve their mental health outcomes.” the health body said in a statement.

Today The Australian responded to the criticism saying both the medical organisation and the wider Australian media were ignoring a growing number of reports from overseas about concern regarding the treatment methodology applied to transgender youth.

The newspaper called on the Australian media to give increased coverage to concerns raised by the American College of Paediatrics – a small religious based group that is opposed to gender transition surgery, reports of concern being raised by medical practitioners in the United Kingdom, statements from the small percentage of people who have de-transitioned, feminists, and free-speech academics.

Graeme Watson      

The Australian was contacted for comment.