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Libby Mettam says transgender health policy is not ideological

WA Liberal leader Libby Mettam has insisted that her party’s new policy that calls for a ban on transgender youth being able to access puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones is based on science and not ideology.

The Liberal leader announced the party’s new policy this morning via an interview with The West Australian newspaper.

The move makes the Liberal party the first mainstream political party to suppport a ban against the current model of care for transgender youth.

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A similar policy has been promoted by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party on a federal level. One Nation’s sole MP in the Western Australian parliament has welcomed the Liberal party’s pledge.

Mettam’s announcement has been criticised by LGBTIQA+ rights groups as being more ideological that based on science. Something Mettam strongly denies.

In a follow up chat with The West Australian the Liberal leader denied her party was making decisions based on ideology, saying the findings of the Cass Review in the United Kingdom should also be a warning bell for Australia.

“This is about the largest study of its kind, a four-year independent review in the United Kingdom, which has led to bans and restrictions in the United Kingdom, in Europe and in (some US) States as well,” she said.

Deputy Premier Rita Saffioti commented on the announcement this morning saying it looked like the Liberals were jumping on the latest hot button issue for conservatives across the globe.

“I think the Liberal Party is positioning itself to help cater for its right-wing extremists,” Saffioti said.

Mettam has hit back saying she came to the decision after meeting with children who had transitioned gender and then regretted their decision.

“I have heard from children who have gone through this treatment and who had stopped the treatment and have regretted that treatment,” Mettam told The West.

The politician also said she had consulted with medical experts who were afraid to publicly come forward and share their views.

Research shows rate of gender transition regret is incredibly low

While the Liberal leader cited discussion with youth who have regretted beginning a gender transition process as one of the main reasons for the new policy, many research studies have shown that it is rare.

Last month researchers published a study specifically focusing on the Child and Adolescent Health Service Gender Diversity Service at Perth Children’s Hospital that showed the rate of patients who reidentify with their sex registered at birth is very low.

The study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on 4th March 2024 showed that 5.3% of young people reidentified with the birth registered sex before or during assessment, only 1% of patients who initiated medical treatment detransitioned.

The new Western Australian research aligns with other studies conducted around the world.

A 2023 study from the University of Michigan, published in the journal JAMA Surgery looked into 235 patients who had undergone a gender affirming mastectomy over the last 30 years.

They found that the median satisfaction rate among those patients was five out of five, and that not a single patient in the study regretted their decision to change gender. The study centred around a single medical provider, and researchers say the next step will be to look at satisfaction rates across multiple providers.

Previous studies have also shown that the level of regret is extremely low. A study of 6793 people who sought gender-affirming services at the multi-disciplinary VU Medical Centre in Amsterdam between 1972 and 2015 found that patients who underwent a gonadectomy had a regret rate of 0.6 % for trans women and 0,3% for transmen. They acknowledge that rate of regret may be higher though as many patients did not continue seeing the clinic for follow ups.

One of the largest studies into transgender levels of regret was the US Transgender Survey that took place in 2015. It included 27,715 adults, and they asked if patients had ever, even if only temporarily detransitioned.

Rates of detransition were higher in transgender women (11%) than transgender men (4%). The most common reasons cited were pressure from a parent (36%), transitioning was too hard (33%), too much harassment or discrimination (31%), and trouble getting a job (29%).

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