Psychiatrist lodges human rights complaint over transgender health care

A Queensland psychiatrist who was stood down from her position at a government hospital is lodging a human rights complaint against her former employer.

Dr Jillian Spencer is challenging the children’s hospital over their policy of promoting gender affirming healthcare for transgender youth and is seeking the right to ignore patient’s pronouns if they do not match the gender they were assigned at birth.

The Australian has shared that Dr Spencer has lodged a complaint with Queensland’s Human Rights Commission saying she was subjected to employment directions that required her to use gender-affirming pronouns and refrain from dissuading clients to refrain from engaging with the hospital’s gender clinic.

Dr Spencer is critical of the gender affirmation approach, and in her complaint says she had concerns about the growing number of transgender youth, and whether they were getting treatment for other mental health issues they were presenting with alongside gender dysphoria.

“I was concerned about the increasing number of children and adolescents – especially biological females – presenting with gender dysphoria in the context of co­morbid mental health diagnoses and complex psychological issues, including trauma,” Dr Spencer reportedly writes in her complaint.

“I became very concerned about the potential harm our hospital was doing in immediately using preferred pronouns, that ­unquestioningly affirms a child’s perceived identity and sets them on a treatment pathway of medical intervention that purports to transition a young person into an identity that they are likely to outgrow if interventions of this kind are not applied.”

The health practitioner would like to see the state’s anti-discrimination act changed to include a clause that states, “no health worker may be required to use a patient’s preferred pronouns” and that “affirmation of a child’s gender identity cannot be imposed on health professionals”.

The doctor’s relationship with hospital management allegedly began to fray when she took down a transgender flag that had been hung in the youth mental health unit’s waiting room and also began signing her emails with the phrase ‘adult human female’.

Dr Spencer is a co-signatory to the National Association of Practicing Psychiatrists guide on transgender healthcare which promotes a cautious approach to medical treatments for gender dysphoria.

The group led by psychiatrist Dr Philip Morris advocates for a distinctly different approach to other medical groups such as  Auspath: The Australian Professional Association for Trans Health, the Australian Psychological Society, and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

OUTinPerth has previously asked the National Association of Practicing Psychiatrists how many members they have, which they declined to assign a specific figure to, with Dr Philip Morris telling us they had a growing membership.

The hospital has responded saying they stood by their approach to transgender health care.

“We respect the individual needs and preferences of every child and young person and their right to feel safe and supported while receiving clinical care through our service,” the hospital said in a statement.

“This aligns with our responsibility as a Queensland government agency – where everyone employed is bound by public sector workplace policies and a code of conduct.

“Similarly, CHQ is committed to upholding the human rights of all people who connect with, or work within, our services.

“This reflects our obligations under the Human Rights Act 2019 to act and make decisions in a manner which supports and does not limit the human rights of ­patients, families and staff, unless such limitation is reasonable and demonstrably justifiable.”

The hospital has previously noted that it follows the Australian Standards of Care and Treatment Guidelines for Trans and Gender Diverse Children and Adolescents, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s Standards of Care for the Health of Transgender and Gender Diverse People (8th edition).

Do you need some support?

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, support and counselling are available from:

QLife: 1800 184 527 / (Webchat 3pm – midnight)
QLife are a counselling and referral service for LGBTQIA+ people.

DISCHARGED[email protected] /
Discharged is a trans-led support service with peer support groups for trans and gender diverse folks.

Lifeline: 13 11 14 /

Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 /

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