Rejection of transgender health inquiry welcomed by practitioners

Health practitioners working in the field of transgender health have welcomed the response from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) that says there is no call for an inquiry into the treatment of transgender people.

Last year Health Minister Greg Hunt was lobbied by a collection of anti-transgender groups who claimed that the practices being used to treat transgender people, especially transgender youth, were unsound.

Hunt referred the matter to the RACP, yesterday the college responded to his letter saying after careful consideration they could see no need for a national inquiry into the issue.

The advice has been welcomed by practitioners working in the area. The Royal Children’s Hospital of Melbourne, one of the biggest medical establishments working with transgender youth, and conducting research in the field, said the government needed to provide greater funding and support.

The hospital said in light of the finding from the RACP it was time for the Government to increase the availability of gender services for young people and said improving access to expert clinical care should be a national priority.

“The RACP strongly supports expert clinical care that is non-judgmental, supportive and welcoming for children, adolescents and their families experiencing gender dysphoria. Withholding or limiting access to care and treatment would be unethical and would have serious impacts on the health and wellbeing of young people,” the hospital said in a statement.

The response from the RACP has also been welcomed by AusPATH, The Australian Professional Association for Trans Health which has over 300 members. AusPATH also welcomed the call for more government investment in the sector.

“AusPATH also supports the RACP recommendation that the Australian Government provide funding for research, especially in relation to the long-term health and wellbeing outcomes for trans, including gender diverse and non-binary young people.

“Increased investment in research and expansion of the knowledge base, for young people and adults, will be vital in improving the current and disturbing high rates of depression, anxiety, suicide attempts and suicide amongst this cohort.” the organisation said.

The Royal Children’s Hospital also voiced it’s support for the work of Associate Professor Michelle Telfer and her colleagues.

“Most significantly, we applaud the College’s stance in validating the work of Associate Professor Michelle Telfer and her colleagues nationally by calling on the Government to work with these experts to develop evidence-based fact sheets for patients and families.” the hospital said.

As one of the leading researchers in the field Telfer had her colleagues work has been scrutinised by media organisations over the last six months. The hospital’s CEO John Stanway and Chairman Rob Knowles said the focus on their work had been spurred on by inflammatory media reporting.

“The College report was initiated by Minister Hunt in August 2019 on the back of a number of inflammatory media reports. This reporting has continued unabated since that time.

“We have maintained a position of respectful and dignified silence on this issue, even though it has been played out publicly and sensationally. We believe that to engage in the debate gives it a validation it does not deserve and further hurts our patients, their families and the broader trans and gender diverse community.

“The campaign directed at us and, in particular Michelle, has been targeted, personal, inflammatory and unprecedented. We now see, with today’s statement from the RACP, that it was unwarranted.” Knowles and Stanway said in the public statement.

On 17 August 2019 The Weekend Australian reported that federal Health Minister Greg Hunt had written to the RCAP and was in favour of having an inquiry.

The Minister’s Office however declined to confirm if the Minister had a position on the issue when asked by other media organisations, including OUTinPerth. The Health Minister’s Office would only confirm that the Minister had passed on correspondence to the RACP.

As The Australian, alongside presenters on Sky News, continued to report that a national inquiry was being conducted, it was questioned if the reporting was accurate.   Subsequently the RCAP issued a statement saying conducting inquiries was not within their purview.

The Australian has repetitively defended their ongoing coverage of transgender health saying they are responding to the viewpoint of a minority group of researchers whose views are not getting aired, and that the minority viewpoint of researchers who have concerns about the current treatment methods need to be heard and considered.

The ongoing coverage by The Australian has been widely criticised and highlighted on the ABC program Media Watch. Appearing at a Queer Stories event recently transgender rights activist Eloise Brook recently described the newspapers focus on transgender health as a “bombing run”.  

AusPATH said negative media campaigns were contributing to the challenges faced by transgender youth.

“Improving outcomes can only be achieved by reducing the stigma, discrimination, bullying and harassment that trans people, including those who are gender diverse and non-binary, are subjected to on a daily basis. Negative, hateful media campaigns aimed at invalidating the experiences and strength of this community, and those who provide care for them, is reprehensible, harmful and must stop.” the group said it’s statement.

Yesterday The Australian reported on the RACP’s advice by highlighting that there still remained minority groups of health professionals both in Australia and overseas who disagreed with the current treatment protocols.

Graeme Watson



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