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New whistleblower reports are further confirming that the current “affirmative” approach to treating transgender-identifying youth can be disastrous. In light of numerous scandals abroad, Canada should investigate its own practices and proactively implement stronger guardrails that protect confused children from irreversible harm.
Notably, whistleblowers are increasingly coming from a leftist or politically neutral background, which repudiates the narrative that this issue is simply conservative fear-mongering.
Earlier this month, Jamie Reed, a former staffer of a Washington-based transgender clinic for youth, wrote a scathing exposé alleging that vulnerable patients were being permanently harmed by a “morally and medically appalling” system.
Reed began her article by stating that she is a queer woman who identifies with the far left and is married to a transman. When she first began working at the aforementioned clinic in 2018, she was driven by an earnest desire to protect trans youth and save trans lives.
Over the next four years, her experiences as a case manager were so unsettling that she felt compelled to quit last November. According to Reed, many patients had deeply concerning mental health problems, such as depression, eating disorders, ADHD and schizophrenia. A significant portion had also been diagnosed with autism or had symptoms of autism.
Her experiences … were so unsettling she felt compelled to quit
Clinicians allegedly failed to explore how these factors might impact a patients’ self-declared gender identity. Rather than holistically assess and support mental health, doctors simply rushed youth into medical transition.
The narrow focus on medical transition seemed to reflect a wider tendency to prioritize pharmacological solutions over psychosocial help — why invest into time-consuming therapy when you can give patients handfuls of pills?
In some cases, patients self-diagnosed with all kinds of trendy disorders (Tourettes, tic disorders, multiple personalities) and, although clinicians privately recognized that these self-diagnoses were wrong, their skepticism evaporated when it came to self-identifying as transgender.
To begin medical transition, one simply needed a letter of support from a therapist. Patients usually went to therapists who had been recommended by the clinic, where they were able to secure such letters after only one or two appointments. The clinic provided the therapists with templates for writing the letters.
The clinic provided therapists with templates for writing the letters
Reed alleges that young patients often had little understanding of the potential side effects of medical transition, including sterilization. “After working at the centre, I came to believe that teenagers are simply not capable of fully grasping what it means to make the decision to become infertile while still a minor,” she wrote.
Allegedly, the clinic deliberately played down the negative consequences of medical transition, further undermining informed consent. When patients later regretted their transitions, doctors simply abandoned them and refused to gather data on their experiences.
In one particularly heartbreaking anecdote, a patient was put on cross-sex hormones at age 16 and then had a double-mastectomy two years later. Three months after her surgery, she realized that she was not transgender and told a nurse, “I want my breasts back.”
Reed’s testimony is shocking — but it is also consistent with what has been reported about the United Kingdom’s now-shuttered Tavistock clinic.
Tavistock used to be the only youth gender clinic in the U.K., but it was shuttered after a 2022 government-commissioned review found that the clinic was providing grossly irresponsible care. The U.K. is now replacing Tavistock with four new clinics that will refrain from automatically affirming a patient’s transgender identity and will instead holistically examine mental health.
Ontario detransitioner who had breasts and womb removed to change gender sues doctors
Adam Zivo: U.K. paves the way with reasonable reforms to gender-identity services
Last week, award-winning investigative BBC journalist Hannah Barnes published a book, Time to Think, which thoroughly dissects everything that went wrong with Tavistock. Barnes is obviously not some right-wing provocateur. Her book has been praised for its forensic attention to detail and thorough research.
Barnes interviewed over 60 medical professionals, including interviewees who happily transitioned but nonetheless had issues with Tavistock’s practices. All of the concerns raised by Reed were echoed by this pool of interviewees.
At Tavistock, some youth who self-identified as transgender were automatically affirmed and permitted to medically transition even though they also self-identified as being trans-ethnic (they typically self-identified as Japanese, Korean or Chinese).
As in Reed’s Washington-based clinic, Tavistock’s staff quietly worried that autistic children, who constituted a full third of their patients, were being unnecessarily medicated (only two per cent of British children are estimated to have autism).
Additionally, the clinic ignored patients’ past histories of sexual abuse and did not consider, for example, whether young girls who have been raped or abused by men may want to identify as male to feel safer.
The clinic ignored patients’ past histories of sexual abuse
Concerningly, Barnes’ book details how medical transition was used as a kind of conversion therapy for homosexual youth. Clinicians reported that parents would express relief that, thanks to medical transition, their children would no longer be homosexuals. Patients would express disgust towards their own homosexual urges, suggesting that their trans identities were rooted in internalized homophobia.
When concerned voices tried to speak up, they were accused of transphobia and silenced. As a result, staff frequently quit their jobs due to ethical concerns — in just six months in 2018, the clinic lost 11 conscientious objectors.
As U.K. and U.S.-based youth gender-identity clinics have had near-identical failings, Canadians should be concerned about what such clinics are doing in their own country. Recklessly “affirmative” models of care need to be investigated and reformed now, not later.
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