Prominent trans doctors speak out on reckless treatment of children by gender healthcare providers

Prominent trans doctors speak out on reckless treatment of children by gender healthcare providers

This week, Abigail Shrier, journalist and author of ‘Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters’, published what she says is “probably the most important piece of [her] career thus far”.

The piece, titled ‘Top Trans Doctors Blow the Whistle on ‘Sloppy’ Care’, was an interview with two prominent US gender providers, Dr Marci Bowers, a world-renowned vaginoplasty specialist and Dr Erica Anderson, a clinical psychologist at the University of California San Francisco’s Child and Adolescent Gender Clinic. Both are transgender women. 

Some have expressed surprise that the doctors agreed to an interview with Shrier, who has received backlash for her work by trans activists. But it is understood that they approached her after the New York Times rejected an opinion piece co-authored by Anderson earlier this month, which warned that many gender healthcare providers were treating children recklessly. 

Describing the interview in a further piece today, Shrier says:

“For the first time in the U.S., top gender medical providers collectively acknowledged four facts: early puberty blockade can lead to significant surgical complication and also permanent sexual dysfunction; peer and social media influence do seem to play a role in encouraging the current, unprecedented spike in transgender identification by teen girls; and the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) – of which both Bowers Anderson are board members – has been excluding doctors who question current medical protocols to its detriment.

But the bombshell – the point made to me in interviews with so many endocrinologists, but never by any providers of transgender medicine – was that “orgasmic naïveté” is real and it’s a problem.” 

On “orgasmic naïveté”, Bowers said:

“When you block puberty, the problem is that a lot of the kids are orgasmically naive. So in other words, if you've never had an orgasm pre-surgery and then your puberty's blocked, it's very difficult to achieve that afterwards. And I think that I consider that a big problem, actually. It's kind of an overlooked problem that in our informed consent of children undergoing puberty blockers, we've in some respects overlooked that a little bit.”

There is no doubt that issues have been “overlooked” when it comes to the informed consent of children to “gender affirming treatments”, as well as that of parents who have been pressured into helping their child to “transition” without full information of the risks and consequences. But can children ever really give informed consent to such treatments? As the High Court judges in Kiera Bell’s case said:

“There is no age-appropriate way to explain to many of these children what losing their fertility or full sexual function may mean to them in later years.”

A focus of Shrier’s book, the number of teenage girls presenting to gender clinics has skyrocketed in recent years, with a recent survey by the American College Health Association showing that, in 2008, one in 2,000 female undergraduates identified as transgender, but by 2021, that figure had jumped to one in 20. At Anderson’s clinic at UCSF they’re now running two to one females to males. According to Shrier:

Peer influence and exposure to trans influencers on social media play an outsized role in their desire to escape womanhood… these young women almost always suffer from severe anxiety and depression or other significant mental health problems — and those problems are often overlooked or ignored.”

Anderson agreed that there is something going on with teenage girls and expressed concern at the lack of differentiation by some gender therapists between these girls and other cases of gender dysphoria, saying: “I've had literally some kids tell me that. Well, why do you want to be a boy? Are you a boy? Oh yeah, boys have it easier than girls.”

Anderson acknowledged that social media seems to be playing a part in these girls’ desire to transition: 

“I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with a young person who I asked, so have you done some research about this? And they say, ‘oh yeah, I understand all about it’. And I said, well, so where did you get that information? ‘Oh, on the internet’. Well specifically, where? ‘Oh, I watch YouTube videos’.”

Anderson also agreed that we are likely to see more teenage girls regretting their decisions to transition:

“It is my considered opinion that due to some of the — let’s see, how to say it? what word to choose? — due to some of the, I’ll call it just ‘sloppy’, sloppy healthcare work, that we’re going to have more young adults who will regret having gone through this process. And that is going to earn me a lot of criticism from some colleagues, but given what I see — and I’m sorry, but it’s my actual experience as a psychologist treating gender variant youth — I’m worried that decisions will be made that will later be regretted by those making them.”

When asked what exactly was “sloppy” about the healthcare work, Anderson said:

“Rushing people through the medicalization, as you and others have cautioned, and failure — abject failure — to evaluate the mental health of someone historically in current time, and to prepare them for making such a life-changing decision.”

Responding to the growing number of young women who have come to regret transitioning and the fact that many of them were given testosterone on their first visit to a clinic like Planned Parenthood (who never fail to surprise in their disregard for women’s health and safety), Bowers said:

“​When you have a female-assigned person and she’s feeling dysphoric, or somebody decides that she’s dysphoric and says your eating disorders are not really eating disorders, this is actually gender dysphoria, and then they see you for one visit, and then they recommend testosterone — red flag! Wake up here.”

Shrier acknowledges that she, Anderson and Bowers do not see eye to eye on many matters of gender ideology and gender medicine, but says:

“What they accomplished, I think, trumped all of that. For our interviews, they put aside tribalism and politics and spoke candidly about some risks anyone who treats young people ought to care about. They spoke not like activists, but like good doctors.  

“For these sins, they are already facing a torrent of abuse. I hope they can withstand it. And I hope we moved the ball toward the goal of a better-informed public and better patient care. That’s what I’ve sought to do, above all else, as a journalist.”

Bowers’ and Anderson’s interview lends tremendous support to the grave concerns raised by many health professionals, both in Australia and overseas. It is a serious wake up call to doctors and policy makers both here and abroad with regard to the way that children, and particularly young girls, are being harmed by current policies and practices around gender affirmative treatment. It highlights the urgent need for change to the status quo, as well as more rigorous and evidence-based research about these treatments and their ramifications going forward.

Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.

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