There was no shortage of them in generations gone by, when it used to be normal for children to be vaguely gender neutral, without any need for hormone therapy or Safe Schools meddling. After all, what is growing up but forging your identity, and what is childhood but exploration.
My favourite tomboys were George, aka Georgina, in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Jo March in Little Women, and Nancy in Swallows and Amazons, each “as good as a boy”, as George put it.
“I think it’s stupid being a girl,” she would grumble. “I wish I was a boy.” They were athletic and bold, wore their hair short, rowed boats, solved crimes and got into “scrapes” with Julian and Dick, while girlie girls like George’s cousin Anne fussed about like a “poky old woman”, as Jo March would have put it.
“I can’t get over my disappointment in not being a boy,” Jo said. “I’m dying to go and fight with papa, and I can only stay at home and knit, like a poky old woman!”
Until very recently, society serenely accepted that some girls were tomboys who liked to climb trees and some boys were dreamy souls who liked dressing up. It didn’t mean they needed puberty blockers or cross-sex hormone therapy, or to have their genitals “reassigned”.
But these days, tomboys like George and Jo might be diagnosed as suffering from “gender dysphoria”, and encouraged to “transition” to the opposite sex. The numbers of parents seeking gender treatment for their children has grown exponentially in the past decade, especially in Victoria, the birthplace of the Safe Schools movement. The Royal Children’s Hospital gender clinic in Melbourne has gone from treating two children a decade ago to 250 this year.
Few dare question the boom in babies born into the wrong body for fear of being labelled a bigot.
But Dr John Whitehall, Professor of Paediatrics at Western Sydney University, worries that this “intrusion into the minds and bodies of children” is leading to a “fashion in child surgical abuse”.
In an article in next month’s Quadrant Magazine, he says the gender identity crisis in children has become a “utopian religion with committed believers”.
The “watch and wait” policy once favoured by medical professionals, which sorts itself out for most children, has been demonised by activists who claim it is akin to “conversion therapy” and will cause suicides.
With little evidence to back their claims, they are demanding puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and even surgery for younger and younger children, and the courts are obliging.
In July, the Family Court approved a double breast removal for a 15-year-old biological female (with Asperger’s syndrome) transitioning to male.
But, “while proponents argue for massive intervention, scientific studies prove that the vast majority of transgender children will grow out of it through puberty if parents do little more than gently watch and wait,” Dr Whitehall says.
This likelihood of “growing out of it” is declared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-5). The international Endocrine Society also advises “against a complete social role change and hormone treatment in prepubertal children … given the high rate of remission (of gender dysphoria) after the onset of puberty.”
Yet now laws are changing to discourage doctors from offering children any alternative to gender transition.
From next February, Victoria will outlaw “fraudulent and negligent” medical practices, such as “conversion therapy”.
In practice, Dr Whitehall says, this means any therapist who doesn’t support gender transition will be accused of trying to “convert” the child to accept its biological sex. The law will have the chilling effect of narrowing the choices available to children.
Whitehall cites the sacking last year of a Canadian expert in childhood gender dysphoria, Dr Kenneth Zucker, whose method was to “minimise stress and maximise comfort” in the child’s biological sex.
Zucker cautioned parents: “Don’t let the school make him a poster child … don’t let them parade him around for pink assemblies. This is his personal journey and we don’t know where it is going to end.”
For such heresy, Zucker was charged with performing “conversion-reparative therapy on children”, and stood down from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.
The madness has reached the point where parents of children as young as two are seeking gender counselling. The NSW education department blithely announced the arrival in kindergarten next year of the state’s youngest transgender pupil, aged four. And how wonderful that Safe Schools awaits, to promote gender transition without parental knowledge, and to make the wildly exaggerated claim that one in 25 children are transgender.
The frightening concern is that children are being “conditioned” by “cheerleader” parents “enmeshed” in the transgender cause, a leading therapist told Dr Whitehall anonymously.
We don’t know which children will go on to be genuinely transgender adults. But we do know most won’t. So the only rational approach is to stop playing God and let nature take its course.