On 12 June 2022, the Catholic Standard published an article (Catherine Sheehan, 'Report Seeks to Ban Treatment of Gender Dysphoria', page 8) about the TLRI's recent Report on sexual orientation and gender identity conversion practices.
The Institute clarifies for the record that the title of the article, and certain claims within it, do not correctly represent the Report's findings and recommendations.
The TLRI Report does not recommend a ban on the treatment of gender dysphoria, as the title of the article states.
- As the Report explains, 'gender dysphoria' is a diagnostic medical term that is used to describe particular mental health symptoms which 'accompany the incongruence between one's experienced or expressed gender and one's assigned gender'.
- People experiencing any mental health symptoms have the right to be provided safe treatment conducted by a person with suitable qualifications, applying contemporary standards of care and acting in the patient's best interest.
- The Report highlights the risk of 'unqualified, untrained and unlicensed people making pseudoscientific representations and undertaking pseudo-medical conduct on highly vulnerable people in a particularly sensitive area of health practice.
- Consequently, the Institute recommends that treatment (and assessment) of gender dysphoria is only carried out by qualified health professionals, according to contemporary clinical health care standards.
That article further states that '[u]nder the proposed changes, medical professionals and psychologists would be forced to affirm gender dysphoria as normal and healthy, increasing the likelihood that a patient would pursue irreversible procedures to "transition" to the opposite sex'. This statement is incorrect.
The Institute does not: specify the clinical guidelines or standards that health professionals should apply; nor recommend forcing health professionals to apply them.
- The Institute recommends that a statutory public health officer (the Chief Civil Psychiatrist) specify the appropriate contemporary standards of care for treating any mental health condition relating to gender identity at any one time.
- There is already unanimous agreement amongst peak health bodies in Australia that a person's gender identity is not a mental health disorder.
- The current Australian standard of care for trans and gender diverse people is 'gender affirming'. The Institute agrees with but did not set this standard. The standard is set by peak specialist health bodies and has been confirmed by the Federal Court of Australia.
- Under the Institute's recommendations, health professionals who disagree with the prescribed standard of care set by the Chief Civil Psychiatrist would be able to conscientiously object and would not be 'forced' to apply the regulated standard of care.
- The Institute does not make recommendations about gender transitioning, which is a matter of bodily autonomy and the decision a competent person should be permitted to drive with appropriate support, counselling and ethical care.
The Institute reiterates that people's gender identity and gender expression are not faults, dysfunctions, diseases or disorders. The Institute acknowledges the need for further depathologisation of gender across law and health practice.