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Should therapists and counsellors speak about the medicalisation of gender non-conforming children?

Written By: - Date published: 6:05 am, August 4th, 2022 - 48 comments
Categories: child welfare, gender, health - Tags: ,

Guest Post by Harriet.

Transphobes or whistleblowers?

Two months before the closure of the Tavistock Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) in the UK, registrations opened for a conference in Aotearoa, “Children, Adolescents and Gender, Impacts of Transgender Ideology”.

The announcement that a group of Child and Adolescent Therapists (CATA) was holding the conference caused an unprecedented outcry. I say unprecedented because psychotherapy conferences, without exception do not create controversy in the public domain.

Stuff published an article, largely condemning of the conference.

Dr David Sur Shalom, a GP who works with Rainbow Youth described the conference as “ outrageous”, “wrong’ and “mind-blowing”. Dr Brodie Frasier of the University of Otago Public Health Dept, stated in the article “Puberty Blockers are safe and that young people were not being put on irreversible forms of health care”

Twitter was abuzz with vitriol towards the conference organisers. One of the speakers who was scheduled to present on adolescent development and gender withdrew from the conference, after facing a backlash on social media.

An on-line petition was started requesting that the Rutherford Hotel cancel the conference booking. The conference registrations forms were spammed.

The conference organisers put out a statement in response to this:

CATA organised this conference because its therapist members have child and teenage clients confused about their gender……..No one, including therapists, wants children or teenagers to go down a medical or surgical transgender path when that is not the solution for their problems.

The move to close the Tavistock GIDS service due to safety concerns shouldn’t be under estimated, yet it has received virtually no mention in the NZ media. Dr Hilary Cass, a paediatrician, was charged with conducting an enquiry into the service after whistle blowers including staff, parents and former patients, made complaints and even took legal action against the clinic.

The interim report was released in March. From the Observer’s Editorial,

…children with gender identity issues are ill served by adults who shut down the debate.

Ideology has no place in medicine…….The report highlights a profound lack of evidence and medical consensus about the best approach to treating gender dysphoria in children. Yet the NHS’s specialist Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) takes a child’s expressed gender identity as the starting point for treatment.

And this in the Spectator on the closing of the clinic, quoting Hilary Cass,

“The most significant gaps are in relation to treatment with puberty blockers…..”

“…brain maturation may be temporarily or permanently disrupted by puberty blockers, which could have a significant impact on the ability to make complex risk-laden decisions”

Is it possible that Aotearoa has gone down the same track as The Tavistock in allowing ideology to influence treatment decisions in this highly vulnerable group of children?

Could it be that the CATA conference is an attempt to blow the whistle on inappropriate treatment for young gender dysphoric children and adolescents? Or is it a transphobic move by a group of clinicians who are uncomfortable with transpeople?

I decided to go along to the conference to find out……more to come.

Conference runs 8:45 am 4:30 pm, Friday, 5 August 2022

48 comments on “Should therapists and counsellors speak about the medicalisation of gender non-conforming children? ”

  1. Visubversa 1

    Thank you – look forward to your coverage of the event.

  2. Anker 2

    Yes, thanks . Await the report with interest

  3. Delia 4

    I look forward to your report thank you Harriet.

  4. RoseyKaren 5

    Thanks for a great write up. I will be attending this conference virtually.

  5. Isabella Stevenson 6

    I will look forward to reading your coverage of this important conference. Thank you!

  6. Molly 7

    Thank you Harriet.

    Looking forward to your conference post. yes

    Good article in the British Psychological Society:


    “Defence, not reflection, has been a theme throughout the story of GIDS. Many clinicians, parents and patients have raised repeated concerns about the practice model. Ex-patients have discussed feeling rushed into body-altering interventions which some have come to regret. Criticism has grown louder recently, following a 2018 internal report, a judicial review in 2020, damages awarded to the Trust safeguarding lead and an ‘inadequate’ CQC report in 2021, plus increasing media coverage. Concerns that GIDS was operating outside usual clinical practice were first raised, however, in 2004. Critics have consistently been labelled bigots or transphobes and ostracised.

    This is a sobering moment for psychology. We need to take seriously that damaging practice was enabled for so long. Hundreds of psychologists worked at GIDS – highly trained scientist-practitioners skilled in reflective practice. Hundreds more have watched this unfold from the outside. Why did it take an external review to address the widely aired problems? Why was the service not able to reflect and change itself, instead vilifying critical voices? “

  7. Psycho Milt 8

    The professionals who spoke out against CATA are either lying or incompetent. Or both. I think they're lying, in the same way that the priest lies when he says the wafer transforms into the body of Christ in the worshipper's mouth: he knows it's not true but his commitment to the ideology requires him to say it.

  8. CS 9

    The lineup of speakers is strange and unconvincing. One is a music therapist with no experience in the subject matter. Another is an ICT specialist who appears to have [deleted] of transgender women. The third [deleted].
    Not one person involved in this conference appears to have any actual experience in treating trans children and adolescents, but all seem to have [deleted] a specific demographic of a minority.

    [potentially defamatory statements deleted]

    • weka 9.1

      You’re new here, so I’m letting this through and explaining. This site has a robust debate ethic (read the Policy). If you want to make claims of fact, especially about public figures, you have to back them up with evidence. In this case it would mean an explanation from you, supporting quote from a source, and link or citation if not online. Please provide these now. I count three claims of fact about actual people that need substantiation.

      Edit, rereading the comment, I’ve deleted the potentially defamatory statements. You still need to provide evidence for your claims.

      • CS 9.1.1


        The comment above mine states “The professionals who spoke out against CATA are either lying or incompetent” but you haven’t asked for evidence on that comment.

        • weka

          I'm not lawyer. My reading is that he's expressing an opinion and he explained his thinking behind that eg "I think they're lying.." He also doesn't aim that at specific people.

          You on the other hand single out three specific people, and make claims of fact about them that are potentially defamatory. In the UK lawyers have been involved in such claims made on social media on this topic, and people been forced to retract them. One of my jobs as moderator is to protect the Standard owners and the site from such legal action.

          I err on the side of caution. Had PM made specific accusations against specific people I would have moderated his comment too. But I will run it past the other authors/admin to double check.

          In the meantime, you are still required to back up the claims you are making. From the Policy,

          This includes making assertions that you are unable to substantiate with some proof (and that doesn’t mean endless links to unsubstantial authorities) or even argue when requested to do so. Such comments may be deleted without warning or one of the alternatives below may be employed. The action taken is completely up to the moderator who takes it.


        • Psycho Milt

          My comment was the expression of a general opinion. I didn't see yours before the defamatory content was removed, but from the context it looks like you were making specific allegations against identifiable individuals. One is highly unlikely to put the publishers of this blog at risk, the other is likely to, hence the deletions.

      • Jill Abigail 9.1.2

        Sorry, don't have time.

      • weka 9.1.3

        While we are waiting,

        One is a music therapist with no experience in the subject matter.

        Dianna Kenny,

        Dianna is a former Professor of Psychology at The University of Sydney, is now a consulting psychologist, psychotherapist, mediator, family dispute resolution practitioner, expert reviewer, report writer, supervisor, researcher, and author.

        Dianna is an international authority on the treatment of music performance anxiety.


        Not one person involved in this conference appears to have any actual experience in treating trans children and adolescents

        Stella O'Malley, keynote speaker,

        Stella O’Malley is a Dublin based psychotherapist, bestselling author, and public speaker. She has written three bestselling books, ‘Cotton Wool Kids’, 'Bully-Proof Kids' and ‘Fragile’. In 2018 she was the writer and presenter of the UK Channel 4 documentary ‘Trans Kids: It’s Time To Talk’ and she currently co-hosts the podcast Gender: A Wider Lens with the therapist Sasha Ayad. Stella holds a B.A. in Counselling and Psychotherapy, an M.A. in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and is currently studying for a PhD about gender-related distress in childhood.


  9. Jill Abigail 10

    What the writer doesn't mention is that the NZ/Australian Psychologists' professional association joined in with the attack against the organisers of this conference in Nelson.

    Shameful. I hope they all have red faces now that the Cass report is out and the Tavistock GIDS clinic in London is shut down for unsafe practice and its enthusiastic over-use of puberty blockers.

  10. CS 11

    The professionals who are involved in the CATA conference are either lying or incompetent. Or both. I think they're lying, in the same way that the priest lies when he says the wafer transforms into the body of Christ in the worshipper's mouth: he knows it's not true but his commitment to the ideology requires him to say it.

    • weka 11.1

      you're in premod until you respond to my original moderation request to provide evidence for your claims of fact. I strongly suggest you read the Policy, esp the bit about wasting moderator time.

    • Hialry 11.2

      The professionals who are involved in the CATA conference have not spoken yet because the conference doesn't start until tomorrow – so they haven't had a chance to lie, or not, yet.

      • weka 11.2.1

        your IP address is very similar to a regular commenter. If that is you, please use your other user name from now on, as we require a single user name. If it’s not you, then please carry on, thanks.

    • Psycho Milt 11.3

      See, now you're getting the hang of it. Still needs work, though – what have the people involved in the conference lied about, or been incompetent at? Your comment needs to make that clear.

  11. CactusCat 12

    When a conference which has not been widely advertised and which the vast majority of the NZ public were otherwise entirely unaware of is described in the media as having sparked a 'fierce national backlash', you get the distinct sense that a rather big effort is being made to 'confect' public opinion…

    Transgender conference sparks fierce national backlash | Stuff.co.nz

    • Incognito 12.1

      A link to that same Stuff article is in the OP, which interestingly is blocked by my AV software.

      Headlines can be misleading and their function is to bait & hook.

  12. SPC 13

    Affirming a chosen gender persona or sexuality, does not require making a binary approach.

    And nor does support require provision of hormones or advising sexual activity/experimentation.

    In easier climes, a therapist would provide support on a journey of discovery, rather than make a determination as to destination and some timetable.

    In todays world, where people have another more public persona online (even before the evolution of game role play to metaverse) – the phototouch ups and cosmetic surgery role models/influencers – this is going to get more and more complex.

    A one size fits all straight jacket model for case management is not best practice.

  13. That_guy 14

    Looking forward to your coverage.

    While we're on this topic, I wonder if anyone can explain where I've gone so horribly wrong in the following chain of logic:

    1. There are currently two competing definitions of the word "woman".

    2. The definition "Adult human female" came first.

    3. Women are a marginalised group.

    4. Proposals to redefine a marginalised group should ideally come from within the marginalised group, and at a minimum be be broadly agreed upon by members of that group.

    5. Doubly marginalised groups (e.g. disabled women, Muslim women) should also be extensively consulted.

    6. If the proposal to redefine the marginalised group is rejected, an old-school feminist concept applies: No means no. Further justification or explanation is appreciated but not required.

    Obviously saying such things is horrifying and evil, and I am deserving of instant cancelation. But I just can't see where my chain of logic is wrong. Can anyone help bring me back to goodness and light?

    • CactusCat 14.1

      Unfortunately your chain of logic does not have a 'landing place' in the current ideological climate. People saying No (mostly women but some men) are literally losing their livelihoods and professional careers over this overseas, hence the 'chilling effect' in NZ on people who might otherwise feel they could publicly ask sensible questions or who might take a critical position. People are literally being arrested in the UK for for holding 'untoward' views (Kellie-Jay Keen, Harry Millar etc. It's all on Youtube).

      NZ is still at the NO-DEBATE stage – the general public are not aware of international debates and developments – whereas the UK has now moved well beyond that point and the debate has well and truly entered the public domain. Sign of a healthy democracy. As others have pointed out, the NZ media's failure to report even on the big news closure of the Tavistock last week (or previously on the Maya Forstater ruling, or the Alison Bailey ruling, and innumerable other connected stories) is giving NZ the feel of a parochial backwater where citizens are somehow considered 'not allowed'? to form their own views on issues being openly discussed internationally.

      • That_guy 14.1.1

        The science journalism and science communication community are also complicit IMHO. A few honorable exceptions, but dodgy statistics just get waved through. Behind every number is a story, and the story is often a story of data abuse and misinterpretation.

        @weka sorry feel free to delete duplicate comment below. Seems I can reply to a comment on a desktop but not a mobile

      • Sabine 14.1.2

        the public might still be somewhat in the dark, but the employers of NZwill/are paying attention and ditto the gender woo woos in government.



      • Ad 14.1.3

        The No Debate thing is such nonsense.

        Versions of the BDMI bill started in 2016 and continued through to the end of 2021. That's 6 years of Debate.

        There were Select Committee processes at each variation, including an Inquiry process through 2021.

        bdmreview – history of the BDMRR Act – dia.govt.nz

        The submissions were voluminous, detailed, went through multiple processes, altered the bill several times and over years, and you would have to have been living under a rock to have missed them.

        • That_guy

          In theory I'm sure you're right. In practice, what I saw in the select committees was Dr Kerekere openly calling Speak Up for Women a "hate group" and "transphobes", boasting about it on Facebook, and then failing to address the content of the submission even though SUFW were literally begging the select committee to please address the content of the submission.

          So I'm sure the forms were observed, but was there actual substantive debate in that climate of fear and vilification? The question answers itself.

          • Ad

            There's just a difference between a submitter feeling like they weren't heard, and simply not getting what they wanted.

            The scrutiny of the relevant SOP was minute and extensive.

            It was just the same with the bill on stopping 'conversion therapy'. Over 100,000 submissions, a few submitters didn't get what they wanted.

            Record-breaking number of submissions on law proposing to ban conversion therapy | Stuff.co.nz

            The BDMI Bill was passed through Parliament unanimously.

            The anti-gay conversion therapy Bill was voted in support by 95% of Parliament.

            • That_guy

              Banning conversion therapy based on sexual orientation is a fantastic and totally positive result that the Greens can be justly proud of. That's clear and uncontroversial. And most people supported it, because that's all most people thought it was, because most people don't actually read the bill.

              Banning "conversion therapy" based on "gender identity" is the problem, because it effectively mandates "affirmation only" as the only legal response to a kid saying "I think I'm trans". With no examination of any other factor, including social media, peer pressure, neurodiversity, depression, substance abuse, sexual abuse, etc.

              Add this to the fact that "gender identity" is a wooly concept that is contested and has multiple definitions in academia and society.

              This is not what I'm saying, this is what therapists are saying. "Thoughtful therapists" are an obvious example.

              They are on twitter @ThoughtfulTs

              It's also what the conference is about.

            • Jan Rivers

              On other occasions research portrayed as positive has been reported as having been published which on enquiry did not exist. See this where the Listener quoted from “publshed research” was cited which could not be supplied because “it did not exist” Otago University said but did not seek to correct the story. https://fyi.org.nz/request/15830-published-review-of-international-studies-on-the-psychosocial-and-physical-health-effect-of-puberty-blockers#incoming-60631

          • weka

            Ad is not right, he's completely wrong.

            That some people feel free to write, submit etc is because of the side of the war they are on. To deny that No Debate exists, and predominantly affects women, is the same old sexism.

            When Stats NZ convened an expert group to look at replacing sex data with gender data, no women's groups were included. In NZ, Gender critical women have been abused and harassed and deplatformed.

            In the UK it is far worse, but only because more women took the risks of speaking up. What's been happening on line is the worst misogyny that many women have seen in. Women have lost jobs and careers, been doxed, abused and harassed. GC women are being thrown out of women only spaces online for trying to talk about sex based rights. In Australia, lesbians aren't allowed to get together and talk without men present. Twitter allowed males to post violent and sexually violent content at GC women for a long time, until they were hauled to account for themselves in front of the UK parliament.

            There have been multiple court cases arising out of No Debate (GC people are winning most of them).

            No Debate was an intentional and known strategy of Stonewall UK, a hugely influential charity that has lied to misled multiple organisations about UK law and gender identity and sex based rights. Lobbyists have developed strategies based in the belief that more ground would be gained if public debate was suppressed.

            None of what I have just said is secret, it's all been discussed for many years, and in the past year or so is now also being covered by the MSM. GCFs know about it, why don't the trans allies and gender ideologists?

            Anyone who thinks No Debate isn't real is either blind, ignorant, or has a political agenda.

            Nearly all the people I see saying No Debate doesn't exist start from that position rather than from one of trying to understand what it is.

            The kicker here of course is that there was political action to stop therapists and counsellors coming together and discussing issues of the medicalisation of GNC children. Since the Cass report, there's no excuse for thinking there are no issues here.

            • That_guy

              When Stats NZ convened an expert group to look at replacing sex data with gender data, no women's groups were included.

              Shocking but not surprising. So if you really wanted to, you could probably convince yourself that proper processes had been followed, as long as you don't look too closely.

              But for me this is really about results. Trans people have had their rights placed on a dodgy, shaky theoretical foundation that has parachuted into parliament from an ivory tower in California with no contact with reality on the way. Women have had their rights taken away, including the right to exclude and the right to define themselves. And LGB youth are being told in large numbers that there is something wrong with them that needs fixing with drugs and surgery.

              Fuck that. I am never, never going to be OK with that.

              • That_guy

                And just to drop this in. This is an extraordinary video from a woman of incredible courage.


              • weka

                same. The really stupid thing is that the left wing GCFs would ordinarily be working to make society better for GNC youth so that they don't have to have surgery, hormones, and a lifetime of disability and medicalisation. But GC ppl are so backed into a corner and are focused on just retaining women's rights that the issues of better models is getting lost.

        • CactusCat

          This post is about whether health professionals or indeed the public are 'allowed' to ask questions about the appropriateness of child and youth gender treatment services in NZ or elsewhere. Or whether any questioning will be shut down, lobbied against, interfered with.

          It would be excellent if you could provide examples of where last week's closure of the NHS Tavistock youth gender service (GIDS) over safety concerns has even been mentioned in the NZ media. This has been reported extensively internationally and has provoked considerable media commentary. And rightly so, as the findings of the Cass Review on the particular model of care being provided at the Tavistock GIDS clinic can only be described as alarming. What model of care is currently being followed for children and young people in NZ? Is this possibly an important question to ask?

          If you can't find examples of NZ media coverage of this, then it's a pretty long bow to draw to say that we are not currently in a 'no debate' situation on this issue in NZ.

  14. Jan rivers 15

    Its actually worse than no debate. Being concerned about gender medicine for kids was described as on par with believing the world is run by lizard people. Media Council found 3 serious issues with such an article but did not require a correction. https://www.mediacouncil.org.nz/rulings/jan-rivers-against-tvnz/

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