Senate debates

Wednesday, 12 May 2021


Gender and Sexual Orientation

7:39 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I raise a deeply troubling issue for all Australians. We know that feelings arise and pass, especially through adolescence. No feeling is final. Yet children who present with a felt sense of being born into the wrong body are given licence to make irreversible decisions that will affect their brain development and scar and mutilate their bodies. This is the life ahead for too many young people on the transgender highway.

There's been an undeniable explosion of young females presenting with gender dysphoria. A hundred years of diagnostic history indicates this predominantly impacted males, yet in just 10 years we have witnessed a social contagion running rampant through our teenage girls—girls with no childhood history of gender dysphoria. In the United States, females requesting gender surgery in 2016-17 quadrupled. In the UK, females presenting with gender dysphoria over the last decade has risen over 4,000 per cent. In Australia, the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne has seen referrals rise from one in every two years to 104 in 2014.

In spite of the horrendous outcomes for many of these children—and I've met some—solid statistics are hard to come by. It seems this area of medical practice would prefer to keep their bad news under wraps. Gender dysphoria, as many eminent medical professionals will agree, overwhelming presents with pre-existing mental health conditions. In today's highly politicised environment, when a child shares their distress around comfort with their gender, parents are challenged and even shamed if they attempt to take a comprehensive therapeutic approach to help their child. Instead, parents are labelled abusive and accused of harming their child when they refuse to consent to their child's self-declared transgender identity.

Many of us may not remember our own teenage years, but those of us who have raised children through to adulthood will recall our own children going through adolescence. Parents walk a very fine line between nurturing their child's emerging independence and supporting their child's fragility. What we do know is that teens become super sensitive during this time. They hate people looking at them, they often loathe their newly emerging adult bodies or even feel revolted by them. Everything is magnified, and they're easily embarrassed. Being part of a tribe is powerful during this time, and that's a perfect concoction for a social contagion. To make matters worse, the process of neural pruning during this time means their executive function is compromised, which is where we make our most effective decisions.

It's irresponsible that we're surrendering these life- and body-altering decisions to our children, putting them on a medical pathway of puberty blockers, sex hormones and irreversible surgery. An adult brain is required to balance the consequences of these life-changing decisions. We're charging our children and, equally abhorrent, our courts with these enormous decisions. It's our children, as young adults, that will left to face the horrendous consequences.

The medical pathway for children presenting with gender dysphoria is widely accepted as experimental. There's no evidence that it's safe. This is a call to all parents: your children are being used in an experiment where there's no evidence it's safe and plenty of evidence it's not. Overnight, Sweden's leading gender clinic stopped routine treatment of minors with hormone drugs due to safety concerns, citing cancer and infertility risks. There are concerns around bone density, memory, development of grey matter and cognitive impairment. These treatment are not proven safe, and yet our children can quite easily be prescribed puberty blockers and sex hormone treatment to then land on the operating table for irreversible surgery with grossly inadequate counselling. The counselling instead is left for the parents, for them to come to the terms with the loss of a child of one gender and welcome the emergence of another.

There's another Sorry Day coming. That Sorry Day will be for all those vulnerable children that struggle through adolescence, as so many do, and we did nothing to protect them. When we start to accept that boys at 10½ can take puberty blockers, girls at 14 can have double mastectomies, and parents can be criticised and shamed when they attempt to counsel their children against these life-altering decisions, then lunacy, neglect and savagery are prevailing. These children will have every right as adults to turn to their parents, medical professionals, hospitals and the judicial system and demand compensation for our negligence because we lacked the courage, we lacked the will, to protect these children when they needed it the most.