In the fall of 2018, Sweden’s Social Democrat government proposed a new law that would have reduced the minimum age for sex reassignment surgery from 18 to 15, remove any need for parental consent and allow children as young as 12 to change their legal gender.
The government received a major backlash from the scientific community, however. Christopher Gillberg, a professor and psychiatrist at Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy, wrote an article in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper warning that hormone treatment and surgery on children was “a big experiment” which risked becoming one of the country’s worst medical scandals.
The Swedish government shelved their proposed law and instead, have instituted a 3 part review in response to a proposal from The Swedish National Council on Medical Ethics.
The fast-tracking of medical transition appears to be the protocol in place at many of Canada’s gender clinics, with parents and some detransitioners expressing surprise and shock that medical transition is being offered as the 1st line of treatment. The sharp drop-off in referrals in Sweden corresponded to the realization by parents and General Practitioners that sending children to a gender clinic would not necessarily provide them with additional assessment or services, but rather put them on a fast-track to puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.
The experience in Sweden, and corresponding similarities in Canada, points to a significant gap in assessment and services for trans-identified youth to ensure that their long term physical and mental well-being is prioritized over and above a quick fix of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. Research indicates youth become trapped in a one-way medical path as almost 98% who are prescribed puberty blockers proceed with medical transition even when there is no evidence of long-term benefits.
Further, suicide risk is often used as the rationale for easy access to medical transition for trans-identified children and adults. Pro-transition advocates consider the need for assessments and screening to be dehumanizing and unnecessary. Clearly, the data from the Swedish NBHW does not support this position. People who commit suicide have an underlying mental illness that requires expert treatment and care. It would be medically negligent to avoid psychiatric assessment and/or deny corresponding psychological services to provide treatment for this population where the risk of suicide is elevated due to these comorbidities.
When will Canada start asking questions like Sweden?