Senior consultant endocrinologist with the National Gender Service (NGS), Professor Donal O’Shea, has sharply criticised proposed legislation to allow Irish teenagers to change their sex at 16 without parental consent under ‘self-ID’ certification – adding that politicians are afraid to challenge transgender activists.
Speaking on Newstalk, consultant endocrinologist Professor O’Shea described as “incredibly dangerous” proposals to allow 16-year-olds to switch gender without parental consent.
“Giving a 16-year-old a cert that will allow them to access surgery in another country is incredibly dangerous. We know that people do that once they get the cert,” the clinician at the NGS at Loughlinstown said.
And he said that ‘no argument’ can be made sensibly in favour of self-declaration for teens. Self-declaration in this instance is where the Gender Recognition Act would apply to 16 year olds – even without parental consent – so that they can legally change sex by filling out a two-page form and then likely begin a medical process of transitioning or changing sex.
Ministers must listen to doctors and not allow teenagers aged 16 or 17 to self-declare their gender without parental consent, Professor O’Shea, a consultant at the National Gender Unit at Loughlinstown, told the programme in a jarring segment. The doctor said that the best outcomes with regards to the patients he sees are in those who have family support.
He told Newstalk this morning that the proposed Government policy is not based on science, but has been driven by lobbying from the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) and others.
Asked by Newstalk Breakfast host Ciara Kelly where he felt the push to eradicate parental consent to change gender was coming from, he responded by saying that groups like TENI are “shaping, if not brainwashing political thinking in Ireland”.
Dr O’Shea said that the thinking of senior management in the HSE was always to “say activist view is correct when it’s not correct”.
“There’s nothing easy about being transgender, and what we’ve seen over the last 15 years in our service is that the very best outcomes are from individuals who have the very best support from within their environment. If they are transitioning without support from their families, the outcomes are just much poorer,” he told the breakfast programme this morning.
“So it’s implicit that if you’re allowing someone to get a gender recognition cert without the support of their parents; if you’re allowing a child to do that, that there is conflict,” the consultant said.
“And that conflict should be addressed; the reason for that conflict should be addressed, and then you should move forward in a supportive environment.”
“Giving a 16-year-old a cert that will allow them to access surgery in another country is incredibly dangerous. We know that people do that once they get the cert,” he told Newstalk.
Writing for Gript yesterday, Gript editor John McGuirk highlighted the incredible proposals quietly announced by Education Minister Norma Foley in the Dail earlier this month.
Speaking two weeks ago, the Minister said that the Irish Government regards the current legislation, under which teenagers require parental consent to change gender, as too “onerous” and would like to make it less so by extending “self-declaration” to this age group “with counselling support to families”.
Host Ciara Kelly referred to her own personal situation as a parent, when her teenage daughter, who was 16 at the time, went to get her ears pierced and the shop rang her as the child’s mother to check that she had consent.
“I gave permission,” she said. “But it’s very easy to get your ears pierced and let it close up after a few months, but these other things are much bigger decisions. We don’t allow children to get tattoos at that age without parental consent”.
She went on to ask the experienced consultant why we now find ourselves considering scrapping parental consent when it comes to such a major issue.
“Why are we moving into what, as you say, is a very difficult area and a very complex area without parental consent at all? What is the argument in favour of it?” she asked.
‘No argument’ can be made sensibly in favour of self-declaration for teens
Responding, Professor O’Shea was unequivocal in his condemnation of the move to scrap parental consent, as he alluded to the work of campaigners, who seem to have drowned out the voices of medical professionals who wish to exercise serious caution.
“There is no argument sensibly that can be made in favour of it,” he said. “What’s happened is the activist voice internationally has taken centre stage”.
Professor O’Shea said that from almost 60 years of combined experience of consultants within the gender service, medical professionals have learned that family and environment were crucial factors for children who may be struggling with their gender.
He described transition as “very difficult and challenging” and went on to highlight the difference between ‘consent’ and support, adding: “You can’t do this journey successfully if you’re in conflict with those nearest to you”.
Newstalk presenter Ciara Kelly went on to highlight the arguments from advocates of proposals to remove parental consent, saying that there are those who support children being able to self-identify young so that they can access puberty blockers.
“Is there a justification in that argument?” she asked. Professor O’Shea said the medical community are revisiting this issue, but he said the vast majority of countries are now realising that giving puberty blockers to children has been done “without any evidence” and is “potentially very very dangerous”.
“There will be a small number of individuals where it will be appropriate, but for the vast majority of individuals it’s about exploring their gender and questioning their gender in a supportive environment, and then making sensible decisions about their long-term”.
He was then asked where the push for such legislation was coming from. Host Ciara Kelly said she was curious who was behind the advocacy for self-declaration for teenagers, stating: “16 and 17 year-olds, they’re not known as big political activists; there’s other age restrictions on them.
“They can’t smoke and they can’t drink, for example, and you don’t hear them agitating or indeed having any kind of coherent lobby group to change the voting age or to change the drinking age.
“It doesn’t strike me that 16 and 17 year-olds are the people who are lobbying for this either, so why is lobbying for this, as in where is this thrust coming from, because it seems unlikely to me that it’s coming from 16 and 17-year-olds themselves?” she asked.
‘Brainwashing political thinking’
Responding, the consultant said that it has been his experience that political, as well as management thinking in the HSE, has been driven by activism and not science – adding that politicians have told him they are weary of “speaking sense” on this issue for fear of being cancelled.
“There’s an international activist movement in this debate, spearheaded by TENI in Ireland [and others] that are shaping – if not brainwashing – political thinking in Ireland; who are shaping – if not brainwashing – senior management thinking in the HSE to say activist view is correct when it’s not correct,” Prof O’Shea said in response.
“The clinicians in the field have been saying this needs to be approached with caution; this needs to be done, like every other thing we deal with in a careful manner. But the activists have it that we’re right-wing, restrictive, and if the politicians speak – and speak sense – they’re cancelled. I have had senior politicians say to me: ‘I can’t talk about this, because if I do, I’m cancelled,’” he said.
Ciara Kelly described this as a “stark warning” – adding that it was “sobering”. She went on to say that if TENI wanted to respond, Newstalk would have them on the programme.