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Gender-Affirming Care Pioneer’s Warning

by | Sat, Nov 4 2023

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A Finnish psychiatrist who helped pioneer so called “gender-affirming” care for children, is now warning against it. Dr. Riittakerttu Kaltiala has condemned the rush to perform transition surgeries on minors, especially in the United States.

She has alleged there’s a pattern of dishonesty and politicisation within the American medical community that has begun to correct itself elsewhere in the world. Dr. Kaltiala has written a letter to the US-based The Free Press titled Gender-Affirming Care Is Dangerous. I Know Because I Helped Pioneer It.

The Christian Post reports that a foreword at the beginning of the letter said that in 2011 Dr. Kaltiala was assigned to oversee “the establishment of a gender identity service for minors, making her among the first physicians in the world to head a clinic devoted to the treatment of gender-distressed young people.”

The Finnish psychiatrist wrote that the “new protocol” calling for “the social and medical gender transition of children and teenagers who experienced gender dysphoria” dates back to a 2011 paper by clinicians with the Amsterdam University Medical Centre. She noted that the paper argued that “if young people with gender dysphoria were able to avoid their natural puberty by blocking it with pharmaceuticals, followed by receiving opposite-sex hormones, they could start living their transgender lives earlier and more credibly.”

She explained that the so-called Dutch Protocol became “the gold standard treatment in this new field of pediatric gender medicine. A movement that declared gender transition was not just a medical procedure, but a human right” emerged. As a result, she said Finland’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Health worked to “create a national pediatric gender program and my department was tasked with opening this new service, and I, as the chief psychiatrist became the head of it.”

“We were being told to intervene in healthy, functioning bodies simply on the basis of a young person’s shifting feelings about gender,” she recalled. “Adolescence is a complex period in which young people are consolidating their personalities, exploring sexual feelings, and becoming independent of their parents. Identity achievement is the outcome of successful adolescent development, not its starting point. 90% of our patients were girls, mainly 15 to 17 years old. Few had expressed any gender dysphoria until their sudden announcement of it in adolescence,” Dr Kaltiala reported.

“They were coming to us because their parents, usually just mothers, had been told by someone in an LGBT organisation that gender identity was their child’s real problem, or the child had seen something online about the benefits of transition.” Dr. Kaltiala found that her colleagues in other countries had the same experience. She observed a widespread “feeling of pressure to provide what was supposed to be a wonderful new treatment among medical professionals who developed “a crisis of confidence” and no longer acted as “gatekeepers” to call out concerning medical practices.

The Christian Post quotes the doctor as saying that as a result, those professionals “stopped trusting their own observations about what was happening and having doubts about their own education, clinical experience, and ability to read and produce scientific evidence.” The “crisis of confidence” accelerated when her hospital found that the children they treated for gender dysphoria were “deteriorating” by “withdrawing from all social activities,” in addition to “not making friends” and “not going to school.”

“I became so concerned that I embarked on a study with my Finnish colleagues to describe our patients. We methodically went through the records of those who had been treated at the clinic in its first two years, and we characterised how troubled they were — one of them was mute — and how much they differed from the Dutch patients,” she asserted.

She had hoped that the 2015 publication of her study would lead to a course correction in the medical community, but instead it “became more committed to expanding these treatments.” In 2018, Dr. Kaltiala and her colleagues published a paper investigating the origin of the rising number of gender dysphoric children which concluded that 80% of such children see their distress with their gender disappear by the end of puberty.

The psychiatrist cited a 2020 report from Finland’s national medical body called the Council for Choices in Health Care or COHERE, which concluded that “hormonal interventions may be considered before reaching adulthood in those with firmly established transgender identities, but it must be done with a great deal of caution, and no irreversible treatment should be initiated. Information about the potential harms of hormone therapies is accumulating slowly and is not systematically reported. It is critical to obtain information on the benefits and risks of these treatments in rigorous research settings.”

While Dr. Kaltiala expressed gratitude that her views were “vindicated,” she remains concerned about the continued embrace of so-called “gender-affirming” care in the US, proclaiming that “gender transition has gotten out of hand.”

The Christian Post reports the American Academy of Pediatrics is conducting its own systematic review of the evidence on “gender-affirming care” for minors, but is still supporting the practice.