Bill 89 Committee

Presentation by Tanya Granic Allen to Standing Committee on Justice Policy

Mr. Chairperson, members of the committee, and fellow Ontarians.

I’m Tanya Granic Allen, President of Parents As First Educators, a Ontario not-for-profit which works for the protection of the innocence of children and the defense of parental rights. We represent over 80,000 supporters in Ontario. I’m also a mother to four children.

First, do no harm.

While this maxim is generally associated with the medical profession, I would argue that this is the overarching principal which must govern debate and proceedings for Bill 89, and all Child and Youth service related matters.

Bill 89 is deeply concerning to me as a mother and as a child advocate. Why? Because the proposed inclusion of “gender expression” and “gender identity” within this act will do harm to children and families.

As almost all parents will attest, children routinely engage in fantasy play, and are creative and curious through their childhood and adolescent period of maturation. This includes questioning their sex or gender.

When a child states that they want to be a different sex or gender, it is the parent who knows that child best, and is the best resource and guide for that child. Most parents want their children to be happy and safe, and as such are the best advocates for their children.

With Bill 89, parents are worried -for good reason- that if their child is gender dysphoric, and the government disagrees with the parents methods in handling their own child, then the child will be removed from the family home.

Child and Youth Services Minister Coteau’s comments in the QP Briefing journal confirm this: “I would consider that a form of abuse, when a child identifies one way and a caregiver is saying, no, you need to do this differently,”

I disagree with the Minister. As do the thousands of parents with whom I’ve dealt with in preparing for this Committee meeting.

Just because a 3-year-old, or a 6-year-old, or a 10-year-old says something, doesn’t mean it needs to be turned into a life-altering event.

Many children and teens have thoughts about their own gender or another at some point in their life because of a jealous sibling, a desire to buck social trends, a close friendship, for attention, for low self-esteem, for affirmation, but that does not mean parents ought to hyper-accentuate these instances.

My response to this is to examine what the medical and psychological research has shown:

  • the prevalence rates of gender dysphoria among children has been estimated to be less than 1%.1
  • Dr. Kenneth Zucker, long acknowledged as a foremost authority on gender identity issues in children, has also been a lifelong advocate for gay and transgender rights. Dr. Zucker believes that gender-dysphoric pre-pubertal children are best served by helping them align their gender identity with their anatomic sex.
  • A global advocacy group for transgender health called “The World Professional Association for Transgender Health” recommends against physical interventions before the age of 16 (2001)
  • Experts on both sides of the pubertal suppression debate agree that 80 percent to 95 percent of children with GD accepted their biological sex by late adolescence.2
  • Neuroscience clearly documents that the adolescent brain is cognitively immature and lacks the adult capacity needed for risk assessment prior to the early to mid-twenties.3

One of PAFE’s supporters had a child who was gender dysphoric. Through careful consideration and with time and patience, this child settled into their gender by choice, which also happened to be their birth sex.

Had this parent had the pressure of Bill 89, their child would have had undergone irreversible surgeries and hormone treatments, and would no longer be able to conceive a child. What a tragedy that would have been.

A parent should have the ability to approach the situation with cautious exploration, which may or may not lead to medical intervention, without the threat of government intervention.

Gender dysphoria should not be treated lightly, as I would argue Bill 89 does. These conversations with a gender questioning child are best had within the family home, with parents who know their child best. Let parents parent. The government should support parents, and not insert itself into the family.

Remember, gender identity and gender expression are subjective. There is a growing list of the number of gender identities, I believe it numbers into the 70s now. The Act resulting from Bill 89 will be implemented subjectively depending on the caseworker or their manager, and the result will be havoc for children, parents, and the system.

If Bill 89 passes in the form as it exists today, then families will unnecessarily be broken up and the best interests of the child will NOT be served. This is why I’m advocating against including the terms “gender expression” and “gender identity”.

In closing, let me remind you of the guiding principle I mentioned earlier:

First, do no harm.

Thank you.

References:

1. Cohen-Kettenis PT, Owen A, Kaijser VG, Bradley SJ, Zucker KJ. Demographic characteristics, social competence, and behavior problems in children with gender identity disorder: a cross-national, cross-clinic comparative analysis. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2003;31:41–53.

2. Cohen-Kettenis PT, Delemarre-van de Waal HA, Gooren LJ. The treatment of adolescent transsexuals: changing insights. J Sexual Med 2008;5:1892–1897

3. Johnson SB, Blum RW, Giedd JN. Adolescent maturity and the brain: the promise and pitfalls of neuroscience research in adolescent health policy. J Adolesc Health 2009;45(3):216-221.

Presentation by Queenie Yu to Standing Committee on Justice Policy

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today. For over 20 years I have done volunteer work with teenage girls. I have been a sounding board for them and they trust me because they believe I have their best interests in mind.

With respect to Bill 89:

The matters to be considered in determining the best interests of a child includes the child’s views and wishes, etc. 

I agree that the child’s views and wishes are important but we have to be careful. When I was working with teens, I came across one who was habitually slitting her wrists and another who was hardly eating anything because she perceived herself fat when in actual fact she was a skeleton. These girls wanted to continue harming themselves but I told them clearly that I was not supportive of what they were doing and I encouraged them to seek professional help.

Children can demand something but a caring adult sometimes needs to say “no” if what these children want is harmful.

That seems obvious but the way that Bill 89 is currently written, it does not prevent a child asking for something harmful and for a caregiver to be obligated to provide it. 

I quote:

(2)  A child is in need of protection where,

(e)  the child requires treatment to cure, prevent or alleviate physical harm or suffering and the child’s parent or the person having charge of the child does not provide the treatment or access to the treatment

The Minister may make regulations for the purposes of this Act,

        2.  governing how service providers, in making decisions in respect of any child, are to take into account the child’s race, ancestry … gender identity and gender expression

For the best interest of children, I believe that the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” need to be removed.

There are a number of studies and articles about children who experience gender dysphoria who seek treatment. These readings have convinced me that the Minister of Children and Youth Services does not have children’s best interests in mind when he says that “it’s a form of abuse, when a child identifies one way and a caregiver is saying, no, you need to do this differently.”

What happens when transgender children undergo “treatment”?

-          puberty blockers are given between the ages of 10 and 12

-          estrogen and testosterone are blocked by these medications, but these hormones play a role in a child’s neurological development

-          This is concerning because the human brain doesn’t finish developing until a person is in their mid-20’s so these children will have some cognitive problems

-          Estrogen and testosterone also affect bone growth so these kids have lower bone density and they may have osteoporosis in the future

-          Cross hormones are normally given at 16 years of age

-          children who take them may be at higher risk for heart disease or diabetes later in life

-          Their fertility can be reduced and there isn’t enough research to find out of it is reversible or not

-          For those who start estrogen, they have altered liver function and the risk of blood clots increases

-          Once a child begins these hormones, they are taken for life

-          But there isn’t enough research about the long-term impact of taking estrogen or testosterone for 50 to 70 years.

-          For example, would a biological male taking estrogen develop breast cancer? We don’t know.

A study by Lawrence S. Mayer and Paul R. McHugh last fall found that

There is little scientific evidence for the therapeutic value of interventions that delay puberty or modify the secondary sex characteristics of adolescents

Also, they found that only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.

If the government really cared about children, it wouldn’t want children to experience all those negative health problems. The government would not oblige caregivers to give in to children’s requests regarding gender identity and gender expression when the long-term consequences of hormone treatments are unknown.  Especially since the majority of these kids will eventually identify with their biological sex. To ensure that we act in the best interests of our children, I recommend removing the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” from the Act.

Thank you.  


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