Gender Clinic News| June 06, 2024
Original article can be viewed HERE

Photo Credit: Photo by mauro mora on Unsplash

UPDATE, June 7 | Chile’s Health Minister Ximena Aguilera has reportedly ordered the public health system not to give puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones to any new patients.

The minister had acknowledged the weakness of the scientific evidence for paediatric gender medicine and the need to analyse England’s Cass report, according to Tele13 Radio journalist Paula Comandari.

During her June 6 broadcast, Ms Comandari said Minister Aguilera had decided “very discreetly, late on Tuesday,” to instruct the under-secretary for public health that no new patients be treated with blockers or hormones. Treatment of existing young patients would continue on a case-by-case. A statement confirming the policy shift would be issued within the next few days by the ministry.

“All this because the health minister [who by profession is a surgeon and public health specialist] has acknowledged that the scientific evidence is weak and that the information provided by the English report [of Dr Cass] should be analysed, even though the data has been circulating for several years now,” Ms Comandari said.

Ms Comandari, who touched on the controversy at England’s Tavistock gender clinic and the legal case of detransitioner Keira Bell, said the Cass report had triggered “an earthquake” in various parts of the world.

The effect of the Chilean health minister’s decision would be to mirror in the public sector the June 5 restriction imposed by the private UC Christus health network, where the country’s pioneering gender clinicians have been dispensing hormonal treatments to minors for more than a decade.

Original post, June 6

The most prominent gender clinic in Chile has reportedly suspended hormonal treatment of minors following the country’s first comprehensive media coverage of the troubling trans-affirmative medicalisation of minors.

The 13,500-word bombshell article “Interrupted puberty: transgender children start hormone treatment amid controversy” by journalist Sabine Drysdale was published on May 29 by BíoBíoChile, one of the country’s most popular news sites.

On June 5, the dean of medicine at the prestigious Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (UC), Dr Felipe Heusser, said the UC Christus health network had decided to suspend provision of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to new patients, according to Tele13 Radio journalist Paula Comandari. (GCN sought comment from publicists for UC Christus.)

In her broadcast, Ms Comandari said UC had been “in the eye of the hurricane” since BíoBío’s reportage. Follow-up media coverage, including an opinion article “Children in danger” in the conservative newspaper El Mercurio1, has also picked up elements of the UC Christus story, framed by the international debate and England’s recent Cass report.

On May 31, opposition politician Dr Diego Schalper said he would press the health minister of Chile’s progressive-left government2 for more information about the trans-affirmative support program Grow with Pride which has been extended to children from the age of three. Dr Schalper, a 39-year-old lawyer educated in Chile and Germany, also called for a special session of the Family Committee in the lower house of parliament, where he is a deputy.

“It seems to me that an issue like this should be approached very seriously, looking at the scientific evidence and international experience; and always with child protection as a guiding principle,” Dr Schalper, of the centre-right party National Renewal, said in a tweet on May 31.

Under the government of President Gabriel Boric, a former student activist, 1,202 children were given trans support (acompañamiento) in 2023 as part of the Grow with Pride program3, with another 2,940 expected this year, BíoBío reported. (The number going from social to medical transition is unknown.)

“This means that, in just two years, more than 4,000 children will have been seen, despite the lack of consensus in the medical-scientific community and the backlash in several European countries on applying treatments,” the BíoBío article says.

The parents’ group Kairós and Detrans Chile—both critical of the “gender-affirming” treatment approach and both with members featured in BíoBío’s coverage—welcomed the media breakthrough and the decision to suspend paediatric gender treatment at Santiago-based UC Christus.

“The gender issues are not part of the major political debate as of right now, and the importance that we see in this [BíoBío] article is that it has put these issues for the first time in the spotlight of public opinion and political debate,” a Kairós spokesperson told GCN.

In a joint statement, the two groups said UC should have acted sooner. They said parents whose children had received “hasty affirmative treatment” had put their concerns to UC Christus authorities more than a year ago, “without results.”

The groups said the 2020 UC Paediatrics manual—recommending “reversible” puberty blockers for children as young as age 9-10 at Tanner stage 2-3 of puberty—was out of date, cited no gender medicine studies since 2018, and UC Christus had ignored the post-2019 international policy shift away from poorly evidenced hormonal interventions in Finland, Sweden and England.

Against a background of local media neglecting4 the gender clinic story, Ms Drysdale’s BíoBío reportage includes—

stories of families affected by sudden opposite-sex identification of children

cases of desistance and detransition, as well as one family satisfied with puberty blockers

the role of trauma, autism, mental health problems, and unappealing gender roles— especially for girls sexually maturing—as causes of what presents as gender distress

the Ministry of Health mandating a gender-affirming treatment approach

education policy promoting social transition without parental approval

non-affirming parents being reported to a family court

government officials and gender clinicians pushing social and medical transition of minors ahead of the law, the weak evidence base and the uninformed state of public opinion

the country’s top gender clinicians advising puberty blockers for young children while admitting they have no long-term safety data.


Dr Cass and the Pope

One of those clinicians, endocrinologist Dr Alejandro Martínez of the UC Christus network, defended gender-affirming treatment on mental health grounds but conceded to Ms Drysdale that “we have to take the Cass report very seriously.”

After BíoBío published the article, UC Christus and its Catholic university backer issued a joint statement citing the April 12 Cass report as well as the April 8 Vatican denunciation of “gender theory” and “any sex-change intervention” as offensive to human dignity.

“[In light of these two influences], since April 12 of this year, we have been reviewing, evaluating and updating our practices and protocols for the care of transgender people in order to continue providing them with the appropriate, safe and welcoming support they deserve,” the joint statement says.

“The constant and dynamic evolution of medicine has recently generated scientific information, [namely, the Cass report] which puts a note of caution regarding hormone treatment for transgender children and adolescents.”

The joint statement made no reference to any suspension of puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones for new patients at UC Christus.

The BíoBío article highlighted the curious fact that the Catholic-backed UC Christus network was giving minors hormonal interventions that could sterilise them, but referred them to an outside clinic for fertility preservation because religious doctrine prohibited in-house infertility treatment.

The article also told the story of Andrés, a 15-year-old boy prescribed puberty blockers by UC Christus and told to freeze sperm to preserve his fertility5.

The boy’s father detected a “tremendous double standard”. At age 40, and content with three children, the father was refused a vasectomy by the same health network on the grounds that its policy was “not to alter the natural course of life, not to artificially induce something that alters reproduction.”

A spokesperson for the group Kairós told GCN that people were “very shocked that a conservative [health] network is promoting gender-related treatments, because they are well known for opposing abortion, vasectomies and other procedures that could go against Christian values.”