Preschooler begins transition aged four: Children as young as three claiming gender dysphoria
Daily Telegraph, September 1, 2016
A FOUR-YEAR-OLD preschooler in NSW has begun “transitioning” their gender before attending their first day of kindergarten, amid a wave of young children across Australia who are seeking to change sex.
The Baird government has revealed “a number of students” are transitioning their gender in primary schools.
The revelation comes as referrals to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead for gender services have tripled, with one doctor saying they had “escalated rapidly” across every state.
In another major children’s hospital, 250 children — some as young as three — are being assisted by the gender dysphoria unit.
Psychologists yesterday questioned whether it was too young for a four-year-old to be transitioning gender.
The case emerged during an exchange at a state government budget estimates hearing that delved into the Safe Schools program.
The Education Department’s deputy secretary of school operations Gregory Prior said the school had used Safe Schools resources to help teachers assist the child.
“We have a number of students who are going through gender transition in our schools, with the youngest being a four-year-old at the moment,” he said.
“Without breaching privacy, we have a four-year-old who is transitioning to kindergarten next year who has identified as transgender.
“The Safe Schools is only one resource that can be used from a variety of resources in how we would support that family, student and school to accommodate a child going through transition.”
The Education Department yesterday would not reveal further details, including the birth sex of the child.
Susan Palmer, Pastor of Open Door Community of Christ in Cranebrook — which is comprised of people from the LGBTI community — said she held concerns about children being pushed one way or the other when they were too young.
Ms Palmer, who is a lesbian, said it was important kids were allowed the freedom to explore who they were.
“It seems to be true and seems to be the case from those I’ve met who have transitioned, they’ve known very early in life that something is not right and it’s like their mind and body don’t match,” Ms Palmer said.
“But it is really important for children to have that freedom to explore that freedom to explore for themselves, rather than have people around them closet them or push them.
“A child is heavily influenced by their caregivers, their parents and I know parents can be overly concerned and overly supportive either way and can actually coerce or influence children when what they are doing is just exploring something which is not somewhere they actually want to be heading.”
Prominent transgender advocate and Australian of the Year finalist Catherine McGregor said kids that age were usually right about their need to switch genders, but there needed to be proper checks to ensure premature mistakes weren’t made.
“I would have thought four is pretty young for any official policy support,” she said.
“In my experience, kids with strong cross-gender identification tend to get it right but I can understand there would be caution on the part of the department and medical practitioners on making any irreversible decisions at that stage.”
Leading child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said 250 children as young as three were being assisted by the gender dysphoria unit at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
A decade ago the unit had just one child “client” on its books, he said.
“It is the feeling of being born in the wrong body … these kids exist and on some estimates up to 2.7 per cent of children could fit into this category,” Dr Carr-Gregg told The Daily Telegraph.
He said research showed children in this category suffered from bullying and high numbers committed suicide during adolescence or later in their life because they were forced to live in denial.
“There is a huge difference between dress-ups and a child believing with every fibre of their being they are in the wrong body,” he said.
“These children can be managed with compassion and sympathy, and they can lead perfectly happy lives.”
Clinical psychologist Rose Cantali said age four was “absolutely too early” for a child to change gender.
“I would be very hesitant and other psychologists would say the same. Everything is developmental at that age,” she said.
Dr Rosemary Jones, a gynaecologist who is transgender, said she believed four was a “good age” and that “parents who have any sense can usually pick it”.