APS statements on surgery for transgender minors

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) this week issued the following statements in response to media reporting about its position on surgery for transgender minors.

Thursday 3 October

“Medical procedures have been authorised for transgender minors by the Family Law Court for a considerable period of time. However, it does not follow, nor does the APS advocate, that minors can consent to such procedures absent of assessment by a clinical care team and potential subsequent Court approval where required. Rather, in those instances where parents do not approve treatment, the APS believes minors should have the right to access the opinion and guidance of suitably qualified medical professionals, including psychologists. This is consistent with Australian law and international conventions.

“Independent assessments with regard to transgender minors should always operate from a position of respect, factual awareness and understanding – for example, what are the expressed wishes of the young person and what are the consequences and risks of treatment – and affirmation of a young person’s rights to explore and express their gender.”

Wednesday 2 October

“The APS submission to the Tasmania Law Reform Institute is in line with the UN Conventions for the Rights of the Child, a legally-binding international agreement setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child, regardless of their race, religion or abilities.

“The APS categorically refutes the inaccurate and misleading claims made in the media today about its position on surgery for transgender minors. Media claims were based on a misinterpretation of a recent submission made by the APS to the Tasmania Law Reform Institute.

“The claim that the APS has proposed children under 16 should be allowed to consent to surgery against the wishes of their parents, and without mandatory counselling, is simplistic, inaccurate and damaging to transgender young people, their families and the psychologists who work with them.

“The APS submission to the Tasmania Law Reform Institute does not state that minors should be able to approve surgery for themselves, or that the wishes of parents regarding surgery on their transgender child should be ‘ignored’.

“The APS submission notes that surgeries have been performed on transgender minors for a number of years, with Family Court approval.

“It states that in cases where parents are not in approval of intended surgery, minors are entitled to access mechanisms that involve the oversight and assistance of suitably qualified medical professionals. The APS submission proposes this mechanism could be initiated by the treating hospital and managed through the Family Court.

“Media reporting further claims that the APS submission stated that counselling for transgender minors pre-surgery should not be required. This section of the submission has been taken out of context and the interpretation of it is misleading.

“Counselling is different to assessment, which the APS and many other bodies clearly support as necessary. The APS submission notes that transgender young people are unlikely to receive treatment without considerable medical oversight and that such oversight should adopt an affirming approach.”

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