The committee into Mark Latham‘s anti-trans education bill shouldn’t exist in the first place. But it does, and one side effect is that it’s being used to launder the fringe, transphobic ideas of discredited cranks into the mainstream with very little critical judgement.
The bill in question would prohibit NSW schools from teaching that trans and non-binary people exist, and prohibit them from supporting trans and non-binary students. However the parliamentary debate is already having serious ramifications, regardless of whether Mark Latham’s bill is enacted or not.
Take, for example, a story published in The Daily Telegraph on Thursday which would have you think that kids being trans is some kind of “social contagion”, according to a leading expert on the matter.
Except psychologist Dianna Kenny, who was quoted as linking the rise of young people identifying as trans to drug use and anorexia, could not be further from the mainstream when it comes to her views on trans kids.
Kenny is not an actual authority on the health of trans kids. She was a Professor of Psychology at the University of Sydney for 31 years dealing largely with music performance anxiety until 2019. Since then, she has privately pivoted to dealing with kids with gender dysphoria in a way which is at odds with mainstream treatment recommendations.
Rather than being a member of a group like AusPATH, Australia’s peak association for experts in trans health, Kenny is instead a member of the the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine, which BuzzFeed News recently described as an international group of “highly controversial doctors and researchers” who “give credence to the notion that no scientific or medical consensus exists regarding the relative safety and efficacy of a given treatment, despite the clear and growing evidence to the contrary.”
Prof Dianna Kenny was a music therapist concentrating on performance anxiety. Since being let go by Uni of Sydney, she’s switched to anti-trans conspiracies & self-publishes. But she’s got “Prof” in her name, so has been commandeered by The Australian as a gender expert pic.twitter.com/tlXK7nNneR
— Pauline Pantsdown (@PPantsdown) April 21, 2021
Greens MP David Shoebridge, who is also a member of the committee, called Kenny out.
“Your position is 100 per cent rejected by the submission we have from the peak professional body for psychologists … you’re an outlier in the profession aren’t you?” he said.
Kenny disagreed with him and and said it was the majority of accredited experts who were wrong, actually.
In addition to Kenny, all the usual suspects like representatives from the Australian Christian Lobby and people who are overly obsessed with chromosomes in women’s sports made submissions, but literally nothing they said was important.
You know who was also made submissions to the committee chaired by Mark Latham? Actual experts, one of whom is trans himself, and yet the media instead cherry-picked some nut-job to legitimise transphobia.
Teddy Cook, who is actually the vice president of AusPATH, made a moving opening statement about his own personal experience which was backed up facts and scientific consensus on issues affecting trans young people.
“The research globally, here and internationally, continues to show up the same results, really, that trans kids do better and they have a better quality of life when they are affirmed as who they are at school,” Cook told the committee.
“You do seem to see us as a threat, which is interesting. I do hope that you know some actual trans people in your life. I hope that I am not the first one you have met.
“The reality, though, is that we are not powerful enough to disrupt the culture of this country. Many of us, even though we are incredibly resilient, are just trying to get through the day, really.”
Not only that, but both the the NSW Office of the Advocate for Children (ACYP) and Young People and the NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian made a joint submission which opposed the bill on behalf of children in NSW and reiterated the need to affirming the gender of young trans people and supporting them in other ways, too.
One of the many children consulted by the ACYP said: “Education and knowledge is the first step to acceptance. If you are limiting that you are creating a safe space for transphobes and bigots, and an unsafe space for trans/questioning kids.”
Among numerous other strong advocates for the rights of trans kids (and a few vocal activists) were also two researchers from Western Sydney University who presented their preliminary findings that a majority of NSW parents of school-aged kids were supportive of schools discussing the existence of trans people.
Those researchers concluded that the bill is “highly problematic on a number of fronts”.
I'm sorry, this pisses me off. This isn't even someone just voicing their opinion. This is someone touting blatantly incorrect scientific falsehoods as fact. You can't just repeat these myths in a headline with a professional portrait for the photo. This is DANGEROUS legitimising
— Matilda Boseley (@MatildaBoseley) April 22, 2021
But none of this is news. There’s nothing novel about needing to support trans young people.
There’s also nothing novel, groundbreaking or even worthwhile about transphobia. Yet committees like this serve to platform it at a national level.
Even if Mark Latham’s anti-trans education bill fails, its legacy will be that it pumped unscientific and harmful opinions about trans kids into the heart of the news cycle.