Olivia Purdie features in ABC 4 Corners “Not a boy, Not a girl” and an article titled “Why this 11-year-old is getting injections to block puberty”. ABC 4 Corners, 2 March 2020; Why this 11-year-old is getting injections to block puberty, 2 March 2020
A further article on 31 March 2020 discusses Jane Russo, Olivia’s parent and a Councillor for Unley, discussing the plans to build a gender clinic in South Australia.
Both pieces present puberty-blocking medications as a natural step for a child who claims a non-binary identity. There is no fixed definition of non-binary, but it means they feel neither male nor female.
Olivia’s discomfort around developing breasts is discussed. The risk of developing osteoporosis is mentioned as a future possibility that will be managed with monitoring.
Dr Jemma Anderson, an Endocrinologist, states that “when you stop taking a puberty blocker, the effects are generally reversible”.
In fact, the full side effects in the long term use of puberty blockers are not known because long term studies have not been undertaken on children. Olivia foresees taking leuprorelin for 5 years, a drug that is usually given to end-stage prostate patients for a maximum of 6 months.
The full effect of suppressing puberty is not yet known. Effects at least include infertility because the sex organs do not mature. New Zealand website Fully Informed has collated expert statements about the likely effects of puberty suppression. There are ample voices warning that puberty suppression is not reversible.
ABC has erred by presenting a medicalised solution to a psychological issue in a child.
The medical solution is presented as the only alternative to self-harm or suicide. ABC should present a 3rd option: psychotherapy.
Cover image: ABC