en English

Jason Masters is a Christian and an LGBT advocate. In this episode of the GenderGP podcast, he talks candidly to Dr Helen and Marianne about how his own experiences as a gay Christian led to his becoming a fierce trans ally.

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The GenderGP Podcast

How Christianity can embrace diversity – Jason Masters

 

Hello, this is Dr Helen Webberley. Welcome to our GenderGP Podcast, where we will be discussing some of the issues affecting the trans and non-binary community in the world today, together with my co-host Marianne Oakes, a trans woman herself, and our head of therapy.

 

Dr Helen Webberley:
Hi everybody Uh, Helen and Marianne here again. I’m really excited to have somebody from Australia joining us today. Jason is with us and he caught our eye, with a really great article that he wrote, which was published on Medium. But as usual, what I’m going to do, Jason, if, if you don’t mind, is I’m going to hand over to you to let you introduce yourself to the people who might be listening, tell us who you are, where you’re from, what you do anything about you that you’d like to share.

Jason Masters:
I grew up in a family that wasn’t that religious. My mum was one of those who went to Sunday school because that’s what you did. My father was the son of a Catholic and an Anglican parentage, which in the 1930s was not a good combination, sort of that Catholic Anglican divide. so he wasn’t very involved in faith, but, you know, growing up in the sixties and seventies, you know, kids got sent off to Sunday school as I did. For a variety of reasons, I mean, I got to attend a private school, which was then Methodist school. and, that was a wonderful place a safe place for me to be. I then kind of left the church as a lot of people do in their teenage years. And then when I moved to Melbourne after university, the only thing that was familiar to me in Melbourne was the local Uniting Church. So just contextually for your listeners, the Uniting Church came around in 1977 from a merger of the Methodist Congregational and about 70% of the Presbyterian Church. So, it’s a unique Australian church has been around for about 40 years. From there, I got encouraged by the minister there to get involved in Sunday school teaching, which was kind of reteaching myself my faith and helping young kids. I got involved in a youth leadership and then had a number of roles there, including a board role for a major, welfare agency down there that actually developed the first vitamins program in Australia in the late 1980s. And then we’re moving to Sydney. Now again, continued my involvement with the Uniting Church, again, running a lot of youth programs. And I was on the board of the National Christian Youth Comp Convention when I moved to Sydney. And then like a lot of people, I had probably some understanding of my sexuality when I was 10 to 14, but when I sort of got discovered with a boy when I was 14, all hell broke loose at home and went deep into the closet. So like a lot of men at that age, I married. I have two beautiful kids, who are now in their early twenties and then about, and about nine—2015, my mental health, was in pretty bad shape. And that’s when I came out as gay, I suppose I’ve always had a bit of an activist bent and from a social justice point of view, and then got involved in a number of LGBTQI+ rights issues. I sit on the audit and finance subcommittee as a volunteer on Icon Health, which is the old AIDS action council of New South Wales. I’m now co-convener of Uniting Network Australia, which is the LGBTQI+ advocacy and pastoral support area within the Uniting Church in Australia. So that’s probably a bit longer than you hoped, but that’s a quick, quick potted history.

Dr Helen Webberley:
You mentioned at the end, now, that your activism perhaps came from your own experiences, with, you know, being found with, with the boy and, going back deep, deep into the closet and not being able to come back out again. And obviously we see, we see that kind of story within the work that we do ever such a lot. And I don’t know whether you just want to touch on what that might’ve meant for you at the time. And, and I think I’m really interested. And I think Marianne will be too in, in the, the effect of that first disclosure, even though your first disclosure was perhaps not what you anticipated, the effect it had on you was to push you deep, deep, deep down for a very, very long time. And I’m just interested.

Jason Masters:
It was very interesting. My mother, interestingly enough, and I’m working on my memoir, which I had hoped to be out earlier this year, but, because of some health issues, as you can see, and some legal issues, the book’s been sort of delayed at the moment. But it was mainly my dad’s reaction that was very, very bad. And what was really one of the funny stories, around all this, my parents were very supportive of Australian movies and, so, you know, year or so after I got caught and it was, you know, I was told this was very unacceptable and all that sort of stuff, we went to a new Australian film, we picked up my mom’s friend. Those two went up to the ballet, dad and I went off to the film and the name of the film just escapes me at the moment, but it was about a Catholic seminary for young boys. And it was a young priest who is struggling with his own sexuality. I think the imprints was, he was straight, but didn’t want to get married and all that sort of stuff. And in it, I actually learned about masturbation. I don’t know if I can say that in broadcast, but, so that was quite a bit awkward sitting next to my dad. But at the end of this, you know, having gone through a bunch earlier about this issue with the boy, my father said straight afterwards is I hope nothing like that ever happens between you and any other boys at school. So, there was this constant messaging that being gay was unacceptable. And, and with some other issues I was having with my father and the reason why the, my upcoming memoir is called A Journey Towards Acceptance is I was always trying to be acceptable. And it’s seemed, no matter what I was doing with my father, I never felt I was acceptable. And so, one of the things to do was to try and live the straight life. And it almost killed me a couple of times.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Marianne, that’s something I am sure you hear a lot.

Marianne Oakes:
Yea, I was just going to say your story probably parallels a lot of the people we work with. I know sexuality and gender is not always considered the same, but I think the stigmas and the shame around it is very similar. And I was just reflecting back to my childhood, slightly different than yours in that my parents, I’ve got a brother who was, dare I say a black sheep. So, I was kind of put on this pedestal. So, I had to live up to that to try and maintain of the thought of coming out would have been terrifying. So yeah, I could feel what you’re going through and I’ve never had that reinforcement of yo, you know, you must not—cause nobody was going to guess that—transgender wasn’t even on the agenda, if that makes sense.

Jason Masters:
And what’s kind of interesting about this is two different things. One I’ve kind of learned researching my book, I’ve often wondered why the story of HMS Australia in the second world war has kind of been hidden from the public. You got hit by five kamikazes of in three days, and that’s where my dad was injured. And that was one of the complications my dad was in and out of rehab hospital, you know, during a lot of my, my young life, but as I’ve researched it, I’ve now discovered that there was a murder on a ship related to a homosexual activity. And part of the suggestion is now perhaps the Navy has tried to hide the history of the pride of the flagship of the Navy, because there was a homosexual murder and my dad joined the ship soon after that. So, the whole issue of that murder and the trials went on for, well over a decade. All the way through the high court, because, the ship at the time was under British command. So British Naval law came in and sure, you could be hung for murder where you couldn’t in Australia. And so this this matter went on for years now. Now reflecting back, I just wonder what impact that that had on my father and his values and onto me. And then one of the other that we never really talked about is I would have been probably late teens, my mother, who was a charged seamstress at a major public hospital in Adelaide, the last big one built in Adelaide was involved as a charged seamstress in the first transgender operation in the hospital, but we never really talked about it. It was kind of talked about; this was an interesting activity she was working on. Cause she had to make all these very unusual materials for the operating suite and things like that, and kind of got mentioned, but neither her or I used as an entry point to discuss broader issues of sexuality. So yeah, that’s been a kind of interesting reflection as well.

Dr Helen Webberley:
So, what made the leap for you to be so interested in the rights and the social justice for transgender people? Because when you, when you wrote in Medium, you know, clearly you have a very educated position on your thoughts on that. So, so what led you to be interested in that particular facet of social justice?

Jason Masters:
I think part of it came from the marriage equality debate in Australia. Australia is only the second country in the world that has had a national vote around marriage equality. In Ireland, they had to do it because marriage was in their constitution. In Australia, it happened because our prime minister at the time, Tony Abbott kind of refused to bring the matter forward and to try and push it off he decided to throw it off to what we call under our constitution a plebiscite, which is a national, non-binding vote on parliament, as a thing from a referendum. And then when he was thrown out of office and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull came in, who was more committed to marriage equality, but because of the politics between the right and extreme right, and the liberal national party government in Australia, he kept with the plebiscite concept. Now, plebiscites have got to be approved by the parliament. It failed twice to be approved. So, he found a way through the Australian Bureau of Statistics to do a national survey. Now that was a horrendous activity. I live in one of the few seats that voted no, only just. So, I was campaigning a lot in this area and a lot of people were concerned about my safety doing that. I got a lot of death threats on Facebook in that, and Facebook didn’t take any action around that that sort of stuff. But one of the really sad things that happened through that is the no campaign later locked by the Australian Christian Lobby were putting up a lot of bits of misinformation. And a lot of it was around Victorian government had sort of sponsored what was called the Safe School Program, which was an anti-bullying program for LGBTQI kids in schools. The Australian Christian Lobby was really pulling out a whole lot of stuff around transgender and misusing that, and kind of saying if marriage equality gets up, your kids are going to be able to do anything. Parents aren’t going to be able to stop anything again. And in the end kind of to protect the vote, even the LBGs kind of threw the transgender people under the bus to get the yes votes up, which a lot of us were kind of horrified with at the end. And when I realized that, I thought, I suppose it became more obvious to me, I’m part of a minority and a minority, it’s hard being a gay Christian. The suicides statistics of gay Christians are not dissimilar to transgender people, which is often not a known fact. And so, I thought, you know, we’ve got marriage equality, we were getting things done, you know, church is kind of allowing marriage in the Uniting Church, but I could see the pain happening with the transgender community and I had an ability to do something. So, I sort of thought, let’s come out and support them. And I suppose it also reflected early in my coming out. I obviously got a lot of support from a lot of gay people, but some of the people whom I didn’t know really well, who were transgender, were the ones who actually kind of picked up on some of the mental health nuances a little bit more and took a little bit more of a caring step. And I’ve kind of appreciated that on my journey. And then as I’ve gone and done things, you know, I went to the (unclear 13:20) families forum in Hong Kong, met some beautiful, transgender people from the Pacific Island and started to learn more about what the American Evangelical Church has tried to do in the South Pacific to destroy their transgender people in the south pacific. So that’s kind of was the inspiration to get involved.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Amazing. And, if in your article, again, you focused on the younger people, again, I mean, I don’t want to guess for you, but what is it about the younger people that feel, that you feel that needs to fly that flag so high?

Jason Masters:
I suppose it’s my own reflection of what I went through is that 10 to sort of 16-year-old, I was struggling and having to reject my sexuality, and then saying the pain and consequence that had through my life. You know, there are people that often don’t have a lot of rights in society. And so, I thought that would, and, and a lot of my work has been with young people in the church. So there’s kind of a natural affinity there. So again, I’ve got a bit of a position where I’ve had access to things through being on the board of the medical council in New South Wales, that I could see an influence to a few things. I mean, just saying what news corporation has been doing globally, and its global anti transgender campaign. Some people are going to stand up and it’s got to be more than the transgender people. And, so, you know, trying to be a good ally, I put my foot in it from time to, well, reasonably regularly, but I found a few allies now or transgender people. I sometimes put some things past people. I, I put them out there.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Now Marianne I’m interested in your thoughts because, Jason was talking about the minority minority. So being a gay Christian, who now is adding another minority, are you somebody who supports not only transgender people and is active for them, you know, is active for them, but, but transgender youth. So that’s, that’s a big kind of minority minority flag to fly. Isn’t it?

Marianne Oakes:
I think, well, when I did my studies, we learned a little bit about minority stress, and I think it’s interesting as you know, the minority minority. I think lots of people can feel that the part of minority, but I think certainly, for some reason, LGBT distress of that is, is far greater. Cause I think we’re marrying up different facets of a social acceptance. We’re trying to find our own route. We’re trying to find our own communities. And I say that because, I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know what to what it’s like in Australia, but certainly here in the UK, when, when I was growing up, there was no community. We called it the scene and you have 30 hours. It’s very clandestine. And yeah, it was slightly different for the LGB side of things, but it was still coming out of the darkness. So minority minority, double the stress. That’s what I was going to say, trying to marry up your faith with your sexuality and then keep that within your social circles. Yeah. I’ve been lucky. I say, lucky, you, you might disagree with me, but you know, unfortunately, or fortunately I don’t, I didn’t have the faith side of it to marry up.

Jason Masters:
But we’re lucky here in Australia, there’s a Anglican priest in Brisbane who is a transgender woman and she joined. She’s just an amazing woman. And it’s doing so much in the non-Sydney Anglican part of the church here in Australia.

Marianne Oakes:
One of the things me and two of my friends talk about a lot. And we talk about acceptance in the UK, there definitely is a shift. I think recent survey showed that actually the majority of people just want us to get on with our lives. But one of the things that we kind of notice is there’s nobody up in the higher levels that is openly trans. You know, we do have some openly gay men in politics and lesbian women. We have no openly trans people in any places in power that I can think of. And you know, if they are there, they’re still in the shadows. I don’t know what it’s like in Australia.

Jason Masters:
Yeah, pretty much the same here. I think there is at least one or two transgender people in state parliaments in America. I think now, and I was lucky enough to go to Stanford University a couple of years ago, they have a specialist executive leadership program for LGBTIQ people and there was a transgender senior executive on that course with me. And we had this phenomenal transgender woman, very senior, the venture capitalist, come and give us a lecture. So it’s coming. But, I’m seeing that more in America that I’m seeing in Australia, obviously we’ve got Joe in the Anglican diocese up in Brisbane, but I think we still got a long way to go.

Marianne Oakes:
Yeah, I think going somebody quite high up in the church to almost be quite reassuring as well. It’s that to me feels like a massive step. I can’t imagine it. I can’t imagine it the UK, you can feel sad saying that because you know, we’re not the most backward thinking of countries, but, it signs of acceptance. I don’t, if you’d agree that, you know, to see people being elected, I mean, I, I always celebrate it when somebody won Big Brother. There’s a trans woman years and years ago who won Big Brother. And I thought that was a massive step that’s as far as we got.

Jason Masters:
Yes, exactly. And I think, you know, it, it, you know, that whole issue of visibility, you know, when I came out, one of the things that was very important to me, that my discovery was that as part of I, I thought Mardi Gras in Sydney was just a pride only to discover it’s actually a three week, arts festival and that the end of it was a pride. and one of my senior business friends, who I had spoken to, in November because Mardi Gras is in February said, I want to see you in Mardi Gras. And I thought, no way in hell and I was in the next year. but you know, going, I discovered the queer film festival. And through that, I learned a lot, one of my lesbian friends who’s a minister in the Uniting Church said, you need to watch as Queer As Folk. And, and it was interesting, there was some things in that that kind of like feel very uncomfortable with, but you know, when I went to Atlanta, a year or so later on a business trip and I wanted to go to a gay bar, I was looking at the reviews, the review was using language that I learnt through Queer As Folk. And if I hadn’t watched as Queer As Folk, I wouldn’t have understood how that bar was being described. And so having film, having literature, all that sort of stuff is really, really, really important. And, you know, Neighbors, which I think you have in the UK now has a transgender girl and that’s, and I think, I’ve not seen it yet. I’m going to catch it up on iView, but the Australian Broadcast commission has had a, I think a four-part series about a young girl, transgender girl starting high school. And I think the BBC’s just picked it up. So again that visibility is very important. Not only for other people to see that transgender people are normal parts of our society, but also for the transgender kids to see themselves on the TV screen.

Dr Helen Webberley:
It’s a theme that comes up a lot, isn’t it? That the people in high places that visibility and actually Neighbors, I used to watch that avidly at university. I haven’t watched it in a while and the importance of film and literature. It’s just about the finding of vocabulary, really interested that you, you know, that the vocabulary needed to be learned so that you understood what the people were talking about. It’s really, really important, thought, I’m interested as well. That suicidality you mentioned earlier that, that, you know, being a gay Christian has a, has a suicide rate attached to it as does having a minority of being a transgender person. But yet that suicidality is often played down, isn’t it by people who would like to? And certainly myself as a doctor who campaigns very, very highly to provide gender affirming care for transgender people in order to reduce that suicide rate, I’m often criticized saying that, that we, in some way, make these statistics up, we polish them. We make them bigger than they are. I’m not, you know, why do you think that, why is it that some people need to play that down when it’s such a serious thing?

Jason Masters:
I think there are a number of things to apply there. I think there is just the anti LGBTIQ and particularly the T at the moment agenda going on. I think we’re also not very good at talking about mental health and I’ve been going through, some significant mental health issues with this injury. I’ve had COVID lock down in March. We were encouraged to go out and walk and I went out and walked on a local trial here and had a bad fall and I badly dislocated my shoulder. And then I had reconstruction and I had complications and 2 hour surgery went into five and it failed, and I’m now looking at reverse shoulder replacement trying to herd off, until the other week. And so my mental health is got, been really quite in a lot of difficulty through that. And fortunately, I’ve got a support structure. That’s helped me through that, but it was interesting. My minister, we’re one or three communities in our church. That’s actually meeting live. The rest of them are recorded and a minister said, why don’t you tell that community kind of what’s happening? And so I showed them the pictures of the 3D modeling of my, my shoulder and all the problems I’ve got in there, and then went and talked about my mental health. And, you know, I’m one of the younger people in that community and not unexpectedly, as soon as I mentioned mental health, it shut down. I don’t know, I’m not saying I wasn’t heard, but we’re not very good at talking about mental health. And so I think apart from those who want to sort of criticize, our community polarizing it, I think there’s a part of society who says, Oh, we can’t talk about that stuff. I don’t how to talk about it. And I don’t know if you had it, but, yesterday was, Are You Ok Day? here in Australia, part of our national mental health program. And, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s very hard and, you know, you’ve got, you know, the Catholic church, the suicide is, you know, is almost Cardinal sin. it was considered a, you know, significant sin in most churches. I think, you know, some churches in our recognizing that it is a consequence of what happens with people’s lives and mental health so we need to change that narrative. So I think, again, there’s this religious way of play. We don’t want to talk about suicide because it’s, you know, it’s, you know, end up going to hell.

Marianne Oakes:
Hmm. That’s interesting. I didn’t realize it was so, stigmatized within religion, mental health.

Jason Masters:
Oh yeah. And it’s, I would say, yeah, our denomination is getting much better at it, but, you know, but I think, you know, in the Catholic church, which has, you know, a huge influence around the world, that is still a major issue.

Marianne Oakes:
Going back to the suicide rates, Helen, I don’t know if people would agree with me, but I think my experience says people don’t want to hear about or acknowledge the suicide rates because actually it takes our whole swathes of argument. You know, if this is killing people that we’ve got to stop and, and I don’t care what my argument is, we’ve got to stop. So, so to bring into two sides, right. And I think it’s how we choose that. We all have to be careful of at times, if we’re just going to do it, just to win the argument, then we’re messing up a lot. And, but the point I make is I know a disproportionate amount of people that are not here now, compared to the average person on the street. I don’t know hundreds, you know, but I know a lot of people that have died before the time who are LGBT connected, it’s rare for counselors to come across suicide, because usually we see people after the event, you know, when, when they’ve attempted suicide ever seen any to get into counseling and use their, they come out the other side. But, you know, even as a counselor, I’ve probably had a disproportionate amount of suicide, compared to all the sections of society. And that’s the only thing that I can talk about. And with any real conviction, you know, the, I think there’s statistics, I could say, you can, we can paint them. And it just, because it does wipe out so much of the argument, it can end the conversation, sadly, it can end the conversation. And I think that’s why people don’t like it as for talking about mental health. I think you’re right. Yeah. Interesting again, as a counselor, I came to have to set my boundaries if I’m out socially, because interestingly enough, people say, oh, you’re a counselor and they will just dump on you because there is nowhere else to do it.

Jason Masters:
Yeah. Yeah. And this is where, you know, all these things into play. Marianne, you talked earlier about, you know, lack of transgender people in high office and things like that. A minority party in the New South Wales parliament, which is a extreme right party, has introduced a religious freedom bill into the parliament and the parliament has agreed to hold an inquiry. It’s actually worse than the proposed federal religious freedom bills here in Australia. And then any, he’s actually got three bills going, but the third bill is, is actually to ban anybody, so that could be a cleanup and admin staff, a teacher from providing any support to a transgender or gender diverse child in a school. And if they do, they would be fired. And if you’re a teacher, you would lose your teacher’s license. And because we don’t have a transgender person, I’m aware of, we’ve got some L&G people in the parliament, you know, they’re not hearing the voice of the transgender persons in the parliament. And that person just doesn’t believe that suicide rates of transgender people they think it’s all made up. So yeah, he’s happy to go and put that sort of horrendous bills into our parliament.

Dr Helen Webberley:
I think, I mean, we know it’s a very real thing and yes, mental health, it is hard to talk about, you know, and again, it’s that doubling up thing, isn’t it, you know, mental health and being transgender or, and being gay or, and being part of this or whatever community it is. It is very difficult, but it is like we were saying earlier, if anyone listening out there, the language is there, you know, if, if you can find any way of reading or looking it up on the internet and looking at the people who are willing to talk about their mental health experiences and try and get pick up on some of that language so that you don’t have to bother Marianne in the pub with it, but you can actually get some help. It’s finding that language, isn’t it?

Jason Masters:
Hmm. And this is where I think, you know, good general practitioners at just so critical when I realized what was going on with my sexuality. And I actually stopped seeing a counselor because she was a Christian psychologist. And I didn’t feel I could trust her. So I stopped seeing her when I realized what was bubbling up in a million miles an hour after stopping seeing her. I sort of come to terms with myself, but my mental health deteriorated, my wife at the time said, if you go back and see her, and I said, no, I won’t, but you’ve got to go see our GP and get referred to somebody else. I was nervous about seeing my GP because he, he also is Christian and a bit more conservative than I am, but we had a very good working relationship for well over 20 years. So I booked a double appointment. I had my iPad with my list of things I wanted to do, and I hoped, and most of those would take 25 to 30 minutes, but it only took five minutes. And they said, Jason, you booked a double appointment. Is there something else? And I kind of went into myself. I was stopping to breathing and he quietly, without me noticing, moved out behind his desk. And then I told him I’m gay and I just don’t know what to do. And there were a couple of really important responses. The first one is a lot of things now make sense. Uh, I had a long history of mental health. And so this obviously was something important. And he’s, you know, he’s been practicing probably for over 20, 30 years. I’ve never had anybody come out to me before. And I don’t know where to refer to. Can we work on this together? And he said, I need to test something. I need to test are you in an emergency or crisis. And he defined it as emergency. You need to see somebody in the next 48 hours or crisis we need to see you in the next two weeks. And we kind of worked through that and the next two weeks was fine. And then he asked me to go talk into the primary health network that he’s a part of the scene to get some advice. He gave me a referral to somebody a few days later, which was again to a Christian psychologist. And I said, no, I don’t think I can do that. And he said, I understand, few days later, he gave me another referral. And I decided at this point in time, I was going to read a person to talk to them. Before I made an appointment, it was their possibility of a connection. And I rang and she actually rang me back. And I looked at a website and I thought, my doctor’s got it. He’s really got it. And she rang me back and we talked and she said, look, I understand why your doctor referred to me, but I now exclusively work with transgender teenagers. And I’m thinking in my local suburb, there was somebody working exclusively with transgender teenagers kind of blew me away, but she said, so I’m not taking on other people outside that narrow sphere. Now I’m full, but my supervisor works in the space. I think you need, I’ll give you his details tonight. I spoke to him and then I went back to my GP and said, spoke to that person. She’s not taking patients. She referred me to the supervisor. I’ve had a conversation. He is a registered psychologist and he’s an academic blah, blah, blah. You have a look. And then we agreed. He was the person I would go to. So to me, that was a really important model of care. And part of it was, I don’t know, can we work on finding the place to go?

Marianne Oakes:
That’s really important and quite unique. I have to say the trouble with counselors a lot of people just wave their hand and say, go find a counselor. And one thing when people email me, when people get in touch for the initial session, and I’ll say, I’m going to ask you at the end of this session, am I the person you feel you can work with? Am I right for you? Because we can’t take that for granted. And part of the skill is to hopefully to make them realize that we can be what they need to be. But I think, yeah, not enough people doing enough research and then sometime they are too embarrassed to say that you aren’t the right person. So, they’ll come for a few sessions before the brave enough to say, you know what, as counselors we’re trained to take the rejection, you know, we accept we cannot be the right person for everybody. That was correct.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Jason, your, your story there about your GP gave me goosebumps. You know, I, I wish I could fly over and shake, shake his hand really, really hard. It’s so important. I love the imagery of him coming around from his side of the desk to, you know, connect with you that little bit more and to acknowledge that actually he doesn’t know anything about this. This is new for him. You’re the, you’re the first one. I don’t know anything about this, but let’s work on this together. I, you know, I just, what are the amazing lesson for any professional to who might be listening to learn? Because, excuse me, because, you know, there will be people who go to their GP and, and make that a double appointment and the first bits bit taken up with their throat and their ear and their bad foot and what have you. And then it’s like, well, come on now, what is it you wanted to say? And if, if they are brave enough to say those words, you know, I think I might be transgender. Uh, and then if that what that doctor or nurse or counselor does with that information is so important, isn’t it, Marianne?

Marianne Oakes:
I think I’d say about four words and we’ve got them on the website now, how can we help? I think the most important words anybody can—we don’t want fixing, we want you to work with us not work against us. And I think that’s really crucial. How can I help you? And usually we will know, certainly trans people in the UK already been researching what they need.

Jason Masters:
And this has been, I suppose, part of my journey, having been on the medical council of new South Wales as a community member. So where the co regulator of medical practitioners in new South Wales, I retired off at the end of June this year, after eight years. And that board is made up of doctors nominated by the different colleges at the university academics, and I think about four lay people. And we had over that period of time, a number of complaints around transgender people, which were really interesting. And one that sticks in my mind was, a person in a, immigration detention who was a transgender woman and the doctor she went in, I think with a sore finger, something like that, sorry. So, it was sore jaw for that particular one. And the doctor thought she was a man. And so was very confused and so felt needed to affirm her gender and did inappropriate things. And when it went to the professional standards committee, basically said, I never learnt anything or done anything with transgender people. So, I was lost. And so, part of that for me, was, the need for, you know, the medical schools to do a lot more and also the continuous education of GPs to do a lot more around transgender people. We had another case of a 17 year old transgender boy. And that was the one that went in with sore finger. And then the doctor wanted to do all sorts of genital examinations. no reason to do that. And then the flip side of that, you know, the council almost led through, but a couple of us argued quite vehemently, you know, a complaint by a mother about her son’s GP who was treating her son. And now the son was 18, had actually his own rights to do things and wanted to the doctor be investigated for treating the son. And as I pointed out to everybody in the room, when I looked at the treatment, we had a lot of the records and I’m not a doctor, so I don’t understand. And we kind of learned things over the years. Yeah. It was completely in accordance with the pro, probably where the Victoria and the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, you know, guidelines for transgender children. It’s completely in accordance with that. And so we were able to kind of stop a doctor unnecessarily being investigated by a parent who just hadn’t coped with their child being transgender.

Dr Helen Webberley:
I could talk for two hours or two days or two weeks on the experiences that I have faced as a doctor, from working with this group. But I will save that for another day, but, I wish I had my registration in Australia and not in the UK, but that’s another story. We were fortunate enough to have Michelle Telfer as a guest on our podcast, and you know, amazing woman. And she was telling us about her work and about the guidelines that she wrote and what struck me, which was really amazing was that she had no idea that those guidelines were going to have such an impact worldwide. And they sure have, you know, to have something so beautifully evidence-based, based on medical evidence, research, and also case history, which is really important, and, you know, they, they have helped inform doctors like me and other doctors all across the world. So, you know, and that came from your country. So massive high five to Australia. So, Michelle Telfer for doing that. Jason, we’re running out of time. And although there’s so much more we could, we could talk about, I want to thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been really lovely talking to you and thank you for your candid honesty about your own sexuality and what that brought to your experience and how it’s informed your, your work now. And, you know, going back to that article, you wrote in Medium, it was so intelligently written and beautiful. And it, it, it just shows that that anybody who can just listen and learn and want to understand, can understand what it might be like for a transgender teenager to be fighting this battle today, because it’s hard.

Jason Masters:
It is. And and I’ve thought I needed to write that article because the Australian in Australia, is owned by News Corp had been running since July last year up until probably around, February this year, weekly negative article around transgender kids, constantly attacking transgender kids. And a lot of it was false, you know, and bringing in people again, there was this religious connotation to it, you know, bringing it up. Professor promoting him as a professor of pediatrics, a lot of our medical schools. Now he’s a very conservative religious person. under pressure, he finally admitted he’s never treated a transgender or gender non-conforming person in his life. So it wasn’t religiously driven. They brought in a professor of law from, one of the major law schools in Australia who was saying, kids can’t understand. And yet his own PhD was around the importance of listening to kids in family court, which is around the court, the deals with divorces and that the court should listen to kids. So, in one hand, he was saying through all of his research, the importance of listening to kids, but when it came to transgender kids, you shouldn’t listen to him, but he was a formerly the state executive of the Australian Christian lobby, all of that was never reported in the Australian. Yeah. Again, bring in a psychologist who I think has done some amazing work in the world of music therapy, but she again has never published an article, a peer-reviewed article, published lots of articles but never a peer-reviewed article in a major tier one academic journal around transgender people. And she often refers to, you know, we’ve got the American Academy of Pediatrics, which I think is the mainstream one, there’s, a minor one, which is very religiously based pediatric with probably a couple hundred doctors in it, referring to their research who were very anti transgender. So to me, you know, the whole News Corp campaign in the Australian here has been around people who are giving mistruths. And, you know, the classic one is around, there was no evidence around the safety of puberty blockers. And I kept saying to them, but they are used for a whole lot of different medical uses. And, you know, and you’re not saying they’re unsafe for that. So why are you saying they’re unsafe for this? In fact, the kids who are transgender are usually on puberty blockers for a shorter period of time, then the kids are actually on them for the other modalities. And they don’t have an answer for that. On the way through, the Littman study is often brought around about the concept of rapid onset gender dysphoria. But when you look at that, she actually only found families who were religious. The parents were kind of against transgender kids, didn’t speak to the kids. So that study has got a whole lot of academic flaws. And I think that sort of stuff has got to be brought out. And so, hence, that was part of the reason for that, that Medium article.

Dr Helen Webberley:
You make, you make very two very good points there. And I think, you know, some people say, well, if you need this certain article, they they’ve looked at the research and this is their finding, but the trouble is what they haven’t done is look at all of the research on all of the articles. And as you say, just because something is published or written, doesn’t make it truth and honest. And yes, if you want to find articles and research and papers to, to fit that particular argument that you want to, to prove you’ll find it. But actually if you do it the other way around and look at all of the research and articles and then make your opinion, that’s the way to actually make informed opinion. And your other point though, which I completely concur with is that it’s very damaging how, one person in an important seat can have so much power. When actually you’ve got to have got to have a look at that, that seat that they’re sitting on and, have a look at the evidence that allows him to speak with such authority. Well, you know, are they, are they biased in some way? And we have that in the UK, you know, lots of people who are doctors who are publishing apparently good and evidence-based literature on transgender issues are biased and what they’re writing is dangerous and yet it’s being published and yet they’re being held as experts. And it’s very frightening and never more frightening than for a parent of a transgender youth. How do you work out what is right and what is wrong when you’ve got this bias there? It’s a terrible, terrible shame. I hope that, you know, your shoulder and the mental health suffers because of an injury like that—I hope that you get better. I thank you so much for sharing, sharing your time and your experience with us today. It’s been really useful. Thanks so much.

Jason Masters:
Thank you. Bye bye.

 

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