Finnish doctor reveals the dangers of ‘affirmation’ pathways

Dr. Riittakerttu Kaltiala, 58, a Finnish-born and trained adolescent psychiatrist, the chief psychiatrist in the department of adolescent psychiatry at Finland’s Tampere University Hospital has written a powerful article, ‘Gender-Affirming Care Is Dangerous. I Know Because I Helped Pioneer It.’

I recommend you read the article in its entirety. There are many links to medical studies within the article that support her assertions.

Kaltiala lays out her experience and qualifications and explains why Finland, among other nations, have stopped giving harmful, irreversible drugs to children suffering gender confusion. 

The very experienced doctor explains that back in 2011 they began opening gender clinics based on a small number of youth who were experiencing gender dysphoria.

We were being told to intervene in healthy, functioning bodies simply on the basis of a young person’s shifting feelings about gender. Adolescence is a complex period in which young people are consolidating their personalities, exploring sexual feelings, and becoming independent of their parents. Identity achievement is the outcome of successful adolescent development, not its starting point.

We expected a small number of boys who had persistently declared they were girls. Instead, 90 percent of our patients were girls, mainly 15 to 17 years old, and instead of being high-functioning, the vast majority presented with severe psychiatric conditions.

Some came from families with multiple psychosocial problems. Most of them had challenging early childhoods marked by developmental difficulties, such as extreme temper tantrums and social isolation. Many had academic troubles. It was common for them to have been bullied—but generally not regarding their gender presentation. In adolescence they were lonely and withdrawn. Some were no longer in school, instead spending all their time alone in their room. They had depression and anxiety, some had eating disorders, many engaged in self-harm, a few had experienced psychotic episodes. Many—many—were on the autism spectrum.

Kaltiala was concerned about the politicisation of this area of medicine. She realised not many were questioning the protocols and those who did were heavily criticised. What alarmed her the most was that young people’s confusion was not being alleviated as first claimed.

The young people we were treating were not thriving. Instead, their lives were deteriorating. We thought, what is this? Because there wasn’t a hint in studies that this could happen. Sometimes the young people insisted their lives had improved and they were happier. But as a medical doctor, I could see that they were doing worse. They were withdrawing from all social activities. They were not making friends. They were not going to school. We continued to network with colleagues in different countries who said they were seeing the same things.

The doctor also notes that more than a quarter of their patients were on the autism spectrum. There was also clear evidence that groups of teenage girls were sharing information and suddenly declaring themselves transgender.

Kaltiala was not afraid to speak out. Due to the evidence, and lack of evidence supporting the use of puberty blockers and cross sex hormones, Finland changed its protocols to protect children from irreversible harm. They realised children could not consent to the serious, irreversible side effects they were suffering.

They also began to notice an increase in detransitioners and disasters. “One new study shows that nearly 30 percent of patients in the sample ceased filling their hormone prescription within four years.”

A few years later, in 2020, Finland’s national medical body, COHERE, released its findings and recommendations regarding youth gender transition. 

It concluded that the studies touting the success of the “gender-affirming” model were biased and unreliable—systematically so in some cases. 

The authors wrote: “In light of available evidence, gender reassignment of minors is an experimental practice.” The report stated that young patients seeking gender transition should be instructed about “the reality of a lifelong commitment to medical therapy, the permanence of the effects, and the possible physical and mental adverse effects of the treatments.” The report warned that young people, whose brains were still maturing, lacked the ability to properly “assess the consequences” of making decisions they would have to live with for the “rest of their lives.”

COHERE also recognized the dangers of giving hormone treatments to young people with serious mental illness. The authors concluded that for all these reasons, gender transition should be postponed “until adulthood.”

It is extraordinary that politicians in Australia keep opposing moves to investigate these practices. 

The UK, Sweden and Norway have all paused or stopped such treatments, just like Finland, after investigating the evidence. 

In NSW the Labor government along with Independent MP Alex Greenwich are trying to legislate these harmful practices as the only pathway! Please join our campaign to protect children from serious harm in this country.