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'A direct attack': Alberta's trans health lead protests new guidelines

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Some doctors say the Alberta government is ignoring science and doesn't understand the journey trans youth go through with its newest policy proposals.

Alberta's trans health specialist lead, Dr. Ted Jablonski, says the proposed policies from the UCP government "have no scientific merit."

"There's nothing based on evidence-based medicine. This is arbitrary, this is political and it's really going to get in the way of us doing medical care for trans youth," he told CTV Morning Live Calgary in an interview on Friday.

Jablonski, who is also a clinical professor at the University of Calgary's department of family medicine, says when youth meet with his team, they begin a process that may or may not include medical intervention at any point.

"Youth can look at their gender identity, can have a journey, can socially transition without any medical intervention whatsoever," Jablonski said.

"If we are looking a medical intervention, puberty blockers can be crucial at the right time when they are deployed and this is with family support, this is with psychological support – this is multi-disciplinary."

He says the government stopping trans youth from using puberty blockers before 15 years old, could "handcuff them medically."

"A lot of harm can happen to trans youth when puberty is developing," he said.

Minors cannot embark on a medical procedure to modify their gender on their own and it's actually a very long process, Jablonski said,

"Generally, there are many touch points to the medical system. That could be with community support groups (and) that could be with psychologists," he said.

"Typically, patients are referred to someone like me before we even start the process."

There are guidelines, standards of care and other measures to make sure a youth has a proper diagnosis and is "moving medically in the right direction," he said.

"This takes many visits, this takes a lot of time, this does not happen very quickly whatsoever."

While Smith's proposed regulations are aiming to prevent youth under the age of 18 from pursuing bottom surgery, Jablonski said those sort of procedures don't happen in Alberta in the first place.

"We start the process at age 18; we're moving toward that as we go (and) surgery usually comes much, much later."

The government's assertion that these sorts of discussions are happening without parental knowledge or consent also isn't true in most cases, he said.

According to him, only occasionally are some teens given "mature minor status."

"There are individuals who are, perhaps, 17, who we can actually move forward because they do understand and appreciate, but we always want to involve family.

"We always want that parental support, that parental consent, and that's our model that we work with."

Protestors of LB 574, which limits gender-affirming care for trans youth, gather outside the legislative chamber, Friday, May 19, 2023, in Lincoln, Neb. (Justin Wan/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)

Despite the provincial government saying these proposals will protect trans youth, Jablonski says they are doing the exact opposite.

"This is a huge threat, this is a direct attack on trans youth. I think this will have very harmful effects."

A draft proposal of the guidelines is expected to be released by the government in the fall.

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