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Australian Family Association compares being transgender to having an eating disorder

By Will Stroude

The Australian Family Association has claimed that being transgender is like having an eating disorder.

The statement comes after several months of anti-trans campaigning from conservative lobby group, largely directed at transgender children, in an effort to close down a government-funded anti-bullying program.

In an email to supporters, National President Paul Monagle criticised Australian media outlets 60 Minutes and Australian Story for covering stories regarding transgender children.

Monagle suggested that its supporters draw inspiration from an op-ed about how being transgender is like having anorexia nervosa, written by social worker Moira Fleming for right-wing US website The Federalist.

“Fleming says that both anorexia or transgendering (sic) are driven by a mismatch between the person’s brain and their body, ‘a wrenching awareness of what it feels like to be disconnected from your body, to hate with every fibre of your being the way you look in the mirror…’,” an excerpt in the email reads.

The excerpts go on to argue that providing medical treatment to transgender people is akin to encouraging a person with anorexia to starve themselves.

Australia’s leading paediatrician on transgender issues, Michelle Telfer, told BuzzFeed News that anorexia is a mental illness, and being transgender is not.

“The distress that one experiences over gender dysphoria is considered something that needs treatment,” she said. “Hence the inclusion of gender dysphoria in the DSM-5.”

“If society accepted transgender people for who they are, there wouldn’t be distress.”

The email from Monagle also links to an article arguing treatment should be withheld from transgender people, who should be counselled into accepting their birth sex instead.

Telfer said there is “no evidence” that counselling to convince transgender people they are their biological sex has been successful. “There is evidence that does harm,” she said.

“When we look at altering ones body to match the gender identity of that person, the distress, anxiety, depression, and risk of self harm and suicide decrease significantly.”

Several studies, in Australia and around the world, have shown that being able to access medical treatment leads to better health outcomes for transgender people.

A 2010 study from LaTrobe University found that without access to medical treatment, 50% of transgender adolescents will self harm, and 28% will attempt suicide.

Words: Bryan Bernal

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