Debate is raging in the Netherlands over a proposed amendment to the current law concerning individuals who identify as their non-biological genders.
If approved, it will no longer be mandatory for anyone—minors under the age of 16 included—to seek medical or psychological advice before adopting a new gender. In an article, published by De Telegraaf, experts and politicians have come out with criticism towards what they consider an ill-conceived piece of legislation.
They fear that if passed, children would be more easily led on the path of puberty blockers (which decrease bone density while affecting fertility), hormone replacement therapy, and surgical sex change; all such procedures carry with them considerable health risks, and some are irreversible.
Additionally, they point towards data that proves that children—known to feel discomfort with their bodies anyway—who want to transition are often dealing with other struggles, such as depression. They then come to believe that such a procedure will bring relief to what is more often than not a passing state of mind.
On the political front, Dutch members of parliament Nicki Pouw-Verweij (JA21) and Pieter Omtzigt (CDA) are leading a movement that raises questions about the legislation.
“You see this whole new group of young girls at the onset of puberty who identify as men and then register at those [transgender] clinics,” says Pouw-Verweij, who holds a degree in medicine. “The same treatment protocol is followed for them as the one for the group that traditionally went into transition: mostly adult men, who feel they are women.” This matter of self-diagnosis, performed by children, whose private feelings then become the only point of reference is egregious to Pouw-Verweij. “Should it not be normal that you first explore whether these vulnerable children might struggle with other problems? Abdominal pain can also have many causes,” she said.
According to her, research from the UK has shown that it is often girls with a difficult situation at home who request gender reassignment. These adolescents often have other problems, such as mental illness or ADHD, she says. “If you embark upon that procedure anyway, with all its side effects, then you have to ask yourself whether this is the right choice.” Pouw-Verweij proposes that such matters should be treated with greater caution, as is currently the case in Sweden and Finland.
To bolster his call for caution, Pieter Omtzigt is meanwhile pointing to the example of the Tavistock transgender clinic’s closure in the UK.
As previously reported by the European Conservative, the clinic is being sued by over 1,000 families of children who they believe were rushed into making irreversible medical decisions.
The new change to the ‘transgender law’—first passed in 2014 and then amended in 2021, making the procedure of legally changing one’s gender easier—is causing worry among medical experts; apart from safety concerns, they see it as a threat to their discipline and, in effect, their ability to provide any input.
In June this year, in an opinion piece for the reputable trade journal Medisch Contact, Hanneke Kouwenberg set out a list of repercussions (medical, juridical, and ethical) caused by the replacement of categories, from scientifically observable sex to self-diagnosed gender identity.
Unsurprisingly, such voices have since been smeared by the usual ad hominems.
Veerle van Wijck, a self-described “intersectional feminist” and trainee at the government’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment deemed such discourse to be “far-right,” and the feminists engaging in it, TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists.)
There has been a surge in the term’s use in recent years. As ‘traditional’ feminists, such as Germaine Greer, face a de facto erasure of their identity as women, they find themselves being discarded by erstwhile allies.
Meanwhile, the matter will soon be worked out in the political realm. On September 5th, Nicki Pouw-Verweij and Pieter Omtzigt will present their case at a parliamentary debate on the proposed amendment.
If they can make it successfully, the ‘conservative’ model of transgender care as followed by countries such as Sweden and Finland might soon see adoption by the Netherlands as well.