Lithuanian Psychiatrists Outraged over Parliament’s Plans to Ban Gender Reassignment: It Is Not Based on Science

The Association of Young Psychiatrists and more than thirty other organisations condemn the Parliament’s intention to ban gender reassignment in Lithuania. On 20th March, 2017 the organisations circulated their position to the Lithuanian Parliament, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice, stating that a compelling proposal by the Parliament to ban gender reassignment is unwarranted and harmful.

In November, 2017 a group of Members of Parliament proposed to include a prohibition of gender change in the Civil Code. 31 members of the Parliament want to exclude from the Civil Code the provision enabling an adult to undergo a medical gender reassignment, and to establish a new provision prohibiting gender reassignment through medication, hormonal therapy and related psychological therapy.

“Pharmacological and surgical procedures or psychiatric and psychological therapies aimed at changing the genetic factors of a person’s sex (gender reassignment) are prohibited in the Republic of Lithuania” states the amendment proposed by the Members of Parliament.

The signatory organisations say they want to draw public attention to the unjustifiable nature of the draft law, its possible damage and the current lack of medical aid for some of the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania.

According to the appeal, around 0.5% of the population (about one in two hundred) experience gender dysphoria.

“These people may experience severe dissatisfaction and discomfort due to sexual characteristics. This is called gender identity disorder, which is characterized by a strong identification with another gender, constant dissatisfaction with one’s biological sex and it results in psychological suffering” states the appeal.

According to the author’s report, the explanatory letter to the Parliament’s draft suggests that gender identity is congenital and solely determined by sex chromosomes XX and XY. A statement which is totally unreasonable.

“Although there are anatomical differences between male and female brains, functional differences are not proven.” According to modern neuroscience, the concept of “female” and “male” brains does not exist. The nature of the brain is based on the high adaptability and variability of genes (sex and autosomal chromosomes), hormones and the environment” says the appeal.

According to the referral, this draft provision discriminates against people with other sex chromosomes, even though they can also identify as men or women.

The authors of the appeal also state that in the explanatory memorandum of the draft, the Members of Parliament try to formulate the false belief that the gender identity can be changed through psychotherapeutic or psychiatric interventions.

“There is no scientific evidence to support such provision. “Rehabilitation therapies” that attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are, in essence, coercive and not in line with current medical standards” the text says.According to the referral, trans people should have access to complex care, i.e. professional psychologists, psychiatrists, endocrinologists, surgeons.

“Psychotherapy for some trans people can help discover ways of expressing gender identity. For other trans people such assistance is not sufficient. One of the most important ways to help can be gender reassignment, i.e. surgical interventions and hormone therapy. Medical interventions for trans people are considered to be the standard of care and are sufficiently secure when used under the supervision of qualified medical professionals” says the referral text.

The appeal points out that due to lack of legal regulations and sufficient support, some people are looking for ways to reduce their suffering and improve their quality of life. One of them is the use of illegal hormonal products without specialist care, which poses a real threat to the health of these people.

It is also pointed out in the appeal that trans people in Lithuania face a lack of necessary medical and psychological help, more often experience discrimination and become victims of violence and bullying. These experiences increase psychological difficulties.

“In the current uncertain legal situation, healthcare professionals are not able to provide professional and scientifically based assistance to trans individuals. To ensure it, a proper legal regulation is necessary” says the appeal.

The appeal was signed by Edgaras Diržius, President of the Young Psychiatric Association, and Indrė Kotryna Pakutkaitė, Chairwoman of the Ethics Committee.

The appeal was supported by the Association of Young Doctors, the Department of Psychology of the University of Klaipėda, the Department of Psychology of Development and Education Psychology of the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences, the Lithuanian Union of Psychologists, the Lithuanian Psychotherapist Society, the Lithuanian Psychiatry Clinic, the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences Department of Health Psychology, the Mykolas Romeris University, the Institute of Psychology, “Prospects for mental health”, the Vilnius University Psychiatric Clinic, the Vilnius University Psychology Institute, the Department of Psychology, the Vytautas Magnus University.