Patrick Gower: Transgender 'debate' has become an ugly, toxic shouting match

OPINION: I have a real issue with the transgender "debate". 

My issue is that it is not a debate at all. It is an ugly, toxic shouting match. Where we don't actually learn anything. 

Transgender people, and their supporters, have become the target of such vitriol, death threats and hate.

And anyone who doesn't get it, who has questions, and who makes mistakes in the process -  risks getting shut down and cancelled.

That's why I say it is time to "calm the farm".

At the heart of this are real people, real families grappling with stuff that is incredibly complex and can be insanely difficult. 

This is an issue for all of us.

We've got to be able to talk about it. 

In the latest episode of Paddy Gower Has Issues, reporter Alice Wilkins and I spoke to a number of brave people. Others pulled out, amid threats to their personal safety.

I'm very thankful to the young people and medical professionals who have spoken to us, to help people understand what is happening.

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The most powerful thing somebody said to me as we looked into this was: "What if it was someone in your family? What would you do?"

I actually know a bit about this. I have an older relative of mine, who is intersex. (That's when you are born with ambiguous genitalia).

It is with their blessing that I talked about this for the first time on the show. 

The reason I'm doing it is so people realise that this happens, and it can happen in your family.

Alice and I decided to do this story months ago - but in that time everything changed. 

Anti-trans activist Posie Parker came to Auckland. There were ugly scenes on both sides. 

The hate against transgender people and anyone associated with them really ramped up.

And the debate really ramped up too. As a journalist, it has been incredibly difficult to deal with the polarised viewpoints.

Why do we find it so hard to have this conversation about gender?

In my view, we need to have a reasoned and open discussion about this. 

That includes being inclusive and learning about our trans community.

I also believe people need to be able to ask questions. For instance, with puberty blockers (drugs that delay puberty if a child or teen thinks they want to change gender).

We use them in New Zealand. 

But globally, the science isn't settled on puberty blockers. The United Kingdom has just decided to stop doctors prescribing them, and they will only be used in clinical trials.

Our own Ministry of Health has stopped calling them "safe and reversible" and is reviewing the evidence.

I believe we should be able to have an open review and discussion about puberty blockers, the public should get to understand the facts about how we are using them and why.

In summary, gender is much more complex than many of us think. 

So if it happened in your family, what would you do? Ignore it? Get angry and confused. Yell and shout? 

Or would you keep calm, try and learn more, listen, and try to understand it?

We all know what the right answer is. 

Patrick Gower is the host of Paddy Gower Has Issues on Three and ThreeNow

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