Families of trans children are worried a court may stop them getting puberty blockers
Families of trans children are worried they may lose access to hormone blockers – despite the drugs being life-savers.
The way Britain’s National Health Service cares for trans teens is about to undergo a judicial review.
In particular, the case targets hormone blockers which can delay puberty for young trans people. But those bringing the case say children can not give informed consent to the treatment.
High court judge Mr Justice Supperstone has given the go-ahead for a judicial review of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust’s treatment of trans teens.
The mental health trust in north London is the only NHS service which runs a clinic for transgender people aged under 18. Therefore, it is a magnet for trans children from across the country seeking help.
Why is trans treatment under review?
‘Gender critical’ activists who oppose treating trans teens crowdfunded more than £65,000 to cover the costs of the legal challenge.
They are bringing it on behalf of two claimants. The first, Keira Bell, started seeing the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at 16. At the time she identified as a trans boy, but she now regrets the treatment she took.
A second claimant, identified only as Mum A, is a mother who does not support her 15-year-old child’s referral to the GIDS.
However, the threat to hormone blockers or puberty blockers has many parents worried.
The blockers temporarily prevent the development of sexual characteristics during puberty – like facial hair or an Adam’s apple. As a result, it can help ensure young people face avoid some gender-affirming surgeries later in life.
Moreover a study published in the journal Pediatrics this January found the blockers help trans teen’s mental health. Those with access to the treatment are less at risk of suicide.
A father of a 14-year-old boy currently waiting to see the clinic told the i:
‘It would be an absolute slap in the face for his identity and every other trans person.
‘For two and a bit years now, [my son] has been living as a boy without any wavering whatsoever.
‘It’s important for his well-being and his mental health, and the fact that he has periods is a complete headfuck for him.’
The dad says he initially thought the boy’s desire to transition may be a phase, but it is now clear it is not.
‘He’s much happier being a boy,’ he added.
Like this boy, many patients wait years to get to the clinic.
GIDS defends policies
Meanwhile the Gender Identity Development Service has defended the way it treats young people who come to it ‘in considerable distress’.
The NHS says hormone blockers are ‘considered to be fully reversible’. The claimants in the case say they are ‘experimental’ but doctors have used them for 30 years.
In a statement, the service said blockers and other physical interventions are only used by a minority of patients.
But it added: ‘It is important this option remains available and is informed by the latest evidence.’
And it said there was a lot of misinformation about what it does.
GIDS added: ‘The often-toxic debate around the topic has caused considerable distress to patients and families. We hope the hearing will serve to set the record straight and put center-stage the voice and interests of young people living with gender dysphoria.’
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Author: Tris Reid-Smith