Trans kids at risk after High Court ruling, detransitioners agree

An older mental health professional consults with a young person
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A landmark High Court ruling says that prescribing puberty blocking medicine to transgender under-18s is unlawful. The court said that it is “highly unlikely” that children aged 13 and under are able to give consent for such treatment. And they were “doubtful” that 14 and 15 year-old patients could give consent either. They also hinted at a future requirement to seek the court’s permission before prescribing puberty blockers to 16 and 17 year-olds, although in law anyone aged 16 or over can give medical consent.

Many transgender folk are devastated by this news and prominent LGBTQI+ charity Stonewall released a statement from their chief executive Nancy Kelley. She said:

Today’s Court ruling about the prescription of puberty blockers is both deeply concerning and shocking. We are worried this judgment will have a signficant chilling effect on young trans people’s ability to access timely medical support.

Puberty blockers are currently prescribed to some young trans people. They prevent the progression of puberty, which is something many trans youth fear. Development of primary and secondary sex characteristics, such as breasts or beard hair, emphasise the disconnect they feel between their identity and the sex they were assigned at birth.

Detransitioners are concerned about trans youth

Even those who are supportive of the ruling are concerned that there appears to be no plans to offer alternative support to young people dealing with gender dysphoria (the discomfort and distress that comes from awareness of a mismatch between their identity and their assigned sex at birth). Charlie Evans, a prominant campaigner and founder of The Detransition Advocacy Network, is critical of current approaches to treating trans youth but tweeted the following:

And another female-to-male-to-female transitioner echoed this message:

Rumours are circulating about already cancelled appointments at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust gender clinic but the Trust has only confirmed that it is not making any new endocrinology referrals until the implications of the ruling on clinical work are clear. Mermaids, a charity that supports gender variant and trans young people, says it has heard that appointments are being cancelled for young people who have often waited two or more years to be seen.

Detransition is rare and not always a sign of regret

A 2015 report from the National Center for Transgender Equality in the USA indicated that around 8% of trans people detransition at some point. Only 5% of detransitioners said that the reason was because they realised transition was not right for them – most cited pressure from family, friends, or employers.

There are very few detransitioners who speak out about their experiences publicly. Among detransitioners who do speak out – most of them assigned female at birth – there are some common themes that require consideration. Although this is very speculative at present, it would seem that a safer option than restricting access to puberty blockers would be to consider what alternative support young gender variant and trans kids might require.

YouTuber Elle Palmer doesn’t regret transitioning even though she subsequently detransitioned after five years presenting as male. She says it was the right thing for her to do at the time and has spoken of mental health issues and early sexualisation as contributing factors in her decision to medically transition in her teens.

Another YouTuber, Rival Maverick, opened up about her confusing feelings about sexuality. Her decision to transition and detransition has ultimately led her to the realisation that she is asexual.

Other themes include autism, ADHD, internalised misogyny, and internalised homophobia.

Puberty blockers prevent suicidal thoughts

It’s very clear that puberty blockers are helpful for young trans people who are so distressed that they think about ending their lives. Earlier this year the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report that supports the use of puberty blockers in suicide prevention.

There is clearly a hostile environment for trans folk in the UK right now. Our government has already broken its promises to reform the Gender Recognition Act to make it is easier for transitioned people to change their official gender/sex markers. There is a rolling back of hard-won rights that will inevitably creep into other areas of our lives unless we are strong in our opposition.

Trans rights are human rights.

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  • Show Comments
    1. With honestly the best will in the world, the thinking on this matter is flawed among left and right.

      Gender dysphoria is inevitably a product of culture just as much as expected gender characteristics are, not a ‘natural’ reaction to the biological. You could fairly liken socialisation of gender roles to a religion, in as far as we will argue that there are not Christian or Muslim children but the offpsring of parents of those creeds, and in recent years such arguments have been made where religious parents and proponents of the religions have sought to evade areas of life that are secular. ‘We’, though some of us are wiser than others to the preposterousness of expected gender norms, have created gender dysphoria, just as we created moral norms derived from religions most of us now don’t adhere to. It does not make sense to talk of ‘trans kids’, when their trans inclinations are a product of adults’ oppressive input into what becomes the aggregate culture of any society.

      We can be sympathetic to those experiencing gender dysphoria, in awareness that the nonsense of expectations of behaviour is unnatural and oppressive, without endorsing what is fair to call trans ideology. I do not feel anything negative or darkly prejudiced towards those who transition or find themselves wishing to, and poor treatment of the people with gender dysphoria or who have transitioned is abhorrent and unacceptable as any other oppression. Clumsy humour on this issue, too, is misguided and discursively inappropriate.

      This ruling is right and legitimate – I would hope it remains in place and that these issues are before long explored better, without people being silenced and demonised and without the hysteria that is visible to those of us who are outside but looking on compassionately.

      This issue would have been viewed very differently, too, I believe, if the majority of transitioning was female to male – there would then be talk of economics affecting people’s conception of their gender, with the unnecessary self-loathing involved then underscored.

      I am a quiet person who before my vasectomy presumably could have fathered a child; I have a beard and a relatively low voice (these days – it was less that way when I was younger and more self-doubting). I did experience gender dysphoria myself in my mid teens, but had outlets of creativity that were a salve, that enabled me to be whole without arriving at fixed and actually binary ideas about behaviour, sex and gender. We should make this the norm, where there is no need to deny the biological in the pursuit of authenticity – that is where contentedness is to be found, as I’m sure Keira Bell and those like her will themselves find. Please do not insult her by talking of her as if she is a patsy.

      Rowling, Linehan, Gervais and company, though they have at the root legitimate philosophical reservations, have been clumsy with their arguments, and have been pulled into a warped version of what the kernel of skepticism on this matter can become. But their arguments are variants of legitimate adult attitudes many of us have that are outside of the fast-tracked new orthodoxy on gender. What we argue is not, at all, a transphobia. There is no aggression or prejudice in what I feel and think, and neither am I speaking of things I know nothing about. It does seem odd, too, that there is no alighting on the contradiction inherent in equating a profession of being non-binary with the binary conception of gender within trans ideology – one is a legitimate philosophico-political statement that shrugs away oppression, the other ultimately emotion-led. Let’s please step back from the hysteria, conscientiously, and look properly at the mess this new orthodoxy is.

      1. I don’t entirely disagree. But gender identity begins to be laid down in most brains extremely young. So the fact is trans people exist and are deserving of medical intervention when they want and need it.

        Personally I have always found gender extremely confusing. I don’t understand the rules and I don’t really identify with either binary gender. At the same time I know I’m female and I’m okay with that. My experience of gender has far more to do with being autistic than anything. And I could easily have mistakenly thought I was trans at various points in my life.

        So I sympathise with your position but I don’t agree that it’s a reason not to offer puberty blockers to kids who really need them.

        1. Thanks for replying, and I’m glad The Canary is open to carrying a range of views on this topic – oddly Freddy McConnell was more willing to do the same at The Guardian than seems permissible now within subsequent editorial positions.

          I am very interested these days in intergenerational trauma. When I met my dad for the first time at 32 it transpired we had both played guitar since the age of 14. I had always thought that was my autonomous choice, but learning of this started to muddy where I stood on nature/ nurture. Then I met a schizophrenic ex-doctor who regards his condition as stemming from his dad having been in a concentration camp. Though I only learned the term intergenerational trauma last year while in counselling, I had felt a vivid, instinctive sense of what the term connotes as a result of a of joining dots between what I refer to above, a genetic means of encoding culture. I’ve since learned more of my ancestry, which has been characterised by a profound theme of migration, with all that entails. My bloodline is reeling with trauma that we are some of us barely conscious of. For this reason I would still be skeptical at best regarding perceived implications for the age a child starts to conceive of their gender. I have just as vivid an impression now that gender socialisation is, currently, another trauma, a dysfunctional man-made strand of culture that can be carried in the blood, as it were, just as my friend’s schizophrenic chemistry and my inclination to the guitar was. To me this makes the evolution of the related discourse all the more grave and burdensome and necessary; and all the more deserving of openness – for want of not compounding the trauma by taking it to be purely nature.

    2. I am delighted with the High Court ruling. These children need mental health interventions, not surgical ones. It is their mind and feelings which need to be listened to, not the permanent medical actions. After all if they FEEL suicidal, or mentally confused or overwhelmed, it is those areas in which they require the immediate medical interventions.

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