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:
Many children are going to be distraught by this news. They’re going to have to adapt to a quickly approaching puberty. Many will quickly no longer pass. Others will have heard from media or their parents they are more likely to commit suicide and they needed this medication. 1/ pic.twitter.com/4DuOdZz3Vm
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— Charlie Evans (@charlie_sci) December 2, 2020
And another female-to-male-to-female transitioner echoed this message:
While I'm celebrating the decision for the sake of future generations, I do think it's important to acknowledge that this is going to be very difficult for youth currently in this system. They've been told this is the only way to "get better" and, now, that way is gone. https://t.co/8tQV2nSZX6
— HabituallyFemme🦎 (@HabituallyFemme) December 2, 2020
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.
THREAD: We hear the Tavistock are *already* cancelling appointments for young people who have waited 2+ years to be seen for life-saving hormone blockers. This reckless Amendment by @NHSEngland means they are now effectively being refused treatment. 1/https://t.co/VJeO3V84hj
— Mermaids (@Mermaids_Gender) December 1, 2020
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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