To write your MP about this click here.

On the 22nd April Liz Truss, the minister for Women and Equalities, gave evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee, and set out her priorities for the Government Equalities Office.

She explained how her department plans to respond to the consultation on the Gender Recognition Act, and said that one of her priorities will be “making sure that the under 18s are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future”. She added “I believe strongly that adults should have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit, but I think it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions.”

Safe Schools Alliance are very heartened to hear of this stance, which puts the focus on the safeguarding of children, and we hope that Liz Truss MP will consider the whole pathway which ends in children undergoing irreversible medical treatment.

The majority of children who question their gender or who identify as transgender are likely to desist after puberty. A report last year in the British Journal of General Practice stated that ‘many younger people identify with a range of gender types… The majority presenting before puberty desist’.

Schools are being provided with training and guides written by politically motivated lobby groups which promote unsafe practices such as the use of breast-binders and encourage transition with or without the parents’ knowledge.  Social transition makes it less likely that children will desist, and as a result, more likely that they will continue on to irreversible medical treatment.

Trans lobby groups have sought to use the principle of ‘Gillick competency’ when arguing for puberty blockers and even cross-sex hormones for children. This principle derives from case law relating to the prescription of contraception to under-16s. It was ruled that a young person aged 16 or over, or a young person under 16 who has the capacity to understand and make their own decisions, could request and receive contraception legally.

‘Gillick competency’ was used in this scenario to prevent greater harm occurring to a child from a parent denying a young person access to contraceptives and sex education. This is a very different scenario from the question of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.

Although the long-term side-effects are still unknown, the available evidence shows that puberty blockers reduce bone density growth, have a negative effect on the children’s mental health and impede the development of sexual functioning. The effect of preventing a child from going through puberty on the decisions that child makes about their future is unknown.

Guidance from lobby groups often refers to puberty blockers in a way which suggests they constitute a ‘completely reversible’ treatment, and therefore one which is suitable for children because it allows them to change their mind at any point. The reality is that very few children who are prescribed puberty blockers ever cease treatment. GIDS statistics show that 90.3% of children who do not take blockers desist. In contrast, nearly 100% of children on puberty blockers have gone on to take cross-sex hormones.

Cross-sex hormones have irreversible side effects. In girls, taking testosterone causes the voice to break: regardless of her future choices, a woman who has taken testosterone as a girl will sound male. Cross-sex hormones can cause sterility. The NHS approaches sterilisation in adults with great caution, even where the adult is fully competent. We should not expect any less caution with regard to decisions made by children.

Gillick is ‘a high test of competence that is more difficult to satisfy the more complex the treatment and its outcomes become.’ There have been judgements assessing teenage children as lacking in Gillick competency due to the influence of adults’ beliefs on them, something which is surely relevant here.

Further, given the lack of adequate follow-up of patients receiving treatment at GIDS, it is questionable whether even the medical staff involved are in a position to understand the complex outcomes of treatment, never mind the children receiving it. The rate of transition regret from young people who have undergone medical transition has not been measured in any meaningful way and there is much more to do here.

To write your MP about this click here.

To read a detransitioner’s statement on this issue click here.

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