Stop the NHS from further restricting under 16s access to life-saving puberty blockers

Stop the NHS from further restricting under 16s access to life-saving puberty blockers

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Lucy Butler started this petition to NHS England and

On the 1st of December, a UK court case ruled that "children under 16 with gender dysphoria are unlikely to be able to give informed consent to undergo treatment with puberty-blocking drugs" (BBC News). Two claimants, 23 year old 'de-transitioner' Keira Bell (who transitioned as an adult) & the mother of an anonymous 15 year old girl, argued that the choice to start puberty blockers may later be regretted and under 16s should be prevented from making such choices for themselves. As a result, Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (home to Britain's only NHS gender clinic for children) have already begun cancelling appointments for trans youth who have waited years to be assessed for puberty-blocking treatments. Anyone under the age of 16 who is currently prescribed them has 21 days to retrieve the courts permission, or their treatment will be stopped. 

This ruling has distraught the LGTBQ+ community. The protection of trans youth rights is vital to their wellbeing. More than 1 in 4 transgender young people attempt suicide and 9 in 10 have thought about it (x). Forcing a trans child to go through puberty is traumatic can lead to depression and self harm. It is proven by research that transgender children who are supported in their identities experience lower levels of depression and anxiety in comparison to those who aren’t. Preventing access to treatments such as these will be catastrophic for the mental health of transgender youth across the UK.

The effects of puberty blockers are fully reversible. They have been used for a long time to treat prostate cancer, endometriosis and children with very early puberty so they can go through puberty with their peers rather than in infant school. For trans youth, they allow the young person to delay the distressing physical changes that come with puberty and give them time to consider the option of hormone therapy once they turn 16.

It is argued that young people’s “decision-making capabilities” are still developing, therefore they aren’t able to properly consent to these treatments. It is worth noting that for all other medical treatments in the UK, young people (aged 16 and 17) are considered competent enough to make decisions surrounding their care, including procedures such as abortions. In addition to this, a study of over 300 socially-transitioned children aged 3-12 found that trans kids are as sure of their gender as cis-gendered kids. Therefore, the idea that young trans people aren’t developed enough to choose these treatments is misinformed and transphobic.
Finally, there is some speculation that transgender people will later regret using hormone therapy or medically transitioning. Again, this stance comes from a widespread lack of understanding. It is proven to be inaccurate by a multitude of studies which revealed that less than 2% of those who medically transition come to regret it.

So why have the courts ruled to make seeking life-saving therapies even harder for trans youth, based on the arguments of less than 2% of people who have transitioned? Instead of putting more restrictions in place for treatments that already have waitlists of around 2 years, why don't we work on improving the quality of care offered by gender clinics in order to understand the small percent of people who choose to de-transition? And why are we only hearing the voices of anti-trans de-transitioners? 

GenderGP have launched the GenderGP Charitable Fund to invite "one-off or regular donations from anyone who would like to support someone with their transition. The resulting pot of money will be made available to people who might otherwise have struggled to pay for their care to be managed privately." To donate or apply for the funds, click here.

For support, you can contact Mermaids, Switchboard or Samaritans.

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