Finally, some common sense about trans clinics for children!

Finally, some common sense about trans clinics for children! writes JENNI MURRAY

  • GIDS is England’s only specialist service for children who identify as transgender
  • Dr Hilary Cass, a retired paediatrician, argues more and better care is needed
  • Jenni Murray says we need to stop these treatments now for those under 18
  • She says professionals need to consider family dynamics and the internet

At last, a calm, thoroughly researched, independent report on a subject that has been worrying me for some time — the provision of gender identity services for young people. 

Dr Hilary Cass is a retired paediatrician and makes clear in her introductory letter to young people who feel they need help around identity that she is not suggesting closing down the services they need, but proposes more and better care than what has been on offer from the Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) in London. GIDS is England’s only specialist service for children who identify as transgender and Dr Cass concludes ‘a single specialist provider model is not a safe or viable long-term option.’

Jenni Murray says that we need to stop giving transgender treatments to children under the age of 18 (file image)

But it’s one thing saying it, another acting on it. The Cass approach seems a little too slow. 

She first expressed concerns about the length of the waiting list at GIDS in a letter to NHS England in May 2021. It’s taken a further nine months for this report and it is only an interim one. It will be months before we have her final conclusions. 

If having one specialist provider model isn’t safe, why not close GIDS and set up better services to make sure no more vulnerable children enter a system that may do them terrible harm? 

It was a report by Dr Michael Biggs, associate professor of Sociology at Oxford University, together with the experience of Keira Bell, a young woman who had been treated at GIDS with puberty blockers and prescribed cross-sex hormones as a teenager, that alerted me to the dangers of the treatments on offer. 

Dr Biggs’ 2019 report described the first use of the drug GnRHa, a puberty blocker, in the Netherlands in 1994. It was adopted at the Tavistock in 2011. He quotes 44 cases that began treatment in 2011. 

He says in almost every case puberty blockers led to cross-sex hormones, that no precise records were kept, there was an absence of published results and no follow-up of patients after the age of 18 as the service lost track of patients. 

So, what do we know about the long-term impact of puberty blockers on bone density, fertility and the capacity for orgasm? Dr Biggs’ conclusion is that the drug does not provide a pause button while a child comes to terms with gender identity. He says there’s no evidence their impact is reversible and he sees the treatment as a fast-forward to cross-sex hormones and surgery. 

Which is what happened to Keira. At 16, far too young to give informed consent, she was referred to GIDS. After just three appointments she was prescribed puberty blockers to stop her periods and breasts developing before starting to take the male hormone testosterone a year later. 

The final step was a double mastectomy. It was only then that she realised she was not a boy, but a young woman whose physique and fertility had been irreversibly damaged. She has now reverted to the gender she was born with, but still has the deep voice resulting from the hormones she took. 

Dr Cass is clear that she has concerns about the prescription of such powerful drugs, saying there’s still a lot we don’t know about the long-term effects of hormone treatments. She says doctors need to know the risks and benefits of any treatment they prescribe and she doesn’t want any young person saying later in life: ‘Why did no one tell me this might happen?’ 

Jenni (pictured) says that professionals charged with caring for these children need to understand family dynamics, the pressures of the internet and the psychology of a child

The next months, she says, will be spent ‘trying to make sense of all the information that is available and seeing if we can plug any gaps in the research’. 

Why is it taking so long for proper safeguarding measures to be put in place, preventing, in some cases, what feels to me like child abuse? We need to stop these treatments now for those under 18. In the past few years, there has been a huge rise in demand for these services. In 2009, there were around 50 referrals a year. By 2020, 2,500 children and young adults were being referred each year.

In the early years it was predominantly young boys who were seeking treatment. It’s now mostly teenage girls who want to change. One third of the whole have autism or other types of neurodiversity, and a large percentage are looked-after children. 

Why do so many girls now think being a boy would be a good idea? I can sympathise. Boys seem to have it so much easier. Nobody teases them about ‘time of the month’. Nobody openly lusts after them when the tiniest breasts are beginning to appear. 

As for the boys who want to be girls, how often have they been teased because they’re effeminate? How often have their dads wished they could kick a football? How many of both sexes are gay and should be allowed to grow up as such?

Professionals charged with caring for these children need to understand family dynamics, the pressures of the internet and the psychology of a child. 

Dr Cass, with her report, seems to me to get all these things. 

Now she has to push them through quickly and not just be the author of another report left languishing on a shelf.

So brave: Marina’s protest

Jenni Murray commends Marina Ovsyannikova (pictured), the Russian editor, who told her audience on state controlled Channel One they were being told lies about the war

A shout out for the women this week whose bravery has blown me away. Lyse Doucet and Lindsey Hilsum, both 63, are reporting fearlessly in Ukraine for BBC and Channel 4 respectively. 

Bravest of all, however, is Marina Ovsyannikova, the Russian editor, who told her audience on statecontrolled Channel One they were being told lies about the war.

Jenni fears that Marina’s (pictured in the back)  punishment maybe more than the 30,000 rouble (£220) fine she has incurred. ‘I fear for her life’

She was detained, questioned for 14 hours and didn’t sleep for two days. I doubt I would have had such courage. I know what Putin does to his critics. My friend, the fearless Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya, recovered from an attempt to poison her, but was shot dead in Moscow in 2006. A critic of Putin, she had campaigned against Russia’s war in Chechnya. I fear Marina’s punishment maybe more than the 30,000 rouble (£220) fine she has incurred. I fear for her life.

More men should honour their mother like Lewis 

Jenni is impressed that Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton (pictured right) is proud of his mother’s (pictured right) maiden name 

Good boy Lewis Hamilton. Now Lewis Larbalestier Hamilton. 

Larbalestier is his mother’s maiden name. The Formula 1 driver says: ‘I’m really proud of my family’s name. I don’t understand why, when people get married, the woman loses her name.’ 

Quite right, but it might be a bit of a mouthful for the commentators.

  • I Am a procrastinator. Every morning I have to clear up mess from the garden left by my dogs. Yesterday I applied a trick from psychologists, who say doing a dreaded chore for just three minutes makes it manageable. I did it. The rule works!

So much for levelling up 

Crossrail is about to open, an architectural phenomenon taking Londoners at high speed from east to west across the capital and beyond. Meanwhile, Manchester to Leeds is still a Cross-Pennine nightmare. Whatever happened to your levelling up, Boris?

Now all I need is a family from Ukraine

I finally got through to Homes for Ukraine and registered whom I could accommodate — adults with children. I gave the first part of my postcode, offered a home for six to nine months, gave permission for them to contact me, my full name, phone number and email address, ticked the box to say I agreed for the information given to be used and tried to continue. 

Computer said ‘No’, over and over again. The following morning I tried again, got through straight away and I’ve now received an email saying I am registered. 

As I don’t have any Ukrainians I can name, I shall have to be contacted. So, just to repeat, I’m hoping to give warmth and safety to a woman, her child and, if she has one, her pet. Do let me know if I can help.

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