Distorting Dysphoria

How the Courts Twisted the Truth and Failed Young People

Dan – QueerTheNorm Team


“The problem of transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence” – The Transsexual Empire – Janice Raymond, 1979

Three judges – the president of the Queens Bench Division Dame Victoria Sharp, Lord Justice Lewis and Mrs Justice Lieven – have ruled that ‘children under 16 with gender dysphoria are unlikely to be able to give informed consent to undergo treatment with puberty-blocking drugs’. Their reasoning for this was that there were ‘long-term consequences’ to this kind of clinical intervention and that treatment is ‘experimental’, advising that ‘clinicians may well regard these as cases where the authorisation of the court should be sought prior to the commencing of the clinical treatment.’ 

These claims are categorically false as, firstly, the fact is that puberty blockers are not experimental as they have been used in the UK since the 90s as a treatment for precocious puberty. It is also a common treatment for those with idiopathic short stature, for whom these drugs can be used to promote the development of long bones and increase adult height, and in adults is used to treat other conditions such as endometriosis and prostate cancer. And secondly, puberty blockers in themselves do not have any long-term consequences as they do not make changes to the body, but instead put the bodies development ‘on pause’ to reduce distress experienced by trans children, give them more time to explore their identity before making any decisions, and make further treatment (if that is what they choose) less invasive later on. They are completely reversible as if you stop taking them your body resumes the puberty they would experience naturally. This is why a number of NHS trusts asserted that taking puberty blockers and later cross-sex hormones were entirely separate stages of treatment. 

However, if you looks at the actual argument the lawyers made for the ‘long-term consequences’ you’ll see that it is less about concern for long term medical affects of the drugs, but rather that children will be able to transition at all and their desire to effectively ‘morally mandate trans people out of existence’.  Lawyers representing the claimants in the case said there was “a very high likelihood” children who start taking hormone blockers will later begin taking cross-sex hormones, which they say cause “irreversible changes”. This is because the majority of children referred for puberty blockers are correct in asserting their trans identities. Blockers themselves are entirely reversible. You cannot deny people treatment on the basis that they might actually be trans, just as you cannot deny people cancer screening on the basis they might actually have cancer, and that is effectively what has been achieved by determining them to have ‘irreversible long-term changes’ in this case. 

As a result, the court said clinicians may “regard these as cases where the authorisation of the court should be sought prior to commencing the clinical treatment”. However, it should be noted there is no legal obligation for them to do so, though the NHS has currently halted all referrals for this service as an NHS spokesperson said: “We welcome the clarity which the court’s decision brings. The Tavistock have immediately suspended new referrals for puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for the under-16s, which in future will only be permitted where a court specifically authorises it.” This has caused extreme distress to trans children across the country who now fear they will be forced to undergo unwanted irreversible changes to their bodies and Stonewall chief executive Nancy Kelley has called on the NHS to provide clarity to trans young people and their families on how they can continue accessing care.

She has also warned that this sets a “dangerous precedent” for all young people accessing medical treatment as the judgment provides a “green light” to those who want to roll back the healthcare rights of all young people, potentially including rights to abortion and contraception, saying, “Not only do we disagree that trans young people cannot understand the implications of treatment, but we’re worried this judgment risks eroding Gillick competency more broadly.” And Mermaids, an organisation that advocates for trans youth, added that ‘it may potentially open the floodgates towards other questions around bodily autonomy and who has the right to govern their own body’.

Gillick competence refers to a 1985 judgement of the House of Lords, which is considered if a child wishes to receive medical treatment without their parents’ consent or knowledge. It established that people under the age of 16 can be capable of sufficiently understanding and consenting to medical treatments, like abortion or contraception, including understanding their long-term physical and psychological consequences. This landmark case determines otherwise, and the lawyers involved are more than just aware of it – they intended it. They have said they want to push Gillick to ‘breaking point’; a goal that more than makes sense for an anti-abortion activist and evangelical pastor who has previously offered the opinion that women cannot consent to abortion regardless of age unless they are told by a doctor that the foetus can feel pain.

Since news broke of the courts decision, it has been used by anti-trans groups to advocate for all support of social transition to be stopped, especially in schools. This would effectively equate to Section 28 for trans people where trans children would be subjected to constant misgendering and worse dysphoria unnecessarily which is abusive and deadly given over 80% of trans people attempt suicide. And the lawyer of the case is on the campaign, having argued that ‘the promotion of transgender issues on social media should be subject to safeguarding measures’, so anyone who was previously unsure can be more than safe in the assumption that this was always about eliminating trans people from public life – morally mandating them out of existence.

BBC – Puberty blockers: Under-16s ‘unlikely to be able to give informed consent’

Pink News – Trans kids must understand risks of hormone therapy to receive life-saving puberty blockers, judge rules in landmark case

Belfast Telegraph – Ruling on puberty blockers sets dangerous precedent – LGBT campaigners

The Guardian – Keira Bell lawyer warns on internet coverage of transgender issues

Dan is available on twitter @Danthetransman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.