From Daily Mail: More than 800 children in England – some as young as ten – are being given controversial drugs to help them change gender. The NHS treatment, which halts the onset of adulthood, is aimed at young people who believe they are trapped in the wrong body.
Powerful monthly hormone injections stop the development of sex organs, breasts and body hair, making it easier for doctors to carry out sex-swap surgery later.
Until now it was thought that just a handful of children and teenagers were receiving the injections, known as ‘puberty-blockers’.
Teenager Llyr Jones has been taking puberty-blocking drugs for the past six months. The 17-year-old told how she was desperate to be prescribed the injections to end the agony she was going through as her body began to change into that of an adult man.
Llyr, from Aberystwyth in Mid-Wales, said if the physical transformations that came with puberty had been allowed to continue, she would have been pushed to take her own life. ‘In all honesty, if I hadn’t been allowed to be on the blockers and start my transition, I’m sure I wouldn’t be here now,’ she said.
‘The worst thing was starting to grow body hair. It felt like something was happening that wasn’t me – I was so uncomfortable. Some days were worse than others when I would catch a glimpse of my body in the mirror and I’d collapse on the bathroom floor for hours, frozen with distress.’
Llyr, who was born male, started living as a girl when she was 15 years old. Previously she had suppressed her desire to become female because of the bullying she endured for ‘being different’ in the small Welsh farming community she grew up in. ‘I didn’t want to give my bullies yet another reason to go after me,’ she said.
Llyr finally found relief in January last year when she was sent to London’s Tavistock gender identity clinic, which has seen a dramatic increase in referrals – from 94 in 2009/10 to almost 2,000 last year.
After being psychologically assessed and diagnosed with gender dysphoria, she was then sent in November for medical treatment at University College Hospital in London. There she underwent a series of health checks, including blood tests and bone scans, before doctors finally prescribed the puberty-blockers that Llyr now believes saved her life.
‘I thought thank God, because I knew they were stopping the puberty,’ she said.
Since starting the blockers, Llyr said she has become more confident and at ease with her body. The next stage, she says, will be surgery, which can happen legally from the age of 18. She thinks the operations are unlikely before she is 19 because of the current waiting lists.
Dressed fashionably in a colourful crop top and shiny black trousers, a carefree Llyr declared: ‘I’m just in such a great place now because I know after everything I’ve been through, I’m on the right track.’
But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that more than 600 young people are undergoing treatment at the Gender Identity Development Service clinic at University College Hospital in London, and a further 200 at a clinic in Leeds. The MoS has been told that 230 of those 800 are under the age of 14.
The huge growth in the number of youngsters being prescribed the drugs came after the NHS scrapped the age limit in 2014, which was previously 16. Now doctors can give the injections to children from the very early stages of puberty – meaning that in some cases, ten-year-olds are receiving them.
The MoS revelation comes a week after the Government announced plans to allow adults to legally change their sex without a medical diagnosis. In future, individuals who want to change gender are expected to simply make a statutory declaration that they intend to live in the sex they have transitioned to until death.
Mary Douglas, a spokeswoman for Grassroots Conservatives campaign group, said: ‘Adolescence is the age when you’re in a turmoil because you’re trying to work out who you are and gender is a big part of that. So to introduce such powerful medication into that is unwise. This drastic notion that we should change our gender should be a last resort. Caution needs to be the watchword for everyone engaged in this, including doctors.’
Stephanie Davies-Arai, of Transgender Trend, a parent group concerned about the rise of children identifying as the opposite sex, added: ‘These kids are not old enough to make life-changing decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives. It’s unethical to pursue this line of treatment with children who cannot possibly understand what they’re doing.’
Professor Gary Butler, the lead clinician for the gender identity service in London and Leeds, revealed how many youngsters are now taking puberty-blockers. He defended the use of the drugs and said critics did not appreciate the distress puberty can cause transgender young people or how much ‘relief’ the blockers can give to these patients and their families.
However, other medical experts have questioned the safety of the treatment, warning that little is known about its long-term mental, psychological and physical effects.
Last month three top US doctors, Professors Paul Hruz, Paul McHugh and Lawrence Mayer, published a highly critical report on the use of puberty-blockers to treat gender dysphoria. Writing in American academic journal The New Atlantis, they warned that the safety of this ‘experimental’ treatment was ‘unsupported by rigorous scientific evidence’.
They further argued that the use of such drugs may be driving children to ‘persist in identifying as transgender’. Research shows that the vast majority of under-16s who are troubled about their gender do not go on to take the drastic step of surgery. Meanwhile, the three professors point to another study from a Dutch clinic – where all the adolescents prescribed puberty blockers had gone ahead with gender-reassignment surgery – as evidence that the drugs can ‘solidify’ patients’ feelings they were born the wrong biological sex.
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