Butterfly: Teen transgender drama ‘inflates suicide risk’ by Andrew Gilligan Sunday Times 14.10.18

The original article is here.

The NHS’s only gender clinic for children and teenagers has criticised a new ITV drama that shows a transgender 11-year-old trying to commit suicide as “not helpful,” saying it “would be very unusual” for a child of that age to attempt suicide.

The mini-series Butterfly, which begins tonight, stars Anna Friel as the mother of Max, who slashes his wrists as his parents struggle with his wish to identify as a girl.

It features Mermaids, the controversial trans children’s support group whose chief executive, Susie Green, was a series consultant. In a recent interview, co-producer Friel said: “I can’t even begin to thank Susie Green enough for all the help she gave me.”

Green, who took her own son for sex-change surgery in Thailand at 16, has claimed trans children are attempting suicide in such large numbers because the Gender Identity Development Service (Gids), the NHS gender clinic for young people, does not treat them properly. She told MPs three years ago that Gids was “a service where there is a 48% suicide attempt risk”.

However, Gids released figures showing that among the roughly 5,000 young patients referred to the service between 2016 and last August, there were three suicides and four attempted suicides — less than 1%.

Gids says suicide among such patients is “extremely rare.” In a statement about the show, it told The Sunday Times: “Suicidality in young people attending the Gids is similar to that of young people referred to child and adolescent mental health services. It is not helpful to suggest that suicidality is an inevitable part of this condition . . . It would be very unusual for younger children referred to the service to make suicidal attempts. More positive narratives . . . are important.”

Gids said the ITV drama had found it “difficult” to depict the “complexity” of the clinic’s work. The programme-makers visited the clinic early on but it is understood they parted company over differences.

In interviews, Friel has endorsed the claim that almost half of trans young people attempt suicide, though not specifically in the context of Gids patients.

Michael Biggs, associate professor of sociology at Oxford, said: “It is highly irresponsible for Mermaids to try to mobilise these tragedies for the purposes of their political agenda.”

Green said high rates of attempted suicide among trans children “are real”. She cited a 2016 survey for Stonewall, where 45% of 594 trans young people said they had tried to take their lives.

ITV said: “Butterfly is one family’s fictional story.”