Children ‘misled’ at gender clinic by Andrew Gilligan in The Times 20.07.19

The original article is here.

Medical staff from England’s only children’s gender clinic have gone public for the first time to raise fears about the treatment of youngsters seeking a sex change.

Kirsty Entwistle, who was a psychologist at the Gender Identity Development Service (Gids) in Leeds until October last year, accused some of its clinicians of misleading patients.

She warned they are “making decisions that will have a major impact on children and young people’s bodies and lives . . . without a robust evidence base”.

In an open letter, published online, to Polly Carmichael, who runs the Tavistock clinic, where Gids operates in London, Entwistle said “children who have had very traumatic early experiences” were being “put on the medical pathway” to transition “without having explored or addressed their early adverse experiences”. She said the service “minimised or dismissed” the fact that many of the children it saw were victims of parental abandonment, sexual abuse, domestic violence or extreme poverty.

Entwistle said staff told children and their families that hormone blockers — given to many Gids patients to stop the progress of puberty — are “fully reversible”. In reality, she said, “no one knows what the impacts are on children’s brains, so how is it possible to make this claim?” Gids’ own research suggests mixed results from blockers. In practice, nearly all those given the drugs go on to take irreversible sex-change hormones once they turn 16.

Describing one youngster who “arrived to sessions in a poor state of hygiene and said there wasn’t money for hygiene products”, she said: “How is it ethical to undertake a gender identity assessment with a view to a medical pathway when there are children and young people [who] do not have their most basic needs met?”

If staff tried to “suggest that perhaps these early experiences might be connected to a child’s wish to transition”, Entwistle said, they “run the risk of being called transphobic”. She said there was “some unspoken rule” in the service “that means Gids clinicians do not tell families: ‘Your child is not transgender’”.

Her criticisms echo those made by a number of Gids clinicians who have resigned and spoken anonymously to journalists, and by David Bell, then a governor of the NHS trust which runs Gids, in a secret report leaked to The Sunday Times in February.

Bell, who interviewed a number of Gids clinicians, said some children took up a trans identity “as a solution” to “multiple problems such as historic child abuse in the family, bereavement . . . homophobia and a very significant incidence of autism spectrum disorder”.

A second psychologist, Melissa Midgen, who still works at Gids, has co-authored a letter in an academic journal saying that some patients put on the medical pathway will “express distress as a result of the path and/or treatments they have taken” and that clinicians must be “free to discuss, explore, and research differential presentations of gender dysphoria”.

In the letter Midgen and a former Gids clinician, Anna Hutchinson, do not criticise the service directly, but support the theory of “rapid onset gender dysphoria”. The theory is fiercely disputed by trans activists.

Gids said less than half its patients were given blockers: “We do not hold a view on what the outcome will be for a child when they come into the service. There is no pressure to provide medical intervention from the service, though there can often be from the young person or family.”

Staff had opportunities to discuss complex cases, said a spokesman, and the service’s “considered, ethical and caring” approach had been endorsed by the Care Quality Commission.