‘Gender drugs may have cost me chance at motherhood’ The Sunday Times 04.10.20

The original article is here.

A woman taking legal action over the giving of puberty-blocking drugs to teenagers fears the gender-swap treatment she received may have left her unable to have children.

Keira Bell, 23, who took the drugs as a teenager to try to become a boy, was speaking before a landmark test case this week against the Tavistock and Portman NHS foundation trust, which runs the NHS’s only gender identity clinic.

The case comes amid a rise in the number of children, particularly girls, asking to change gender. More than 2,700 in England and Wales were referred to the clinic last year, a twentyfold leap in a decade.

Figures released by the Tavistock show that in the year to March it referred 161 under-18s for hormone treatment to stop puberty. Most were 16 or under and there were nearly twice as many girls as boys. The youngest was 10 and more than a dozen were under 13.

Bell said: “There needs to be a stop to prescribing puberty blockers to children under 18 … I am worried about [my ability to have] children. I want that option to be there.”

A mother whose autistic 16-year-old daughter is on the Tavistock’s waiting list is fighting the case alongside Bell. She does not want her daughter to receive the kind of medical interventions Bell received. The legal action questions the basis on which the clinic obtains “informed consent” to treat children.

Paul Conrathe, Bell’s solicitor, said: “The case challenges the clinic’s continuing practice of prescribing puberty-suppressing hormone blockers and after that cross-sex hormones to children.” Bell was referred to the service aged 14, having read about transsexuals on the internet and decided she had been born “in the wrong body”. She said she had only five appointments before being referred, at 16, for hormone injections to suppress puberty. Bell was injected with testosterone at 17 to develop male sexual characteristics.

She attended many of the appointments on her own because her father strongly disagreed with the treatment.

The puberty blockers induced an artificial menopause. After she took the cross-sex hormones, her voice dropped, she grew facial hair and her genitals changed. At 18 she was referred to the adult gender clinic and, aged 20, she had a double mastectomy.

After deciding to stop the treatment and live as a woman, Bell said she felt that “a weight has been lifted”.

The Tavistock said: “We welcome the opportunity this [case] provides to talk about the service and to stand up for our dedicated staff who put the best interests of the young people and families at the heart of their practice.”