The tangled case of the brothers who became girls aged seven and three, The Sunday Times 12.05.19

The original article is here

A boy transitioned to being a girl from the age of three after being sent to live with foster parents, whose own son had just legally transitioned at the age of seven.

The younger child was dressed in girls’ clothes, even though teachers had “expressly asked” the foster parents not to do so.

A third foster child previously cared for by the couple also had “gender identity issues”.

The actions of the foster parents, known only as CP and TP, led to an investigation by Lancashire county council’s social services amid fears they had “manipulated” their children’s gender, had “actively encouraged” the change and risked causing them “significant emotional harm”.

However, in a closed hearing at Preston family court last month the concerns were dismissed by a judge. The pair were cleared to carry on caring for the children after experts said they were good parents and the youngsters were happy.

Some of the experts continued to express fears about the children’s “early transitions” of gender but the judge rejected this after another of the experts, Vickie Pasterski, said gender dysphoria had biological foundations that could not be shifted by “interpersonal influence or environmental interference”.

Mr Justice Williams said, “the evidence from almost all sources of how the children are prospering in the care of CP and TP provides very powerful support to the contention that CP and TP are good parents”.

He said Pasterski “compellingly rebuts” the social services’ claims about the early transition of the children, making it “overwhelmingly obvious that neither . . . have suffered or are at risk of suffering significant emotional harm arising from their complete social transition to females occurring at a very young age”.

Pasterski’s view is disputed by the NHS’s gender identity development service (Gids) clinic — also known as London’s Tavistock centre — where at least one of the children was treated.

Writing generally in an academic journal last month Bernadette Wren, head of clinical psychology at the Tavistock, said: “Younger gender-atypical children are likely to be more easily influenced by their parents’ view about gender, even to the point of assuming an absolute, long-term commitment to a binary gender identity and a social transition.”

Wren said that “at Gids, we would prefer that young children (below 10 years of age, say) while receiving plenty of genuine support and affirmation for their gender preferences . . . not make a full, legally confirmed social transition to the ‘other’ sex at a young age”.

Over the past nine years across Britain, Gids has seen a total of 364 gender-dysphoric children aged seven and under, not all of whom have socially transitioned. One Gids clinician told The Sunday Times that to have two children of that age undergoing full social transition in the same family was “unheard of in my experience”.

The judgment, published late last week, said TP and CP had been foster carers for 16 years. Five children, now aged between four and 17, were the subjects of the court proceedings. Two of them are the couple’s natural children and three are fostered.

Their youngest natural child, known only as R, who is now 13, transitioned from male to female at the age of seven, the judgment said. Her parents took immediate steps to legally cement her new identity, changing her name by deed poll and getting a new passport. However, R remained unhappy, telling a member of staff at her school just a few months later that “she did not think life was worth living”.

Shortly after R transitioned, a boy — known as H — arrived as a foster placement in the family. According to the judgment, H, who is now six, was “being dressed in girls’ clothes” by January 2016, when he was three. The mother, TP, was reported to have told a teacher: “Here’s another one for the Tavistock.”

The following year, when H was four, he started school. “The school requested H attend in a boy’s uniform,” the judgment said. “However in September H came in a girl’s uniform.”

Another child, C, was taken to hospital five times in three years after experiencing “a greater number of significant injuries than would be expected for a child of his age”, including nearly drowning in the family swimming pool.

Last year further incidents, including reports by TP to mental health services with a “significant degree of exaggeration”, triggered a full-scale investigation. A social work statement said: “TP and CP are highly manipulative people . . . there are significant concerns that parents/carers have manipulated children’s gender and diagnosis of additional needs, which is considered the highest level of emotional abuse.”

Lancashire social services claimed TP and CP “consistently sought to have additional foster children placed in their care in order to meet their own needs, whether financial or emotional”.

Last July proceedings to remove all five children were brought by the council, which claimed, among other things, that TP and CP had “acted in a precipitate manner in relation to perceived gender dysphoria” and were “resistant to acknowledging any potential disadvantages to R and H of being identified as transgender prematurely”.

A number of experts, including Pasterski, were appointed to consider the case. A consultant paediatrician — referred to as Dr Ward — said: “Failure to seek medical support and opinion leaves H at significant risk of emotional harm as a result of being presented at school as a girl.”

A report by an independent social worker, Alex Sayer, said there were “some concerns that CP’s attitude to gender dysphoria might lead to faulty decision-making with good intentions”.

She said both parents “presented as closed to the prospect of either R or H reverting back to their assigned gender,” which could “cause emotional distress”. She also said the children should stay with TP and CP, however.

Lancashire council decided not to remove the children and asked for permission to withdraw its care application.

The judge made it clear that he agreed with Pasterski, saying the concerns had been “comprehensively dispelled”.

Child H H, now six, was just a toddler when he arrived in the household. By the time he was three, he was being dressed in girls’ clothing. At four, he started school in a girl’s uniform.

Child R The child known as R is now 13. Born a boy, he switched gender at the age of seven in April 2013. Her name was changed by deed poll and a new passport was issued.

Vickie Pasterski, the psychologist whose report played a key role in the TP and CP case, is a supporter of Helen Webberley, a private Welsh GP who gave sex-change hormones to children as young as 12.

In 2017, the day after The Sunday Times revealed that the General Medical Council had banned Webberley from treating transgender patients unsupervised, Pasterski tweeted: “I support My Web Doctor [Webberley’s clinic]. [She] is saving lives and saving families . . . she is not the first person outside the NHS fortress to be attacked.”

Webberley charged between £75 and £150 an hour to prescribe the drugs, which NHS guidance says should not be given to children. She has since been criminally convicted for operating her clinic without a licence and has been suspended from all practice by the GMC.

Last night Pasterski repeated her support for Webberley, saying her case had been misreported.

Pasterski, an American academic with 20 years’ experience in the gender field, also runs a private clinical practice in London that has “helped more than 500 individuals transition”, according to its website.