Trans charities are using children as political pawns Josephine Bartosch in The Telegraph 14.04.21

The original article is here.

Keira Bell is a young woman for whom the personal really is political. Now 24, ten years ago as a tomboyish teenager Bell began to notice she was attracted to girls. Whereas once she might have understood her identity as lesbian or bisexual, Bell interpreted her feelings as evidence of being a boy.
Despite a complex history of trauma, she claims not one clinician or youth worker sought to challenge her self-perception as male. Thanks to the woke posturing of children’s charities, it seems today that young people like Bell are increasingly caught in the cross-fire of the culture wars.

She explains: “There was nowhere to find support that didn’t affirm the delusion of being in the ‘wrong body’. No-one told me it was okay to be a girl who didn’t like stereotypically ‘girly’ things or that I was no less female because I am same-sex attracted.”

After beginning puberty-blocking treatment at 16, continuing onto cross-sex hormones at 17 and undergoing the removal of her healthy breasts at 20, Bell began to question her decision.

Today, she feels bitterly let down by the professionals that should have been there to support her. Now in a loving relationship with another woman, Bell believes she effectively went through a form of state-sanctioned gay conversion therapy.

“I feel like it would be an understatement to say that children and young people are being let down by institutions that are supposed to be helping,” she says. “They seem to have forgotten their duty of care.”

Bell is not alone, referrals of young people to UK gender identity services have increased by over three thousand per cent in the past decade; from 77 in 2009-10 to 2,728 in 2019-2020.

To some this is a positive sign of young trans people confident to “come out”, to others it is evidence of a dangerous, body-punishing social contagion.

While personal opinions might differ, one would hope that the charities and professional bodies which support children would steer clear of divisive rhetoric. Instead, I fear some have left young people like Bell unsupported.

Alongside “Mrs A”, the mother of an autistic child, Bell took the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust to the High Court and won.

The ruling allows for the prescription of puberty-suppressing medication to children only if “he or she is competent to understand the long-term nature of the treatment”.

In practice, this has halted the prescription of puberty blockers to those under 16, though a subsequent ruling permits their use by 15-year-olds in cases where parents offer consent on behalf of their children.

The court noted that puberty blockers are an experimental treatment with unknown side-effects, and that in almost all cases they lead to the prescription of cross-sex hormones.

In October, shortly before the case was heard, Barnardo’s, NSPCC, National Children’s Bureau and the Children’s Society published a joint letter. In it they claimed preventing children from accessing hormone treatments undermined their “agency” putting them “at high risk of mental illness and emotional distress, potentially affecting their long-term future.”

The Bell v Tavistock was a complex ruling on a clinical matter. Rather than prompting reflection among the third sector, in the days following the case more organisations scrambled to plant their flag in the woke, pro-medicalising camp.

Consultant psychiatrist and gender identity specialist Dr Az Hakeem is concerned about the politicisation of some charities, arguing that not everyone who is confused about their gender is transgender.

He says that in almost all cases patients’ distress or confusion is alleviated by appropriate psychological help, but that “various non-clinicians and political activists have managed to capture myriad organisations who only wish to do what is right.”

“They have looked to these organisations for help with understanding gender dysphoria rather than to us clinicians,” he says. “They then find themselves unwittingly drawn into a political fight.”
He and his colleagues are now experiencing the aftermath of this seemingly organisational capture in young adults “who feel that their lives have been ruined”.

“They feel abandoned by the very clinics and politically motivated groups who want to champion these highly controversial experimental treatments which result in sterility and permanent bodily changes,” he adds.

The politicisation of the treatment of children with gender dysphoria is a phenomenon that spans the globe. Last week the American Association of Pediatrics and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) condemned the decision by the state of Arkansas to protect children from harmful medical intervention to treat gender dysphoria, such as cross-sex hormones and surgery.

The groups which purport to protect the interests of children would do well to consider evidence rather than the invective of lobby groups. By taking a partisan line on such sensitive issues as the treatment of children with gender dysphoria, charities are making political pawns of those they exist to protect.

Their failures will be written into the bodies and futures of young people like Keira Bell for many years to come.

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