Transgender law will change to protect under-18s, Truss signals 22.04.20
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Children who believe they are transgender face new curbs on gender reassignment treatment to protect them from “irreversible” decisions.
Liz Truss, the trade secretary, told MPs that the wellbeing of under-18s was a key principle that would guide her response to a review of government policy on gender identity.
Ms Truss, who is also minister for women and equalities, said that analysis of feedback to a consultation on the future of the Gender Recognition Act was complete.
There had been speculation that Boris Johnson might abandon this work to avoid a row with activists but Ms Truss said she would announce changes before the summer, including restrictions on treatment for transgender children.
“Grown adults should be able to make decisions, to have agency to live life as they see fit,” she said. “But before the age of 18, when people are still developing their decision-making capabilities, they should be protected from making decisions that are irreversible about their bodies that they could possibly regret in the future.”
She said that the freedom of transgender adults would be upheld “whilst maintaining the proper checks and balances of the system”.
Officials would not discuss the planned protections for children but said that they would form part of Ms Truss’s announcement.
The Gender Recognition Act 2004, which allows transgender people in England and Wales to have their chosen identity legally recognised including with a new birth certificate, applies to adults but changes to treatment for children with gender dysphoria will be set out alongside changes to the act.
Ms Truss told the Commons women and equalities committee that there would also be additional protection of single-sex spaces to ensure that women and girls were safe in places such as changing rooms and lavatories as well as women’s refuges, by excluding other people where necessary.
At present children can start treatment with the gender identity development service after at least three therapy sessions and can go ahead without their parents’ consent. Treatments include hormone blockers to suppress puberty and, for children in their mid-teens, cross-sex hormones. The average age at which children start such treatment is 14 but some start at 12.
NHS rules for treating transgender children have been criticised by Gene Feder, professor of primary care at the University of Bristol, as drawing on advice that lacks robust evidence and comes from clinicians with close links to transgender groups.
The guidelines face a legal challenge from Keira Bell, 23, a woman who underwent gender reassignment treatment in her mid-teens but changed her mind and sought to reverse the process. She is suing the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust in north London.
NHS England has begun a review of the use of puberty suppressants and cross-sex hormones.
Theresa May said when prime minister that she would “streamline and demedicalise” the Gender Recognition Act. Some campaign groups called for transgender people to be able to self-define, including children aged 17 and 18, which many feminists oppose. The act requires a transgender person to have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and to have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years before they can apply for a gender recognition certificate, which is considered by a panel.
The government consultation ended in October 2018 and had more than 100,000 submissions. Its response is more than a year late.