A mother taking a gender clinic to court to prevent it giving sex-change drugs to her autistic daughter says she wants to prevent youngsters making ‘catastrophic’ decisions that they live to regret.
The woman, who can only be called ‘Mrs A’ for legal reasons, fears her 16-year-old daughter will be fast-tracked for transgender medical treatment once she is seen by clinicians at the Gender Identity Development Service in London.
She says they will simply ‘affirm’ the girl’s belief – mistaken in her mother’s opinion – that she is really a boy. In reality, Mrs A believes her daughter’s desire to be male is driven by having Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism.
The woman, who can only be called ‘Mrs A’ for legal reasons, fears her 16-year-old daughter will be fast-tracked for transgender medical treatment once she is seen by clinicians at the Gender Identity Development Service in London
‘This is bigger than just my child. The whole narrative is that if your child is confused about their gender, then transition is the only course of action,’ she told The Mail on Sunday.
‘There doesn’t seem to be any discussion of other possibilities. And that’s quite frightening.’
The married, middle-aged mother thinks gender experts have no real idea which of their young patients are ‘truly’ transgender and which are going through a phase. She believes they are too ready to accept what the youngsters tell them at face value.
‘The consequences of them getting it wrong are catastrophic,’ she added.
The other applicant in the case – which will be heard this week – is IT engineer Keira Bell. The 23-year-old was put on puberty blockers as a teenager after telling GIDS staff she thought she was really male
In July 2018, the MoS revealed that 150 autistic children had been given the ‘puberty blocker’ drugs by GIDS.
Mrs A is one of two women taking the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs GIDS, to the High Court to stop it prescribing the powerful ‘puberty blocker’ drugs to those under the age of 18.
The medication halts a child’s normal physical development during puberty, making sex-change surgery easier.
Some experts say they give children time to reflect on whether to press ahead with further treatment. But studies show the vast majority of those who take them move on to ‘cross-sex hormones’ such as testosterone for those born female.
Taking the hormones can cause irreversible changes, including loss of fertility, and are a stepping stone to sex-change surgery.
The other applicant in the case – which will be heard this week – is IT engineer Keira Bell. The 23-year-old was put on puberty blockers as a teenager after telling GIDS staff she thought she was really male.
She later took testosterone, which left her with a deep voice and possibly infertile, and underwent a double-mastectomy – all actions that she now ‘deeply regrets’.
Court papers drawn up by solicitor Paul Conrathe, of Sinclairslaw, show Ms Bell and Mrs A are seeking a judicial review of GIDS’s practice of prescribing hormone blockers to under-18s. In them, they argue: ‘The age and immaturity of the child make consent impossible.
‘A child (typically, but not exclusively, in the 11-14 age range) who is in the early stages of puberty is not capable of properly understanding the potential lifetime loss of fertility, loss of sexual function, or the unknown psychological consequences that may be entailed by such treatment.’
Warning of the implications of taking the drugs, Mrs A said: ‘If you start a child on puberty blockers – and nigh-on 100 per cent of them go on to take cross-sex hormones – then you are almost putting them on cross-sex hormones there and then. You are setting them on the path of medical transition.
‘How on Earth can a child consent to a possible loss of fertility? How can they consent to potential loss of sexual function, when that’s something they can’t even remotely comprehend yet?’
Mrs A said her daughter had always struggled to fit in and felt more comfortable in the company of boys – ‘as many girls on the autistic spectrum do’ – but still had ‘girly’ interests, loved her long hair and would happily dress in pink.
As she grew up, she realised that while boys liked her company, they did not consider her ‘one of them’, leaving her socially adrift. Mrs A recalled: ‘She told me, ‘My life would be easier if I was a boy, because then boys wouldn’t see me as a girl – they’d see me as one of them.’ It was very much about fitting in.’
At secondary school, the youngster began presenting as male, cutting her hair and demanding to wear boys’ uniform.
She also spent a lot of time online, before one day telling her parents: ‘I want to be a boy.’
Her parents, while concerned and suspecting that her autism may lie behind her wish, allowed her to assume a male identity at school, called her by a gender-neutral nickname at home and agreed to let her seek a GP referral to GIDS. ‘It was almost my way of passing her an olive branch,’ Mrs A said.
Her daughter told the GP that she had felt male ‘for as long as I can remember’ – something Mrs A insists ‘just wasn’t true’. She added: ‘To hear her rewrite the history of her childhood was terrifying.’
While about 40 per cent of GIDS patients are given puberty blockers, Mrs A fears such a move is a ‘foregone conclusion’ if her daughter goes to the clinic.
If her daughter still wants to transition when she becomes ‘a fully-formed adult’ after turning 18, she says she will support her decision.
A spokesman for the Tavistock trust said last night: ‘GIDS is a safe and thoughtful service which puts the best interest of its patients and their families first.
‘We won’t comment on the ongoing proceedings and await the judgment of the court in due course.’