(The Telegraph) There seems to be a bit of generational divide about transgender issues.
Many people in their twenties (my age) will be completely unsurprised by the BBC’s report into the Tavistock Centre – the country’s only NHS facility for transgender children. They will be unfazed by the fact that it had 1,419 referrals last year, more than ten times the figure in 2010. They will regard this as just an ordinary feature of the world we now live in. Trans people exist; get used to it.
But for some older people that sounds like madness. How can we be dosing up children on hormones and recommending them for surgery before they even know who they are? Kids go through all kinds of phases; aren’t we just medicalising completely normal experimentation by indulging them? Moreover, what happens in the long run if we open this Pandora’s Box? Won’t we encourage people who would never otherwise change their gender (or transition, as it is known) to proceed with stressful, potentially dangerous treatments?
With respect, I think these concerns are misinformed. First, you can’t get hormones (to begin the process of physical transition) until you’re 16, and not before you’ve been on puberty blocking drugs for at least a year to see how you feel about it. There is no surgery until after the age of 18 (and I would bet that having it at that age is very rare). And of 605 people who have been discharged from the Tavistock over the last three years, only 160 went on blockers, and 92 continued onto cross-sex hormones. The rest dropped out without further intervention. In the last year, the number of under-15s who went on blockers was just 32. Only 20 per cent of all referrals were below that age.