Puberty blocker ruling will not help trans teens | Letters

There is already a suitable competency test in medical law for children under the age of 16, writes Steven Walker, while the mother of a transgender child fears the impact the court decision will have on her daughter

The high court ruling that those under the age of 16 are unlikely to be able to give informed consent to undergo treatment for gender dysphoria will cause much harm (Puberty blockers: under-16s ‘unlikely to be able to give informed consent’, 1 December). The Gillick competence test is used in medical law to decide whether a child under the age of 16 is able to consent to their own treatment, without the need for parental permission or knowledge.

In the area of child and adolescent mental health, there is an increasing demand for help from very disturbed, anxious, and unhappy children feeling trapped inside the “wrong” body. Clinicians do not make hasty judgments and they bend over backwards to keep open communication with parents and engage children in long, comprehensive tests and counselling sessions before embarking on treatments. Sixteen is an arbitrary age because children mature at different rates. Each case should be decided on its separate merits. The danger is that this new ruling will be used unilaterally and set an unhelpful precedent, and end up doing more harm than good.
Steven Walker
Former head of child and adolescent mental health, Anglia Ruskin University

• As the mother of a transgender child, I am devastated about the impact this ruling will have on my daughter. She has been under the care of the Tavistock clinic for the last six years and our experience with the clinic is that they are thoughtful, cautious and hugely supportive. The media depicts the clinic as pushing puberty blockers on young people – this could not be further from the truth. They have always been honest with us about the potential side-effects and long-term implications.

My daughter was born male but has been telling us she was a girl since she could speak. She socially transitioned at the age of nine and there is no doubt in my mind that puberty blockers and eventually female hormones will be the right path for her. The misleading narrative that parents “push” their child into being transgender is also ridiculous: what parent would want their child to face the prejudice, unkindness and ignorance that this ruling reveals? It will do irreparable harm to transgender adolescents and I am terrified and so, so angry.
Name and address supplied


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