READERS following the debate about appropriate treatment for children who identify as transgender may remember that in September 2018 the then Equalities Minister, Penny Mordaunt, ordered an investigation into the issue. Of particular concern was the dramatic increase in the number of girls seeking gender reassignment to become boys. Thank goodness, many of us thought, the Conservative government is taking this seriously.
When, a whole year later, nothing more had been heard, I put in an FOI request to find out the status of the investigation. As a result, as TCW reported, the Equalities Office confirmed that nothing much had happened, but that there would be action soon. Indeed, they said, they would be ‘going out to tender in the coming weeks’, and ‘the start date will be agreed through that tendering exercise but we anticipate that the work will commence this autumn’. That was September 2019.
Since then, if anything, concerns about the impact of transgenderism on teenagers have intensified. Of most interest is that a former employee of the Tavistock and Portman Gender Identity Development Service, Sue Evans, has embarked upon a legal case to challenge the approach taken with gender dysphoric teenagers. Details, as well as her fundraiser, can be found here.
In her fundraiser statement Sue Evans says: ‘The alarm bells began ringing for me when a colleague at the weekly team clinical meeting said that they had seen a young person four times and they were now recommending them for a referral to the endocrinology department to commence hormone therapy.’ Evans then quotes concerns about hormone treatment for teenagers cited in the British Medical Journal: ‘1) Young people are left in a state of ‘developmental limbo’ without secondary sexual characteristics that might consolidate gender identity; 2) use is likely to threaten the maturation of the adolescent mind, and 3) puberty blockers are being used in the context of profound scientific ignorance’.
Evans continues: ‘The current evidence base does not support informed decision-making and safe practice in children. Many professionals are now highly concerned about the treatments for under-18 gender dysphoric children and adolescents which remain largely experimental. There are so many unanswered questions that include the age at start, reversibility; serious adverse health events, long-term effects on mental health, neurological effects on cognitive functioning, the effect on bone density, circulatory systems and sexual functioning in adulthood. We cannot stand by and watch young people be part of an experimental medical treatment that exposes them to very significant risks. We should be providing thoughtful, expert, longer-term psychological help and therapy, which research has shown to be helpful for many of these children.’
It seems hard to believe that Evans is writing about experimental medical intervention, which might harm them physically and cognitively, happening on our own children, in this country, today. Equally bizarre is that it has been left to one brave individual to challenge the approach using crowd-funded resources. Where is the Conservative government? Where are the Conservative MPs? Is there even one who has broken a resounding silence?
Reading about Evans spurred me to submit a further FOI request to find out what had happened to the Conservative government’s promised inquiry.
I expected more delay. What I did not expect was secrecy.
I asked to see the terms of the tender. The FOI response said: ‘Taking into account all the circumstances of this case, I have concluded that the balance of the public interest favours withholding this information.’
I asked who won the tender. The FOI response concluded: ‘After weighing up the competing public interest considerations, I have determined that the balance of public interest is in favour of withholding the information requested under Section 43(2) of the FOIA’.
There is so much aggression from the trans lobby on this issue that perhaps it is not surprising if those undertaking the research have asked for secrecy. But surely we should be able to see the terms of the tender? There are literally thousands of parents, concerned family and friends, educators and health professionals who are interested. What possible justification is there for secrecy?
Recently someone said this on Twitter: ‘Still stunned by the fact the Tavistock has had 35 resignations in 3 years. That is a crisis level of deserting of a public service. Imagine any other NHS clinic where that many adults left out of concern for child welfare. There’d be an urgent government inquiry.’
Well, it seems that there is a government inquiry. But what its terms are, we are not to be told. Is there a Conservative MP out there who is feeling a little bit uncomfortable about all this? This is your watch.