LGBTQ advocates in the U.K. are speaking against new plans from the National Health Service (NHS) which state that “gender incongruence” in young people may just be a “transient phase.” Numerous studies have shown that trans identity isn’t just a phase or a choice, but rather a consistent gender identity.
The plans have already been cited by at least one rightwing politician in the U.S. and may add to conservative efforts to vilify and ban gender-affirming healthcare for youth.
The NHS’ plans — which were released on October 20 for public comment until December 4 — propose changes for the treatment of trans youth. The plans will help the NHS establish regional care centers that can more quickly aid trans youth, especially since the country will shut down London’s Tavistock and north England’s Portman NHS gender identity clinics for young people in Spring 2023.
“In most cases gender incongruence does not persist into adolescence,” the NHS plans state.
The plans say that encouraging young people to socially transition by using pronouns and clothes fitting their gender identity isn’t a “neutral act.” Rather the NHS says such encouragements are an “active intervention” that may have “significant effects” on a young person’s “psychological functioning.”
As such, social transitioning should only be pursued to prevent a young person’s distress or social impairment, and only if they’re “able to fully comprehend the implications” of such transitioning.
“Social transition in pre-pubertal children is a controversial issue,” the plans state. “Divergent views are held by heath professionals, and … current evidence is insufficient to predict the long-term outcomes of complex gender-role transition during early childhood.”
The NHS has said it wishes to move from the current model, in which a sole medical provider advises young patients, to a “multi-professional clinical management” model that uses “social workers, family therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, pediatric/adolescent endocrinologists, and clinical nurse practitioners” to provide “holistic care.”
“The clinical management approach should be open to exploring all developmentally appropriate options for children and young people who are experiencing gender incongruence, being mindful that this may be a transient phase, particularly for prepubertal children, and that there will be a range of pathways to support these children and young people and a range of outcomes,” the plans state.
The new plans would also create a research program that would study and publicly share the immediate and long-term effects of hormone treatment on young people into adulthood. This research would inform healthcare workers, provide patient transparency, and help end “polarized opinion and conjecture” about the risks of gender-affirming care, the NHS wrote.
The NHS also wrote that it released this plan because there has been a “significant and sharp rise” in young patient referrals for gender incongruence — from four per 100,000 people in 2020-21 to 8.7 per 100,000 people in 2021-22. This has caused long waiting times for patient care.
The NHS also said that there’s currently “scarce and inconclusive evidence to support clinical decision-making” in gender-affirming care for young people.
Cleo Madeleine, communications officer at Gendered Intelligence, told PinkNews that the NHS’ proposed plans “diminishes the experiences” of young people and families who know that trans identity isn’t “just a phase.” Madeline added that most trans youths don’t de-transition, and the few who do often do so from social pressures, home support, or difficulty accessing healthcare.
Dr. Helen Webberley, the founder of GenderGP, also told the aforementioned publication that the NHS’ plans go against newly revised standards of care released by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.
Distorting the new plans, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said last week that the NHS declared that “transgenderism” is “just a phase for children” and that we shouldn’t “accommodate the phase.”
Most American professional medical and psychological associations have suggested that young children be allowed to explore their gender identity through pronouns and dress until adolescence. After that, young people can go on puberty blockers and begin hormone replacement therapy until adulthood. Both have been found to significantly reduce lifelong suicide risk for trans youth.
Far-right politicians and pundits in the U.S. have claimed that such gender-affirming policies are an “irreversible” form of child abuse and “gender ideology” that “mutilates” kids. Such claims have lead to death threats against trans-affirming medical professionals.
The NHS’ plans have also raised worries among trans advocates in England since Britain’s new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has expressed transphobic views that have added to a wave of growing transphobia and hate crimes across the country.