by Ashleigh Talbot, Trans Social Action Coordinator at The Proud Trust
We are shocked and saddened to see the High Court’s judgement on access to puberty blockers for young trans people has ruled on the side of transphobia and misinformation. We echo the comments and concerns of Mermaids UK’s statement, and agree that in every respect, this judgement is a betrayal of trans young people and their families.
Much has been made in the judgement of puberty blockers being an “experimental” or “innovative” treatment, despite blockers being used for decades to treat precocious puberty in cis children as young as six years old. In other countries in Europe, and in particular in the Netherlands, puberty blockers have also been prescribed to trans youngsters for decades, with a wealth of scientific data supporting their safety and efficacy. Puberty blockers are neither experimental nor innovative, and to see that the High Court has used this scaremongering language in its judgement is deeply concerning.
The language of the judgement document released on December 1st is also deeply rooted in transphobia and mistrust of trans young people’s own experiences. Forcing trans children under the age of 16 to obtain a court order to access medical treatment is an astonishing step, and could easily lead to a situation where a young person is vocal about their needs, is supported by their family, healthcare providers, and schools – but can be prevented from accessing life-saving treatment by a single judge with no medical qualifications.
The court decision has upheld several harmful narratives about trans medical care, including the aforementioned scaremongering about “experimental” treatments. At every step, trans young people are assumed to be less capable of making decisions than their cis peers, and the judgement does everything it can to hammer this insulting concept home. This is treating trans young people differently from every other young person, singling them out for needless, preventable harm.
This judicial review, and the media attention on it, has also been yet another example of the over-medicalisation of trans young people’s lives; there is far more to a trans person’s experiences than their medical history. We say again: trans young people exist and they know who they are. Regardless of any medical treatment a trans young person may or may not choose to undergo—and it should be their informed and fully supported choice whether or not to pursue medical treatment—all research and international best practice shows that trans youth thrive when believed and supported in their identities.
The Proud Trust stands with all trans young people, and the organisations dedicated to supporting them. We also welcome the Tavistock and Portman’s NHS Trust’s announced decision to appeal this ruling.