British children in limbo over gender therapy after court ruling

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02/15/2021

LONDON, Feb 15 (Openly) – Almost as soon as she could speak, Nina told her parents she was not a boy and she has lived as a girl since she was seven. Until recently, she was happy. But now aged 12 and wanting to stop the onset of male puberty, a ruling by Britain’s High Court has plunged Nina and dozens of other children struggling with gender dysphoria into limbo by restricting access to puberty-blocking drugs. The judges ruled that under-16s were unlikely to be able to give informed consent to such medication, and doctors must now get a judge’s approval – a so-called “best interests order” – to prescribe them to adolescent patients. Days after the ruling, Nina’s appointment the following week with specialists – whom she hoped would prescribe the medication – was cancelled and no new date was scheduled. With the court ruling leaving a void in treatment, some parents are now filling the gap left by seeking drugs for their children from privately funded services. “I feel like I’m living in a nightmare,” said Nina’s mother, Juliet, whose daughter has attended England’s sole youth gender clinic – the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) – since she was five. “If in your head you are female but your body starts to develop as a male in your teenage years, it just must be the most horrendous thing,” said Juliet, whose name – along with those of all parents and children in this article – has been changed to protect their identities. The ruling came as rising numbers of adolescents globally seek to change gender, dividing those who fear doctors are too hasty in prescribing puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones and those worried about access to medication they deem life-saving. Puberty blockers, which are used to prevent the onset of sexual maturity, have become the focus of a fierce global debate about the age at which a child can decide to transition gender. In Britain the number of children referred to GIDS has risen nearly 30-fold in the past decade and waiting lists are more than 18 months long.

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