I’m Alex, Lisa’s transgender son. My Mum and I were in the press talking about “The hidden heartbreak of parenting a transitioning teen.” In the article, I express my opposition to the High Court ruling that blocks access to ‘puberty blockers’ for transgender children who are under 16, unless specifically authorised by the court.
The heartbreak of parenting a transgender teen comes from the fact that my parents have seen the devastating impact of my gender dysphoria; the distress caused by the mismatch between my biological sex: female, and my gender identity: male. Yet, the ruling blocks access to the only viable treatment for this dysphoria. As puberty blockers have been used for over 30 years to treat precocious (early) puberty, we know that they are safe and physiologically reversible.
The court case was sparked by Keira Bell, a 23 year old woman who wrongly believed that she was a transgender male. Through The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, Keira was prescribed ‘puberty blockers,’ Testosterone and she underwent surgery to give her chest the appearance of a man’s chest. She argued, and the court ruled, that children under the age of 16 are “highly unlikely” to be able to give informed consent to puberty blocking treatment.
I sympathise with Keira and understand that living in the wrong body (for her, a man’s) is a terrible fate, but this is the fate the ruling has condemned transgender children to, by withdrawing their only means to stop themselves from going through the wrong puberty. Facial hair or a deeper voice for a transgender woman is just as bad as it is for a non transgender woman like Keira. A transgender man growing breasts is just as bad as Keira losing them.
Arguably, a combination of a loving parent’s consent and the clinician’s consent is sufficient for a child to receive puberty blockers. Children often receive life changing treatments that they can’t consent to, but this is acceptable because their parents and doctors believe the treatments are in their best interests, and puberty blockers are no different. A parent’s ability consent in their child’s stead was upheld in a recent court ruling, on the 26th March.