A woman who claims the British National Health Service (NHS) enabled her gender dysphoria by “rushing” her transition as a teenager is now suing for the “unlawful” procedure.
Gender dysphoria is “a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify.”
The case, set to be heard at the High Court later this year, presents an opportunity to shift the way childhood gender dysphoria is treated by the NHS. The victim in this case, 23 year old Keira Bell, illustrates what can go wrong when children are empowered to make decisions pertaining to their gender identity, unable to comprehend the ramifications of such life-altering treatments.
Bell, who has since transitioned back to a woman, is suing the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust. She’s accusing them of haphazardly enabling her gender dysphoria by prescribing her testosterone and hormone blocker drugs that delayed her puberty when she was a teenager, leaving her “suicidal.”
As a teenager, Bell had “no doubt” she wanted to transition but now views her decision as merely a “coping mechanism” permitted by “no real investigation into the other mental health issues she was going through at the time.”
Adding, “I wanted to go onto the medical pathway as soon as possible, I was very eager and I was very reluctant about speaking to anyone who would possibly get in the way of that.”
Bell explains how the procedure impacted her physical well being: “I just realized that [gender reassignment] hadn’t worked after a few years… I just went into like a menopause like state and everything just kind of shut down. I felt drained and tired and had nothing but negative effects from it really, I didn’t have a good experience with it at all.”
She also highlights the drastic impacts on her mental health, all negative: “I think the depression kicked in a bit more because I was without any hormones in my body, especially at such a young age when it’s supposed to be at such a peak. It’s very detrimental to someone and the psychological and the brain effects I think are completely understudied as well.”
Despite clear mental health concerns, doctors proceeded with the hormone altering treatments.
And Bell’s case is not an isolated incident.
Tavistock Trust staff had previously expressed concern that children were being “over-diagnosed” and “over-medicalized.” In just three years, 35 psychologists resigned from the children’s gender identity service, and six of them raised explicit concerns over administering puberty blockers to children.
Overall, the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust which host the children’s gender identity service treated 2,590 children from 2018 to 2019. That’s a nearly 3,300% increase from just 77 cases a decade ago. And there are an additional 3,000 children on the waiting list.
Her legal team is arguing the NHS’s approach was “unlawful because children could not give informed consent for this kind of treatment and the potential risks of treatment were not adequately explained.”
Tavistock and Portman Trusts issued a joint statement in response to the lawsuit: “We welcome the opportunity this provides to talk about the service and to stand up for our dedicated staff who put the best interests of the young people and families at the heart of their practice. GIDS provides a thoughtful and measured service for children, young people and their families who come to us in considerable distress. Our clinicians have no preconceptions about outcomes for the young people who are referred to our service, all of whom are provided with psycho-social support throughout their time with us.”
Adding, “While physical intervention is only accessed by a minority of our patients, it is important that this option remains available and is informed by the latest evidence. It is very clear from our first-hand experience of working with these young people and their families that, for some, doing nothing is not a neutral act.”
Concluding with, “We hope the hearing will serve to set the record straight and put centre-stage the voice and interests of young people living with gender dysphoria.”