The decision by the British High Court that people aged under 16 cannot consent to puberty blockers is unjust and cruel and it’s ramifications will be felt around the world, including in Australia.
We know young people who are prescribed puberty blockers get immediate relief from their gender dysphoria and distress because this medication prevents permanent physical changes to voice, hair growth and breast development. Yet a young trans person in Britain must now go to court and let a judge decide whether they can start such treatment, even if their doctors and parents agree to it – a judge who is not a doctor and who has no training in the medical care of trans and gender diverse youth.
Imagine a 12-year-old, presumed male at birth, who since they were first able to talk has identified as female. They have started to notice their voice is changing and are terrified of what lies ahead – growing tall, getting facial hair and a big Adam’s apple. This fear leads to anxiety, school refusal, social phobia, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. This is a common trajectory for many transgender teens forced to experience a puberty that does not align with their personal gender experience. By the time they are adult, many will develop severe depression or post traumatic stress disorder and some will have died by suicide.
My adult trans patients all agree that preventing changes during puberty would have been life-changing for them – for trans women, the deep voice and facial hair they developed during puberty causes them great difficulty, effort and expense to change. It singles them out in public, leading to discrimination, transphobic violence and ensuing mental health complications. For trans men, breast development means they have to wear painful chest binders or go through costly, painful and scarring top surgery.