Doctors 'Over-Diagnosing' Children as Transgender, Whistleblowers Warn
Six psychologists speak out about fears of 'transphobia' after resigning
Doctors are "over-diagnosing" children with gender-identity issues as transgender over fears of being labeled "transphobic," a group of whistleblowers is warning.
The number of children being referred for medical treatment to treat gender dysphoria has spiked dramatically over recent years.
In the UK, thirty-five psychologists have resigned from the taxpayer-funded children's gender-identity service in London in the last three years.
Now, six of those psychologists have spoken out to blow the whistle on how medical professionals are unable to properly assess patients over fears they will be branded "transphobic," with children being referred for life-altering treatment as a result.
The group is raising concerns about hormone treatment being given to children diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
The rare condition is where a person experiences distress due to a presumed mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity but psychologists are now warning that kids are being wrongly diagnosed and given treatments that will have an irreversible impact on the child's life.
A psychologist, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "Our fears are that young people are being over-diagnosed and then over-medicalized.
"We are extremely concerned about the consequences for young people...
"For those of us who previously worked in the service, we fear that we have had front row seats to a medical scandal."
The UK's Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust is where children with gender dysphoria are treated on the NHS - the British taxpayer-funded health care service.
GIDS had 2,590 children referred to them last year, compared with just 77 patients a decade ago.
According to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, there are now around 3,000 children on the waiting list, with waiting times for an appointment at about two years.
Another psychologist, who wished to remain anonymous, described a service where staff are under immense pressure, with little time to thoroughly evaluate children.
"At the moment there's only one pathway through the service, which is a medical pathway, not a psychological one," the psychologist said.
"A junior clinician working full-time is expected to carry a caseload of 120 to 130 young people.
"Compared to child and adolescent mental health services where the equivalent would be 40 cases. So, it's three times larger than the average service."
They described a service where psychologists are constrained in the work they can do with a patient for fear of being called "transphobic."
The psychologist said: "The alarm started ringing for me...
"I didn't feel able to voice my concerns, or when I did I was often shut down by other affirmative clinicians.
"Looking back there are young people who I now wouldn't necessarily put on medication."
In a statement, the Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust said it "supports every young person on a case-by-case basis, as an individual."
GIDS sees children under 18, including some cases who are as young as three.
Around half of the children who are seen at the clinic are put on drugs to pause their puberty, known as hormone blockers.
Puberty-blocking drugs given to #GenderConfused "#transgender" #children have been linked to over 6,300 deaths in adults, data from the Food and Drug Administration reportedly shows.— Neon Nettle (@NeonNettle) September 28, 2019
READ MORE: https://t.co/mGyTeQFIJu
This is the first step of any medical intervention and is seen as a fully reversible form of treatment, allowing children time to explore their gender identity while "pausing" the physical, and non-reversible effects of puberty on the body.
The next stage in medical treatment is to take cross-sex hormones.
A trans-man (female-to-male) will take testosterone while a trans-woman (male-to-female) will take estrogen.
Hormone therapy is not normally offered before the age of 16, with the NHS saying it makes both trans-men and trans-women less fertile and eventually infertile.
Surgical procedures are offered only after a patient turns 18.
Leo recently began taking testosterone on the NHS shortly before his 16th birthday as part of his female-to-male transition.
He was 14 when he was asked by psychologists and doctors in the NHS to make the life-changing choice of whether he might want his own biological children in the future.
Describing the torment he felt living with a female body, he said: "If I couldn't live my life as a male or have the body of a male I don't think I'd be around by the age of 20, 30.
"When I started getting my periods it was an indicator that things weren't going to change, puberty worsened my mental health, worsened my gender dysphoria. It was excruciating."
Leo's experience at the Tavistock Centre was positive and he says his fertility was discussed with him in the sessions with clinicians.
He said: "I was asked questions about my future and if I wanted to freeze my eggs...
"Personally I didn't want to because the process was quite difficult, I would have had to go on estrogen for a month, then there's the process of extracting the eggs.
"And if I want kids in the future, which isn't something I'm sure about, I could always adopt."
In the last decade, the proportion of patients being referred to the NHS children's gender service who were assigned female at birth has grown, from 44% to 74%.
Psychologists say there has been an increase in "female-born" teenagers, many of whom have underlying issues, identifying as trans.
The underlying issues range from the experience of homophobia to a history of abuse.
Some of these teenagers do not find medical treatment helps with their gender dysphoria.
For some, it's a mistake and they later "de-transition" to their biological gender.
A 19-year-old man has spoken out about the disastrous results of the #transgender surgery he underwent as a teenager, saying he regrets going through the life-altering procedure.— Neon Nettle (@NeonNettle) November 18, 2019
READ MORE: https://t.co/6QZqZhhHy5
Thomasin, who spent many of her teenage years identifying as male, de-transitioned earlier this year at the age of 19.
She was diagnosed with gender dysphoria by the Tavistock at 17 but never received medical intervention.
Instead, she socially transitioned after reading extensively about being trans online.
"Mainly the thing that was fuelling me was that I didn't fit in and then I was slowly drip-fed this idea that you could change sex," Thomasin said.
"At 15 I wanted to have top surgery and be a man... it did feel scary at times because you're going down this route of a medicalized pathway and I did have those little niggles in the back of my mind."
Thomasin now identifies as female again.
She says her desire to be trans was because she was struggling with her sexuality as a lesbian.
Some of the former Tavistock clinicians who have spoken to Sky News are now supporting teenagers who have later changed their minds and "de-transitioned."
Some of these young people have been left with irreversible changes to their bodies.
In a statement, the Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust said "Clinicians at GIDS have regular supervision sessions where they can discuss any concerns, including caseload, and there are numerous other forums in which to raise issues and concerns," the statement said.
"GIDS takes a considered and thoughtful approach and supports clinicians to engage openly and supportively with patients and parents.
"We have conducted exit interviews with all departing staff to understand their motivations and identify any areas of concern.
"The work is demanding and the pressures of operating in a busy service facing a high level of unfair criticism are intense, their motivations are as individual as they are."