It is a question which really needs asking for the number of transgender people in the UK is actually quite small and the cost of effective treatments are miniscule if you consider the costs of non-intervention (depression and the cost of treatments for that, hospital costs for suicide attempts, ruined lives). The Daily Mail and it’s writers often sensationalise the cost of treatments yet always ignore the the much higher costs of failure to treat. Instead of educating their readers, they prefer to pander to their irrational phobias and dislikes which can have disastrous consequences as was witnessed when Richard Littlejohn decided to turn his own personal phobias onto Lucy Meadows.
Only a week after 6 major British newspapers were castigated for their “reporting” of another story about a transgender woman and their subsequent retractions of their “stories”, the Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday rolls out another epic piece of mis-information (which they actually published about a year ago – but, like a dog with a bone, they simply cannot leave alone and return to the same meme time and time again).
I did leave a comment in their comments section below the story that they ran which put the alternative viewpoint (very short due to the limited number of characters that you are allowed) but not surprisingly, they failed to publish this comment, prefering to publish the comments of their xenophobic/transphobic readers.
After a slight truce after their tragic hounding of Lucy Meadows and the subsequent castigation by the coroner who oversaw her inquest of the British press (and the Daily Mail in particular), the Daily Mail again shows its true colours as a paper consumed with transphobia.
Under an article whose headline screamed “NHS to give sex-change drugs to 9 year olds”, the article proceeds to denounce the Tavistock and Portman Institute with a web of innuendos and lies.
Just the headline itself is pejorative with its use of the word “drugs” and the complete phrase is wrong as puberty blockers on their own will never change a person’s secondary sexual characteristics – even if they were to be taken all of their lives. All they will do is prevent that person from entering puberty. The compounds are not hormones, they are peptide molecules which bind to the normal hormone receptor sites in the pituitary gland and so block the hormones from binding there – this suppresses the release of luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) from the pituitary (see here for article). In males, this reduction in LH subsequently leads to rapid suppression of testosterone release from the testes; in females it leads to suppression of oestrogen release from the ovaries). These compound have been used since the early 1980’s to suppress the puberty of young girls after they showed signs of entering puberty at a very young age. Has the Mail ever campaigned against these GnRH agonists when used in these 7 to 9 year old children? No they have not, presumably because they are in favour of them being used in this way.
They go on to assert that these compounds can lead to permanent bone damage, but recent research by Dutch paediatricians has shown that after the introduction of cross-sex hormone therapy (or cessation of treatment with GnRH agonists), bone mass quickly reverts to normal values. So this part of the story is a complete distortion of the truth.
The truth is that early intervention saves lives – as one mother of a transgender child said “I would rather have a living transgender daughter than a dead son” and when you consider the effect of not giving these children these blockers (depression, self harm, suicide attempts, reduced academic attainments, poor self esteem etc) plus you are subjecting them to painful (and expensive) treatments later in life such as electrolysis/laser treatments to remove facial hair, facial feminsation surgery to reduce the effects of masculinisation of the bone structure of the face (never completely reversible) and possibly breast augmentation surgery, or mastectomies for f2m trans men, when they do ultimately transition – then the medical profession is abiding by their commitment to “do no harm” – especially in light of the fact that the effects of the GnRH agonist blockers are completely reversible if the person subsequently decides that they do not wish to proceed with their transition. All they are doing in effect is buying the young person time – time to really find out who they are so that if they do subsequently decide to continue with their transition, they will not have to try to undo the effects of a wrong puberty. Trans children would not be given the option of cross-sex hormone therapy until they are 16 or older – and old enough to fully comprehend what taking cross-sex hormone therapy involves. Conversely, if they do decide to not go ahead with their transition, the GnRH agonist (puberty blocking) treatment can be stopped and the person allowed to go through the puberty of their natal sex – without any damage being done.
In a Radio 5 Live program aired on the Sunday evening (sadly no longer available from their archives), Dr. Polly Carmichael (clinical lead at the Tavistock and Portman Institute) was quite clear on the benefits which these GnRH agonists can have on young transgender children and re-iterated that children normally have to enter into a certain stage of puberty before they are given (Tanner stage 2 or later). She went on to explain that prior to puberty, many children who show signs of being transgender change their minds on entering puberty, very few who express themselves as being transgender when they reach puberty actually revert back to their natal sex – 80% transition. To withhold treatment at this age would be to consign that child to an unwanted puberty and put their health at risk (and risk them self harming or attempting suicide). Perhaps the following video might also help:-
By publishing scare stories such as this, the Mail newspaper empire is guilty of mis-information that could lead to young people self harming or tragically taking their own lives. I have today submitted a complaint to Press Complaints Commission about this article on grounds of accuracy and discrimination. Hopefully others will do likewise to tell the Mail newspaper empire that trans people will not stand idly by and let inaccurate and discriminatory reporting like this be published without challenge.
The mother of a transgender child has written a brilliant rejoinder to this article which has been published in the Observer newspaper today. I have also included a short post about it in this blog here.
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