Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Monday, 11 April 2016

More Young People Than Ever Are Seeking Referrals For Gender Identity Clinic

More Young People Than Ever Are Seeking Referrals For Gender Identity Clinic

The Debrief: New NHS figures reveal what's going on with young people and gender identity in England

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of young people seeking medical treatment for gender dysphoria on the NHS over the last few years. The BBC’s Woman’s Hour revealed this morning that referrals for those aged 18 and under have increased greatly over the last 6 years up from 97 in 2009/2010 to 1398 in 2015/16.

The figures, released from the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust’s Tavistock clinic, England’s only gender identity clinic for teens, also show that the number of those born as women looking to transition outnumbers the number of men by almost two to one. Of the 1398 people who used the clinics service last year, 913 were born females, while just 485 were born males.

It is the fifth year in a row that those born female and looking to transition have outnumbered those born male and seeking treatment. Dr Polly Carmichael, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the clinic, told Woman’s Hour that young people seeking support and treatment after puberty ‘isn’t necessarily new’ but pointed out ‘it was a more difficult story to tell in the past’.

Under 18s can’t legally go under the knife and have gender reassignment surgery in this country but the clinic does provide support mechanisms for those who are questioning their genderand, in some instances, may provide hormone blocking treatments.

Dr Polly Carmichael added, 'I think the sheer number of young people being referred to the service, a 100% increase this year, it's hard to think there would be a gender difference in terms of who is being referred.' Her colleague, Dr Bernadette Wren, as Consultant Clincal Psychologist, noted that in the past more boys tended to come forward than girls. Asked why this was she said perhaps it can be put down to the fact the our society is becoming 'more accepting'.

Dr Carmichael added that ‘this freedom is available to people as they get older and we just have to be acknowledging that that is a liberty which people have, that these things are possible technologically…it’s not for us to approve or disapprove, what matters is what people make of their lives in the end.’

It remains to be seen whether the number of young people seeking support or treatment for gender dysphoria or reassignment will continue to rise. Awareness of trans issues as well as the visibility of trans people has increased over the last 18 months, as things stand we don’t actually know how many people identify as trans in the UK, because the Office for National Statistics don’t currently have this information.

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Tags: gender