Many open questions remain about puberty-blockers
Yesterday’s High Court judgement, which set strict limits on how far children can consent to puberty-blockers, was not meant to be a verdict on gender-identity treatment, let alone on the transgender movement. As Keira Bell, who brought the case, said: “This judgment is not political, it’s about protecting vulnerable children.”
Nevertheless, the case has political implications. For years, anyone who raised concerns about gender-identity treatment was shouted down, and told that the experts knew what they were doing. But now those experts have had to present evidence in court: the defendant was the NHS trust responsible for gender-identity treatment, and the judges heard evidence from the country’s leading specialists. And the result is a judgement — from senior judges — that the standard practice was not doing enough to protect children. Moreover, the ruling exposed just how little is understood about these treatments.
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For instance: in 2011 the male-female split in those seeking treatment was 50/50. Now, three-quarters are girls uncomfortable with a female identity. That seems worth accounting for; but, according to the judgement, the NHS trust “did not put forward any clinical explanation as to why there had been this significant change.”
What about the numbers who have a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder — which some studies suggest could be linked? No, the NHS trust doesn’t collect those statistics either. “Again,” the judges write, “we have found this lack of data analysis — and the apparent lack of investigation of this issue — surprising.”
Were there any examples of children giving consent for PBs, but the doctors concluding that they weren’t really able to consent? You guessed it: the Trust “could not produce any statistics on whether this situation had ever arisen.” How often are PBs a direct pathway to more serious cross-sex hormones? “No precise numbers are available” on that either.
Not only is this kind of data absent, the actual effects of the treatment are also unclear. The judges note that until June 2020, the NHS website claimed that the effects of PBs are “considered to be fully reversible”. This has since been updated to say that “Little is known about the long-term side effects.”
PBs should, the judges say, be considered an “experimental treatment”, since there is “very limited evidence as to its efficacy, or indeed quite what it is seeking to achieve.”
The same mystery, of course, hangs over the trans revolution of the last decade. It, too, is an experiment. But what is it seeking to achieve? And what effect will it have? Given the furious reaction towards anyone who looks critically at these questions, we may not find out until it’s too late.