Dear Government: Trans kids are NOT your political pawns

Why I feel the ban on puberty blockers for under 18s is a step back for Scotland.
Profile picture of Jessica Elliott

Created by Jessica Elliott

Published on Jun 26, 2024
sign that reads "Not your political weapon"
Thiago Rocha on Unsplash

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It was announced earlier this month that Scotland’s only gender identity clinic for under 18s, the Sandyford clinic, has paused prescribing puberty blockers to trans children. The news comes following England’s Cass review, which called for gender services for young people in England to match the standards of other NHS care.

In an expected response to the 388-page report, both the Scottish Labour leader and the Scottish Conservative deputy leader called on the First Minister to pause prescribing puberty blockers, with the Conservatives going as far as to say Humza Yousaf has “failed vulnerable young people”.

Yousaf responded by saying that Scottish health boards would give the report “utmost consideration”.

The Sandyford clinic in Glasgow
Sandyford Clinic

In an update on Sandyford’s website, they said: 

“Referrals from the Sandyford Sexual Health Services to Paediatric Endocrinology for the prescription of Puberty Suppressing Hormones have been paused for any new patients assessed by our Young Person’s Gender Service.

Patients aged 16 to 17 years old who have not been treated by Paediatric Endocrinology, but who are still seeking treatment for their gender incongruence, will no longer be prescribed gender-affirming hormone treatment until they are 18 years old.”

Puberty blockers are never routinely prescribed to young people, but this isn’t enough for some critics. 

At a time when trans people are being made the punching bag in the media, children are being failed by the people who are meant to be there to help them. Sandyford is currently seeing patients who were referred to the Young Person Gender Service in June 2019, so it’s clear that there are bigger problems: the fact that waiting lists are excruciatingly long throughout the country.

As a trans person myself, I can offer a personal point of view. Gender dysphoria is something that a lot of people don’t understand. People who don’t suffer from it don’t and will never understand the effect that it can have on a person’s mental health. We’re facing a mental health epidemic amongst young trans people. Parents should get to see their children thrive. They shouldn’t have to cry over their child’s gravestone because they were denied basic gender identity treatment by the national health body that is meant to support them.

This decision will harm trans people. That’s not an assumption, or a prediction, but rather, a fact. Our lives are being questioned daily. We can’t read the news without wondering if tomorrow, we’ll wake up and our existence will be at risk. The ban has been influenced by political pressure, not even taking fully into consideration trans children’s best interests.

Waiting lists being too long has been an issue that has been apparent for years, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. It may seem as though I’m being dramatic by saying that long waiting lists are going to cost lives, but that has already been proven in recent years. In April 2022, the body of a 15-year-old trans man, Jason Pulman, was found in East Sussex. He had told his friend that he was planning to end his life after he was told he was going to have to wait 26 months for his first appointment at a gender identity clinic, but police officers still only classed his disappearance as “medium risk” with “nothing to suggest immediate risk of suicide”. Not only was this a failing on the part of the Sussex Police, but also on the part of the NHS services for trans people.

Unsurprisingly, people affected by the report are wholeheartedly against it. Our voices aren’t being listened to now, and as it turns out, they weren’t when it was being written either.

pro trans protest
Thiago Rocha, Unsplash

Sean Donovan, a 19-year-old trans man, was part of the focus group that was spoken to for the review. He says that a lot of the report didn’t resonate with trans people at all and that it felt as though trans people’s positive experiences had been completely ignored by it.

“I was actually surprised at how much of the discussions we had didn’t seem to translate into [the report],” he said. “It took a lot of time and energy to share in that experience, and then it's kind of come out, and that's not being fully listened to.”

He added: “There's very little in [the report] about how to support trans kids. It's all about how do we identify if they're really trans. It medicalises the process, it makes trans children out to have something wrong with them that needs to be solved.”

Sean said that he had to access hormone treatment privately because of the long wait times on the NHS. This is something that a lot of trans people can resonate with, myself included.

I knew that I was trans years ago and began my social transition. I spoke to my GP, and I was put on the waiting list for gender-affirming care over four years ago. Despite this, I had to access private care, completely independent of the NHS, because if I didn’t, I wholeheartedly believe that I wouldn’t be here right now. Throughout my life, I’ve suffered from depression and having gender dysphoria amplifies that by a hundred. If I hadn't transitioned, another family would have been without a child. If I had waited for the NHS to treat me, I would have been a sitting duck for another two years, suffering from a condition that so many struggle to understand.

By the time you’re finished reading this, I want you to understand more about the struggles that my community goes through and how important it is that you show your support at a time when we’re being made the villains. We are not a political weapon, yet this always seems to be the case.

We’ve already heard from the Labour and the Conservatives, but the Scottish Family Party are another group that have made our identities one of their key pushing points in elections.

During the 2023 Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, the Family Party took to the streets of Rutherglen with signs debating our identities. A peaceful counter-protest was prodded by the anti-charismatic leader of the party as he held up a piece of cardboard reading a blatantly transphobic slogan. Their website says, “A man can’t become a woman, and a woman can’t become a man”, but who are they to decide that? No political party should decide if someone can change their gender. Imagine the outrage if a political party were to claim that a person can’t love someone of the same sex.

But there’s no point arguing with these people because they will truly never learn. Trans people have been around for a long time and will continue to exist, whether certain individuals like it or not.

The new ruling to ban hormone blockers for under-18s is a disgrace to a country that we are expected to thrive in. People can’t be who they truly are because of people who don’t understand the struggles that they go through. Whether we’ll ever get through to them, I suppose we’ll never know, but I’ve got one message that should resonate – The blood of trans people is on your hands.

Content Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VoiceBox, affiliates, and our partners. We are a nonpartisan platform amplifying youth voices on the topics they are passionate about.

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