Children as young as nine could be given drugs to block puberty in order to prepare them for sex change surgery.
An NHS trust that specialises in treating children diagnosed with ‘gender identity disorder’ is to offer treatment which suppresses the production of testosterone and oestrogen and prevents sexual organs maturing.
But critics have raised serious concerns about the plans, as research shows that most children who say they want to change their sex decide against it later.
Peter Saunders, head of the Christian Medical Fellowship, pointed to Canadian specialist Ken Zucker who says just twelve per cent of boys and girls with ‘gender dysphoria’ will continue to have the condition into adulthood.
Saunders warned: “This fact alone should lead even the most committed supporters of early intervention to err strongly on the side of caution.”
He argued that therapy should be “aimed at helping people to adjust mentally to accepting the bodies they were born with” rather than “changing bodies (using hormones and surgery) to match a person’s beliefs”.
And Conservative MP Andrew Percy said: “I think many people will be horrified at the thought of a nine-year-old being provided with a drug that effectively stops them developing and maturing naturally.”
Doctors at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust announced that the hormone-suppressing drugs will be made available to younger children following a three-year trial involving 12-14 year olds.
Dr Polly Carmichael, who led the trial, said decisions will now be based on the ‘stage’ of sexual development rather than age.
“If they started puberty aged nine or ten instead of 12, as long as they’re monitored and the bone density doesn’t suffer, then it is right that the aim is to stop the development of secondary sex characteristics.”
Only eight of the 32 children who took part in the trial went on to start the sex change process.
The Daily Mail has highlighted the story of one mother whose 16-year-old daughter will be be taking testosterone as part of the sex change process – she says her child is too young to make such a life-changing decision.
The mother told the newspaper: “At a time when she needed stability, support and constancy, she is facing a wholesale, radical — possibly irrevocable — change in her identity.”
“Against my will and with alarming rapidity, my daughter was referred to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust clinic in North London, the UK’s only specialist centre for youngsters diagnosed with gender dysphoria”, she explained.
She said that psychiatrists then announced “with certainty” that her daughter had the condition and from “this point, it seems, the die was cast”.