The Minister for Women and Equalities has announced several changes to gender law, including restricting irreversible treatments for under-18s, to mixed response.
Liz Truss MP suggested that under-18s may soon be unable to have sex-change surgery, that single-sex spaces would be protected, and that transgender adults should be free “to lead their lives as they see fit”, but did not provide any detail on how the Government would proceed.
She made the comments to the Women and Equalities Select Committee now that the Government has analysed responses to its public consultation on the Gender Recognition Act.
Currently, children under 16 usually need parental consent for sex-change medication, but Liz Truss MP said she wanted to restrict minors’ access to irreversible treatments.
Truss told MPs that under-18s should be “protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future.
“I believe strongly that adults should have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit, but I think it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions.”
Her comments could go beyond surgery and also include the use of puberty-blocking drugs and infertility-causing cross-sex hormones.
Truss also said the protection of single-sex spaces was on her agenda, which she considers “extremely important”.
Her comments on single-sex spaces will be welcomed by women’s campaigners, who have long said that women and girls must be protected from men entering private spaces simply by ‘identifying’ as female.
The Minister appeared to give more licence to adults, saying she wanted to make sure “transgender adults are free to live their lives as they wish” but also said there would be “proper checks and balances in the system”.
She suggested the Government would make an announcement on the response to the consultation and how it will proceed “by the summer”.
Ciarán Kelly, Deputy Director for Communications at The Christian Institute, was cautious about Truss’s comments.
“While we welcome the Minister’s statement that under-18s will not be able to undergo life-altering treatments, it leaves a number of questions unanswered.
“Will the restrictions be limited to surgery? Or will they also include other treatments such as puberty blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones?
“Children and teenagers are being deeply affected by these drugs, which can lead to infertility. Young people cannot genuinely consent to treatments like this and should not be asked to.”
Mr Kelly added: “It is also difficult to see how the Minister can reconcile her promise to protect single-sex spaces with her desire for adults to be able to do as they please.
“It’s not just children who regret going down the transgender path, many adults do as well.
“The fact is that it is not possible to change biological sex, and that needs to be the foundation of the Government’s considerations going forward.”