Parents allowing their children to ‘change gender’ could be doing more harm than good, NHS experts say.
Activist groups such as Mermaids demand that a child’s assertion that they were born in ‘the wrong body’ is affirmed from as early an age as possible, but experts are urging caution.
They say allowing a child to change their name, wear clothes of the opposite sex, and use the opposite pronouns, could lead to more serious issues later in life.
Dr Bernadette Wren, Head of Clinical Psychology at Tavistock, the NHS’s only gender identity clinic for children, said that while the clinic promotes ‘watchful waiting’, parents are often in a rush to affirm their child’s decision.
She explained that by allowing their children to ‘socially transition’, parents may be leading them into greater problems when the child enters puberty and is hit by a “wall of reality”.
She said: “We have never recommended complete social transitioning, but it has become a really popular thing and many advocacy groups really promote it.
“We take the long view because our concern has been that what might work to lower anxiety in a younger child may become the thing that is problematic when they get older.
Dr Wren continued: “We think that is setting up problems for later. There is no magic solution. Some families think the social transition means it is all going to be fine, but it is much more complicated.”
“There are some families where they will talk about a hate crime if you get the pronoun wrong with a very young child who has made a social transition.”
Director of Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service Dr Polly Carmichael also said that some parents are being misled by outside sources.
She said: “There are some families where they will talk about a hate crime if you get the pronoun wrong with a very young child who has made a social transition.
“There are internet forums where parents talk and, if a parent has a good experience of something, other parents will follow.”
The Gender Identity Development Service came under fire earlier this year when it was accused of hiding bad results of research of its experimental use of puberty-blocking drugs.
The Tavistock clinic claimed the effects of the drugs are “reversible” and that the results “have been positive”.
Yet the clinic’s own unpublished study revealed “a significant increase” in the number of adolescents who said they “deliberately try to hurt or kill themselves”.
Parents also reported “a significant increase in behavioural and emotional problems” and “a significant decrease in physical wellbeing” in girls.