Women’s Minister Victoria Atkins has said she is “cautious” about the use of hormone treatments and surgery for young people who question their gender.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Atkins noted the recent rise in teenagers identifying as transgender and said that “we need to get down to the reasons why this is happening”.
The Tavistock Clinic – the only NHS unit specialising in gender dysphoria in children – received 314 referrals in 2012-13, but this has rocketed to 2,519 in 2017-18.
Atkins said: “It may simply be a case of greater awareness” of the issue.
She went on to say: “We need to be particularly alert to this with regard to young people.
“The treatments are so serious and life-changing, I’m a little cautious of the use of those treatments because of the potential for the rest of their lives.”
Transgender activists promptly attacked Mrs Atkins, calling her comments “damaging”.
However, many others defended Atkins, and accused the activists of attempting to shut down debate.
Former Children’s Minister Tim Loughton MP said she was “absolutely right” to urge caution over rushing children into life-changing therapies and surgeries.
He said: “My concern is that those who have a political agenda seem to want to sacrifice the welfare of children on the altar of political correctness and equalities whereas every child needs to be respected and supported in their own right.”
James Caspian, a psychotherapist who specialises in working with transgender people, had research into ‘detransitioning’ blocked by Bath Spa University last year.
He said that whenever concerns are raised over transgender issues, “this lobby come out and just attack the people who are saying it rather than taking on board what they are saying and discussing it.”
Frank Furedi, Emeritus Professor of sociology at Kent University, added: “There is an assumption that there’s only one truth, one story you can tell and anyone who raises doubt or caution is immediately dismissed as a violator of human rights.”
And backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said Mrs Atkins had approached the issue in a “mild and thoughtful way”, saying: “It is unfortunate that others have responded to her comments so aggressively in the hope that they can shut down debate.”
Columnist James Kirkup said that in 20 years he has never come across an issue on which so few senior people are so reluctant “to air publicly their private concerns”.
Last month a Cabinet minister told Kirkup: “There are real issues here, and I’d like to speak about them, but frankly, I’m scared to.”
He praised Atkins for speaking out, saying: “The ‘caution’ Mrs Atkins spoke of is not transphobia, just common sense.
“By speaking as she has, the minister has done her job and served the public interest. Others in politics should follow her example and speak out, too.”