Opinion: Trans Pride Southampton statement on puberty blockers

Opinion: Trans Pride Southampton statement on puberty blockers

By Trans Pride Southampton.

Recently it was announced that NHS England will no longer offer puberty blockers, primarily gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists but also other medicines, to transgender youths and youths who are uncertain about their gender. This news is upsetting to a lot of people, Trans Pride Southampton empathises with the children who face years long waiting lists to now hear that their options are being further restricted.

 Puberty blockers have been used since the 80s in medicine. Children that begin puberty too young (precocious puberty) can be upset by bodily changes children around them are not experiencing, as well as risk having their final adult height diminished. Puberty blockers can then be administered to prevent the continuation of puberty until the child is ready for these bodily changes. Trans youths can also share the experience that they may be distressed by the way their body is changing just like a child undergoing a precocious puberty – yet now only the cisgender child can have their bodily discomfort addressed and treatment whereas the trans child cannot with medicine.

 The reason NHS England has halted the prescription of puberty blockers has been said that there is not enough evidence to support the safety or clinical effectiveness of the puberty blockers for the medicines to be prescribed any longer. Again, we must assert that these medicines have been used (and used safely) for a very long time. One study published in 2015 studying the long term affect of GnRH analogues (another puberty blockers) documented many points suggesting the medicine is safe. Puberty restarted within one year of ceasing use of the blockers, showing this treatment is perfectly reversible if a youth decided to continue the puberty their body will go through without intervention. There were bone mineral density decreases (a point often raised to lobby against their use), however on cessation of the medicine bone mineral density then returned to normal levels – this would happen with a child using this treatment for gender dysphoria by again letting their puberty resume or by growing old enough to decide to progress to hormone replacement therapy. Kim, E.Y. (2015) Long-term effects of gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogs in girls with central precocious puberty, Korean journal of pediatrics. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4342775/ (Accessed: 21 March 2024).

 The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) supports the use of puberty blockers so long as the potential risks of the treatment is both discussion with the young person and mitigated in holistic medical care. They state the use of puberty blockers can be justified to both give a child time to decide if their future, and also help a trans young person who will not have to combat unwanted masculinisation or feminisation from puberty that can be irreversible from other transgender healthcare or expensive to undo.

 NHS England has said that they will start trials to determine the safety of the use of puberty blockers. Whilst we and many other organisations disagree with the necessity of these trials, we expect NHS England to start and complete these trials as quickly as possible so that young trans people can have life saving treatment.

 At the end of 2023, the government released its guidance on handling schoolchildren who wish to change their name, preferred pronouns and gender in school. This guidance has told teachers that they do not “need” to respect a pupils preferred pronouns, and any changes a child wants to make to their name must be addressed in a conversation to their parents. Trans Pride Southampton encourages people to respond to the consultation to this guidance to address the bureaucratisation that infringes allowing trans youths to express and be themselves compared to any other youth. The sum of this consultation (that trans people need to be referred to their parents for permission to use a preferred name and their gender is respected at the discretion of individual teachers) as well as this news about lifesaving healthcare for trans youths being reduced from being behind years long waiting lists, to now inaccessible unless you can afford private healthcare, sends a very clear message to transgender people in the UK:

 If we come out, if we make a fuss, make a noise, have our hair too long, or replace a stiff upper lip for a smile, a lot of powerful people become upset. As it has been said many times before, being yourself is a form of protest.

 These are tough times for our young brothers, sisters and other kin right now. So please make sure the trans people in your life are comfortable and know they’re loved. Use their preferred name, pronouns, and if any of their teachers feel empowered by the new trans pupil guidance to be transphobic, let them know you will not tolerate bullying. It does save lives.

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