Liz Truss reveals ‘shocking’ plan to remove healthcare for trans youth, slammed as an ‘extraordinary’ attack on equality
Conservative equalities minister Liz Truss set out her plan for reforms to the Gender Recognition Act yesterday, alarming LGBT+ rights organisations and the parents of vulnerable trans children.
Truss, who dislikes “identity politics” and wants to rename the government equalities office the “ministry of freedom“, made the comments in a virtual session of the women and equalities select committee on April 22.
The committee is chaired by Caroline Nokes – a Tory MP who voted against equal marriage in 2013.
Reforming gender recognition laws could make it simpler, easier and cheaper for transgender people to update the legal gender on their birth certificate.
More than 53,000 people took part in a comprehensive public consultation on reforms to the GRA in 2018, but the government has still not published those responses.
Truss said the government would be ready to “launch” its plan this summer.
Several successive equalities ministers have also promised to publish both the government’s response and its proposals for reforming the GRA only to then repeatedly kick those plans into the long grass.
Truss said that the government response led by her would be following “three very important principles”.
“First of all, the protection of single-sex spaces, which is extremely important,” Truss said.
“Secondly making sure that transgender adults are free to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution, while maintaining the proper checks and balances in the system.
“Finally, which is not a direct issue concerning the Gender Recognition Act, but is relevant, making sure that the under 18s are 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.”
Worryingly, only one of the three principles set out by Truss actually relates to GRA reform.
The other two – the protection of single-sex spaces for women and access to healthcare for transgender youth – are talking points often repeated by those opposed to trans rights in any form.
LGBT+ rights organisations and parents of transgender children have spoken out about their alarm at Truss’ conflation of healthcare for trans kids with reform to the law by which trans adults can update the legal gender on their birth certificate.
Liz Truss' move to restrict healthcare access for trans young people is one of the most damaging policy moves for trans rights in the UK in recent memory.
This was done without consultation, is without legal basis and will be fought all the way. https://t.co/5giKq935oE
— Ellen Murray #GoodBboy (@ellenfromnowon) April 22, 2020
Liz Truss and her comments on healthcare for trans kids spark ‘concern, shock and distress’ from parents.
“As the parent of a trans child, I am incredibly concerned about Liz Truss’ statement that young trans people need to be ‘protected from decisions that they could make that are irreversible in the future’,” Helen, who has a trans son, told PinkNews.
“My child has just as much right to body autonomy as a teenager seeking contraception, or an abortion, or rejecting vaccination… all of which can have irreversible consequences.
“Removing access to researched, provable treatment from trans youth would be devastating and would be in violation of equality laws.”
The dad of a trans child told PinkNews that his family is “shocked and distressed” by Liz Truss’ comments about the provision of healthcare to trans kids.
“Fully reversible puberty blockers, partially irreversible cross sex hormones and gender confirmation surgeries are the gold standard for trans healthcare,” he said.
“The international guidelines from the Endocrine Society makes clear that most adolescents have the capacity to give consent at age 16 and there may be compelling reasons to initiate hormone treatment at 13 or 14 years as practiced around the world.”
“I do not think it is a coincidence that this comes during the COVID pandemic,” he added.
“In recent weeks, we have seen internationally countries using the lockdown to curb human rights, including specific attacks on transgender rights in Hungary and heavily criticised legislation in India.
“If the UK government is enacting policy which limits access to healthcare for Gillick and Fraser competent adolescents, including trans youth, we will look to challenge this using the fullest extent of the law.”
He pointed out that in Australia, anti-trans right-wing groups and the Murdoch press have similarly been lobbying to restrict healthcare for trans kids.
This week, Australia’s health minister rejected the calls of the anti-trans lobby for a national inquiry into trans kids healthcare, saying that such a probe would further harm an already vulnerable group.
LGBT+ organisations call equalities minister’s statement ‘extraordinary’.
Mermaids, a charity that supports trans and gender-questioning youth and their families, said in a statement that this is an “extraordinary move” from the government.
“It would be an extraordinary move for the minister for women and equalities to support the introduction of a new form of inequality into British medical practice, by effectively treating transgender teenagers as less capable than their cisgender peers.
“We believe that transgender young people should have the same right to make important personal decisions as non-trans people.
“Furthermore, we must question why Ms Truss is making a statement about clinical pathways while answering a question on the Gender Recognition Act, which has no bearing on medical care.”
Healthcare for trans kids usually includes psychological support and family counselling, and can include access to puberty-blocking medication when trans children approach puberty.
Puberty blockers delay puberty until a trans teenager is old enough to make decisions about having gender-affirming medical treatment.
The treatment has been used for decades and a landmark scientific study earlier this year found that access to the drugs is “life-saving” for trans teenagers.
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Laura Russell, director of campaigns, policy and research at LGBT+ rights organisation Stonewall, said: “While it’s good to hear the government will set out its proposals for next steps on reform of the Gender Recognition Act, we’re concerned about comments that relate to protecting trans people who are under 18 from making ‘irreversible decisions’.
“We’d welcome an opportunity to discuss this with the minister, as it’s crucial all young people who are questioning their gender identity are able to access high-quality, timely support.
“Every trans young person should be given the care they need, in an informed and supportive manner, so they’re able to lead a happy, healthy life.”
The government equalities office declined to add to Truss’ comments.