Statement on the Bell v Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust High Court Ruling

We were deeply concerned to hear about the High Court judgement in the Bell v Tavistock & Portman case earlier this week. 

This ruling has already and will continue to have a profoundly detrimental impact on the health and well-being of young trans people and their families. Access to puberty blockers can be a life-saving medical intervention for some young people, as well as being a reversible one, and can provide the space and time for them to explore their gender in a safe and comfortable way. Blocking access is not a neutral or protective action: it will force the effects of natural puberty on many young trans people, causing immense distress in the process. 

The model of care relied on by the GIDS and other under-18s gender identity services (for instance KOI in Northern Ireland) are not perfect: they are overly interrogative, prescriptive, and rather than providing a safe space for individuals to explore their gender and promoting person-centred care they employ a one-size-fits-all approach which creates barriers to care for many trans young people.

Young people accessing our services, as well as parents who have reached out to us for support, have expressed their concerns about the overly interrogative practices employed by these clinics, and the strict assessment criteria they adhere to, creating an environment within which young people can’t be honest about their experiences and identity for fear of being denied access to care. 

The implications of this ruling go further than trans communities. This attack on the concept of Gillick competency – the measure by which young people are deemed able to consent to healthcare – will have wide-ranging implications for access to reproductive & sexual healthcare services generally, especially access to terminations for young people who need them. 

Those who detransition deserve love, support and acceptance. That will not be achieved through placing further barriers in the way of young trans people accessing the care they need, nor by increasing the rigour of interrogation they are put through. It will be achieved by creating services which respect and affirm the wants, needs, and feelings of those who access them, providing the time and space for them to explore who they are.