The past year has seen a rise in anti-trans legislation around the world, driven by misinformation and political prejudices. These laws target trans people, and particularly young trans people, by making their treatment a criminal offence.
- In March the Alabama State Senate narrowly avoided a bill that would make it a felony for doctors to provide gender-affirming care to trans youth.
- North Carolina considered a bill that would outlaw trans healthcare for everyone under the age of 21.
- In the UK, the December 2020 ruling of Bell v Tavistock led to the abrupt withdrawal of care from thousands of trans young people, and a sudden shutdown of all new referrals.
- In Sweden, Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital stopped prescribing puberty blockers to patients under the age of 16 and cited the Tavistock judgement.
But around the world, doctors are fighting back – even though it puts their careers and livelihoods in danger. In the US, for instance, the National Center for Transgender Equality is advocating for trans people, and emphasising the unconstitutionality of discrimination in healthcare. In the UK, campaigning by the Good Law Project and trans advocate groups, including GenderGP, has led to the recent overturning of the Bell v Tavistock judgement. The recent MPTS hearing of Dr Helen Webberley has brought this issue into the public eye, exposing both the inadequacy of the current system of transgender healthcare and the difficulties faced by doctors trying to support their trans patients.
The authors of the conservative bills claim they are protecting children. But, as this article in The Lancet has pointed out, the rhetoric of ‘protecting the children’ is often used to stoke fear and promote conservative agendas without any real interest in the wellbeing of young people. All medical evidence points to the benefits of timely gender-affirming interventions in trans young people: reductions in suicidality, improvement of behavioural issues, and better future physical and mental health outcomes. The people with the best interests of children at heart are the doctors who are willing to listen to them and support their needs.
These bills harm, rather than protect children. But we can still support and protect children by ensuring they get access to the medical support they need, and by standing with the doctors who risk their careers to help them. We can protect them by standing up for trans futures now, even as policy makers and legislators try to shut them down. Our founder, Dr Helen Webberley, has faced criminal charges herself for trying to provide better transgender care, but she has refused to compromise on her principles. If the GMC are truly committed to improving the standard of medical care in the UK, they must vindicate Dr Webberley and her work. No one should be considered a criminal for helping young people in need.
If you’re a healthcare professional and you want to learn more about supporting trans and non-binary people, there are lots of resources in our Medical Hub. Alternatively, you can reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.