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CW: self-harm. This episode contains a single description of self-harm scars from 42.05-42.25.

On this episode of the GenderGP podcast, Marianne and Helen are joined by the mum of a trans child. She shares her story of the challenges they’ve faced, the journey they’ve been on together, and the brave child at the heart of it.

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Links:

Giving trans youth a voice with Dr Anna Carlile | The GenderGP Podcast

The NHS MUST listen to trans youth impacted by failures | GenderGP

 

We help teenagers who have nowhere else to turn

 

The GenderGP Podcast

Fighting For Care For My Trans Child

 

Helen Webberley:
So hi everyone. I’m here today with Marianne as always. Hi Marianne. And I have a mum of a trans person here with us today called Lindsay. Hi Lindsay.

Lindsay Game:
Hello.

Helen Webberley:
Welcome to the GenderGP podcast. Really, as I always do, I’m just going to hand it over to you. Tell us who you are. Tell us a little bit about you and your family and what’s been happening really.

Lindsay Game:
Okay so my name’s Lindsay. I’ve got a 10 year old son who is Danny and he’s transgender. He transitioned at the age of five, so quite young. We’ve been with Tavistock and Portman now for four years. And Dan is now at the stage of wanting to be on hormone blockers. He’s been sort of asking for these for about a year now. And it’s been such a hard journey for all of us. I think the support that we’ve had has been quite minimal and it’s, it’s been a really lonely journey as a parent. So my objective really is to give an honest chat about what it’s been like for us, and hopefully pave the way to change things for the future for these young children that are going through this.

Helen Webberley:
Oh, well, thank you. Thank you for joining us to tell us your story. So you say he was five when he came out. Can you tell us a bit about what happened, how people will say, “goodness gracious, that’s young”.

Lindsay Game:
I know.

Helen Webberley:
But we all know that that’s what happens. So (inaudible) tell us all about Danny.

Lindsay Game:
So definitely not a bolt out of the blue. Danny was always a very beautiful girl, beautiful blonde curly hair. I always dressed her. She’s my first child. You know, my first daughter, I always dressed her in beautiful dresses, pigtails, and she hated it right from a young, young age. She used to pull her pigtails out. As soon as we’d get home, she’d take her dresses off and put on her football kits. She was always a very sort of boisterous girl, always climbing trees, getting dirty in the mud, even as young as I’d say under two, when I used to take Danny to toddler groups, Danny would always choose the boys things to play with. So he would always dress up as a builder. And I just, you know, accepted Danny for who Danny was, didn’t think anything of it. The older he got he used to comment when he was about four, about sort of look at my winky and things like that. And again, I didn’t think much of it. I just thought, you know, he’s got cousins that are boys and they were really close and open about things. It was when I remember thinking and having a chat to Danny’s dad, we’re no longer married, but Danny’s dad and said, don’t be surprised one day, if Danny grows up to be maybe a lesbian because I could just see it in her. You know, there was nothing really girly about her and yeah, Danny started school in year R, and that’s when I really saw a change in his mood and personality. It was a really difficult time. He was only five and he just became so angry and down and I’d say violent, but not towards me. It was more towards himself and just not himself. And I couldn’t work out what was wrong. It mainly was around the morning time when we’d get ready for school. And obviously, you know, as the mum with her daughter going to school for the first time, he had all the beautiful pinafores and the shiny shoes and the pretty socks and everything. This sort of change in his personality went on for about six months. And it was really upsetting and distressing to see. And I didn’t know what it was. He would trash his room and things. And I remember he had a pencil one day and he was trying to hurt himself with the pencil and I was absolutely distraught, because I didn’t know how to support him. And then he just came out one morning after trashing his room again and said, “Mum, I’m not a girl. I’m a boy”. My reaction was so calm because I just thought if that’s what this has been about, then I can help you. It didn’t matter. And that was really the start of it all.

Helen Webberley:
Amazing. So had you heard of this before? Did you, I mean, you’d obviously said to Danny’s dad that maybe he’s going to be a lesbian. Had you heard of the transgender word? Did you know what that’s about?

Lindsay Game:
No, I remember speaking to Danny’s school because Danny quite quickly changed from being the girl that we all knew, and he didn’t want to be called Daniella at school. He didn’t want long hair. He didn’t want to wear girls’ clothes. And I spoke to the SENCO at school and she, after a little while said, “I’m going to refer you to the gender identity clinic”. And I was like, Oh, okay. And she said, they look after transgender children. And I said, but Danny’s not transgender. And she said, okay, well maybe look into that and you know, sort of have a, have a think about it. So I remember going home thinking, well, that’s ridiculous. You know, Danny’s, I think it’s just because I didn’t understand it. You know, in my mind, transgender was people that had gone for a sex change. That’s how I understood it. I was completely wrong, completely naive. So I went home, looked to Tavistock and Portman and read up about transgender youth. And I thought, Oh my God, Danny’s transgender. So that was the start of it. So, no, I didn’t know the word I knew of it. I didn’t really understand it.

Helen Webberley:
It’s just interesting, isn’t it? I guess Danny didn’t do that word either. So, you know, when people say, Oh, you know, mums are persuading kids to be transgender or, or kids have learnt it from somewhere else and go, “Oh, that sounds cool, I’ll do it”. It sounds like this notion for Danny that he was a boy, not a girl. And certainly it was just something deep inside him.

Lindsay Game:
Hmm, absolutely. You hit the nail on the head really, with us, there has been no persuasion or anything. It’s interesting. People sort of say to me, when I say about Danny’s journey, they say, “Oh, that’s young”. And my instinct now, when I say he was five, is to defend him and justify it. But you shouldn’t have to do that. You know, children know who they are from a young age, Danny and I have had conversations. And he said to me, when he was five, he said, when I was born and they gave me to you, they said, here’s your daughter. And he said they were wrong. They should have said, here’s your son. And I remember these conversations. That’s just a one-off conversation. There’s been more of them. You can’t put those words into a child’s mouth. They come up with that themselves. You know, he wasn’t open to watching YouTube and things like that with these conversations and these stories. So this is how he felt deep inside. And he was quite able to articulate that.

Marianne Oakes:
I just think it’s fascinating Lindsay really that if you don’t mind me using the word, you’re naivety, even when he came to you and said, I’m a boy, “Oh, okay”. But not thinking transgender, not thinking anything beyond, we can cut your hair and we can dress you in different clothes, that’ll be fine. You weren’t even thinking about the long term, at that stage. It was just to actually stop him trashing his room and make him feel better in the moment.

Lindsay Game:
Absolutely. I think as a parent, your instinct is to want your child to be happy. And I don’t care what that means with Danny, as long as he’s safe and he’s doing the right thing and he’s polite and all these lovely things that you expect from your children. If he wants to live in the body that he feels is his true gender, and if that makes him happy and stops him feeling depressed and sad and angry, then I will support that.

Helen Webberley:
So, instead of the pretty pinafores and the socks and the curls, was there a transition or an immediate change? What happened then?

Lindsay Game:
It really quick actually the first thing we did was went and got his hair cut. And for me, that was really hard. It was a real difficult moment, but it was also, it was sort of mixed with happiness as well, cause I could see his face, you know? I remember him sitting there and telling the hairdresser exactly what he wanted. And he said, I want it really short. I don’t want long hair and I want this, and he’s always known what he wants. He’s really proud of his appearance. And I just remember seeing all the hair falling on the floor and I was trying not to cry, but I knew it was what he wanted. And that’s what I had to go with. And from there it very quickly escalated or maybe escalated is the wrong word, but transitioned. He then obviously didn’t want to wear dresses to school. And I said, that’s fine. Didn’t want to wear girls’ shoes. That’s fine. Didn’t want to be called Daniella. That’s fine. Didn’t want to be called ‘she’ at school. And I think that that’s when I kind of thought, oh, okay, this is a little bit more than I realized, but still, you know, it was very open and I was very much led by what he was asking me and what he wanted. There was a time he, I remember obviously at school, his clothes were very boy, they were all boy clothes, but his home clothes were all girl clothes, cause his wardrobe was full of girls’ clothes. And I noticed that he was only wearing specific clothes that weren’t pink and weren’t girly. And he said, “Mum, can we go shopping?” And I said, yeah, of course we can. We’ll go to, you know, the weekend. So I took him into Primark and I said, right, darling, you can go anywhere you like I remember being in the middle of the girls and the boys section and I said, you, you go wherever you want to go, it’s fine, and you choose whatever you want. He was so excited to be able to go to the boys section. And he said, “can I get anything?” And I said, yeah, anything, you know, and I was sort of following him around with the basket. And he picked up like a boys top and he said, “am I allowed this?” And I said, yeah, of course you can, and we put it in the basket. And it was like a child in a candy shop. Like finally being able to have anything they want. And again, as a mum, it was bittersweet. You know, it was such an emotional moment. And again, that was another realization that this isn’t just Danny one day wanting to be a boy, you know, it might change, it might not, but it was more confirmation that this is really who he is.

Marianne Oakes:
It’s a deeply profound sense of self for Danny from just listening to you talk there, there was no question in Danny’s mind. Would that be fair to say? And the only questions were in the mind of everybody else?

Lindsay Game:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, to be honest, his school friends were absolutely wonderful. The acceptance he had was amazing. Nobody questioned it. He had nobody at all question his change. It was just, Danny’s Danny, you know, and it’s lovely. And the parents as well were so supportive. And I remember sort of saying to some really close friends who were the parents, some of the parents, if you’ve got any questions, come and talk to me, don’t feel that you can’t because I didn’t want them feeling uncomfortable, but they’ve always been supportive. And to this day, those friends are still supportive. We’re really fortunate.

Helen Webberley:
I mean, I’m smiling from ear to ear at the kind of ease that Danny had. So he had a difficult time. You know, obviously starting school as a girl was a clear marker for him and, and a very difficult time, which comes out in behavior, which it is, it sounds like you had amazing support from school from the same co-teacher the from school friends, school parents that must’ve made things really so much simpler for you. What about you? Cause you lost your daughter and had to now accept a son. Did you get any support?

Lindsay Game:
No, I didn’t at all. I remember it being a very lonely time and a very scary time because I didn’t have a clue other than my parental instincts. I didn’t have a clue on how to support Danny with the whole transgender journey. I know when we got accepted with Tavistock and Portman, I was told that there’s a waiting list. And at that time it was a year and that felt like forever because I just assumed we would be referred, would be seen and all the support would be in place for us. And sadly that wasn’t the case. It was a really lonely time.

Helen Webberley:
What about the Tavistock, you got there after your, your year wait, what happened? Tell us about your journey through the Tavistock.

Lindsay Game:
The first meeting, I had quite high expectations because I’d waited such a long time for it. Prior to the meeting, I just want to step back a bit, we were sent a lot of paperwork and it was very frustrating because Danny was referred to a she all the way through it. And I remember feeling really frustrated by that and thinking, that’s quite insensitive cause I was struggling, you know, and I had to consciously think of Danny as a ‘he’ and to see the paperwork was she, she, she, that was quite upsetting. The first meeting, personally, I felt like it was all about safeguarding, which I get, you know, I absolutely get that, that you’ve got to look after the children, but it was only an hour, you know, we traveled from Basingstoke to London. So that’s quite a trek really. And to have a one hour appointment after waiting so long when you’ve got so many questions. Yeah. And also they didn’t meet Danny, which I didn’t understand either because I was there for him, you know, that’s why we were there to support him and they didn’t want to see him at that meeting.

Marianne Oakes:
Wow. What was that reasoning? Did they say?

Lindsay Game:
Danny’s age. They quoted so many times about children. I can’t remember the exact statistics. I won’t say it, but it was so many children out of so many children revert back to their birth gender. The advice was to keep things neutral, keep it open. Don’t use he or she pronouns. It was really a case of, you know, being down in the middle of it for Danny. That’s what the advice was. And I remember coming away feeling really like nervous, really? Like what if I say the wrong thing? What if I say, ‘he’ instead of ‘they’, and for the next few months I had to really filter everything I needed to say to him in case I said, ‘he’, or ‘him’ because I was advised not to. And I remember that being so hard because when you talk about anybody, you always say he/she or, you know, you use the pronoun don’t you. And that was really tricky.

Marianne Oakes:
Yeah. I’m imagining actually that just feels like a judgment on somebody’s parenting as well, that to make sure that you weren’t coercing Danny in any kind of way, or influencing Danny in any kind of way. And I think just listening to you, sorry for the few minutes we’ve been talking, Danny couldn’t have been clearer about who he was, and that wasn’t being taken into account, would that be fair to say?

Lindsay Game:
Do you know what? I’ve never looked at it like that, but I think you could be right there because that didn’t just happen at that first meeting, that happened at many meetings that I had with Tavistock, I know there was a situation, a time when we were going on holiday and I needed to get a new passport for Danny. And Danny had lived as a male for about two years at this point. And I wanted their advice and said, you know, what do I do? Because obviously the going abroad, we were going to America, to many different places in America. And Danny didn’t look anything like his passport photo. And I didn’t want it to be a problem for Danny, you know, to be questioned like, well, you, you’re not that person. And that says she and you’re a he and I sort of asked their help. And again, I was advised to keep it neutral. There’s no real need to change the gender on the birth certificate. I actually ended up changing Danny’s name by deed poll just from Daniella to Danny, because I couldn’t let him experience the difficulties that I could foresee with not having that paperwork in place.

Marianne Oakes:
You mentioned Lindsay, it felt like you were in a lonely place thing. You’ve mentioned loneliness of a couple of times and it’s just a little part of me just feels that when you went to the Tavistock, you were hoping to feel a little less lonely, but somehow you came away probably still feeling lonely. Would that be fair to say?

Lindsay Game:
It’s been quite distressing experience, I personally feel. Danny’s dad feels completely different, he respects what they say and thinks we should be guided by what they tell us. That, as a parent, I feel completely different. I can’t, I can’t allow Danny to not have hormone blockers until he’s experienced periods. This is the advice I’ve been given. Sorry, it chokes me up thinking about it. So for the last year and a bit, the meetings with Tavistock, Danny, hasn’t been, he’s been once to Tavistock to see them, once in the whole time we’ve been with them and he’s been seen twice on zoom and it is so frustrating that Tavistock feel they have got enough knowledge about my child by seeing him three times to make these decisions about his future. It’s wrong. It’s absolutely wrong. And before I have any meeting with Tavistock, I always say to Danny, I always have done, have you got any questions? And he’s always said to me, “when can I start the tablets?” He associated hormone blockers as tablets. That’s just how he interpreted it. So I’d always say, to Tavistock, you know, Danny’s got a question: when can he start hormone blockers? And I was always told, “when that time comes, we will support you with that”. And I had complete faith that they would, but sadly, that hasn’t happened. A meeting in the last year, I mentioned hormone blockers, I said, Danny’s developing. He’s definitely at Tanner stage two. I asked if there’s a blood test that they could do to see whether he was going through puberty. And I was advised that there isn’t a blood test available to check that, which isn’t true because you can check that. And I’ve now been told by Tavistock that they would expect Danny to go through puberty, have periods, and then they will put him on the pathway to consider hormone blockers.

Now we all know that that pathway, isn’t a quick pathway. I’ve had to make a complaint against one of our caseworkers at Tavistock, because I mentioned to her that I contacted GenderGP to sort out hormone blockers for Danny, because I had to, and I was advised heavily not to go with GenderGP because they’ve been struck off, this, that and the other. And I was told by this caseworker, if I allowed a prepubescent child to go onto hormone blockers, it would be akin to mutilation. I could not believe it. And I think that was the moment for me as a mum where I fought, I am on my own with this, you know, thank God I’ve done my research. I’ve read research papers, different research from all around the country, Australia, New Zealand, America, Holland. Thank God I have done that because I’m now able to support, you know, stick up for myself. When I have these meetings, I’ve been at meetings where they’ve quoted out of date statistics about hormone blockers and children, and it is not right. You know, I’m at these meetings with Danny’s dad, who is not happy for Danny to go onto blockers, and you come away from the meeting and it’s an impartial meeting because they are so against them. This is the experience I’ve had. It might be different for other people, but I know as a mum, you become a bit of an expert with all of this because you have to.

Helen Webberley:
A few minutes ago, I said I was smiling from ear to ear, and now I’m actually fighting back the tears because you know, your first experience of learning about this with Danny was so joyous as a parent. You know, we never know what the kids are going to do next. Do we, you know, that’s part of being a mum. This is quite a big thing to do next, mum, I’m not a girl. I’m a boy”. And then, you know, when you describe the support you have at school and the friends and the parents and everyone are so, so happy and so happy for Danny, that he could, you know, start being himself again. And then, you know, to hear that, that our health system is letting you down. Like this is really, I don’t know what to say, actually, I, I feel really, really shocked for you. And mostly the fact that you had to do this learning on your own. I can kind of hear the excitement of, okay, got to wait for a long time to get to this appointment. But when you get to the appointment, you’re going to then get the education, the support, the knowledge, the evidence, the research, and actually didn’t and you had to, can do all of that on your own. And I read, you know, all those things that you’ve just described. I’ve read them all and they’re not easy to navigate. They have words in them. They’re, they’re tricky. They’re the medically written thing articles, but you’ve got to now go and educate yourself within those articles to reassure you as a mom, that you’re doing the right thing for your kid. And, you know, I want to do a big high five to you for taking that journey, and feel so sad that you had to take that journey on your own. I really do. So what’s happening with Danny at the moment? So he’s in puberty.

Lindsay Game:
He’s definitely going through puberty.

Helen Webberley:
What’s that doing for him?

Lindsay Game:
He has gone from a child who has been very confident, loves walking around the house with barely any clothes on which in hindsight and you know, reflection on that is lovely to see how confident he is. I think that shows that he’s happy as a child, but he’s gone from that child to now not wanting to remove his top, even in the house in front of me, he came in from school a few weeks ago when we had the really nice sunny weather and he was really hot. And he said, “I feel really dizzy and sick mum”. And I said, Danny, you’re hot, you know, have a drink, go and get changed, take your top off, whatever you need to do, just cool yourself down. And he started to run upstairs to get changed. And then he came back down and said, “actually, mum, can you just shut the curtains for me?” This is four o’clock in the afternoon. “Can You shut all the curtains? I’m just going to take my top off”. And I said, course I will, so I shut all the curtains in the house downstairs and he took his top off and he was really happy went in the lounge and his younger brother innocently said, “no boobies are allowed in the lounge”. Now his brother is only four. He wouldn’t understand, he doesn’t understand about gender and this sort of stuff yet. It was so sad for Danny. It really triggered a meltdown for him. So we had to sort of have a bit of a chat about that obviously, and give him some support with that. But it’s been really hard. I took him swimming and he won’t go swimming without a top on. So I got him some, well he’s been wearing like rash vests or whatever, swim tops for a long time now, but they don’t hide boobs, you know, properly. And I didn’t realize how he was feeling, you know, but swimming the first time in a long time, because we’ve come out of lockdown. And I was really excited. He said he wanted to go swimming for ages. And I told him, I booked it. And he said, “I don’t want to go. I want to go and see my friends”. And I said, well, that’s absolutely fine. And then the night before he said, “do you know, the reason I don’t want to go?” And I said, no. And he said, “because I’m embarrassed about my body”. And I said, Oh, Danny, it’s really hard because I absolutely understand how he’s feeling. But at the same time, I want to give him the skills to try not to worry. And it’s really hard, isn’t it. You’ve got to have that balance of almost tough love. Like, you know, we’re going to swim, we’re going to have a good time, don’t worry about it, you’ve got your top. And inside I’m problem because I can see what it’s doing to him.

Marianne Oakes:
If I was to summarize what I’ve heard a little bit is that Danny had a disrupted childhood until the age of five. And then he discovered himself and he started to flourish. I’m assuming that the trashing of the bedrooms and the wanting to hurt himself ended as he transitioned and started living his truth. But then when you went to the Tavistock, and I’m going to just add something here, you know, before we did this session today, I thought it would just be easy to have a Tavistock trashing session, you know, but you went there wanting support and help to help your child to not have an interrupted childhood. And actually all they’ve done all the way along is try to interrupt his childhood because they’re worried what kind of adult he’s going to become. And the truth of the matter is, and I’m hoping Helen is going to agree with me here and I’m trying to hold back my rage, so I’m not going to lie that any child that’s going to go on and flourish as an adult needs an uninterrupted childhood. It needs to have a fully rounded, be true to themselves when they understand their identity, not just a gender, family identity, the, you know, national identity, whatever you know, who they are, trying to develop. And it’s got to be kind of uninterrupted. And all that’s happened is they’ve tried to interrupt it all the way along, and actually got to the point where your fully around child is struggling to function in the world. Can’t just think “I’ll go swimming with my family and enjoy that time”. You’re having to almost force that to happen. Sorry. I, I just felt, to get it in my own head and probably the listeners. That’s what I’ve heard. Would that be a fair summary?

Lindsay Game:
Yeah. I think going back to what you said about Danny’s childhood, I don’t think it, it’s hard. I think he had difficulties, but I wouldn’t say it was troubled as such. He’s had a, you know, a happy, healthy childhood, but obviously there’s always been this underlying situation going on. I absolutely agree with what you said about Tavistock and how unsettling it’s been for Danny. I think it’s been quite traumatizing for him. I know that’s a big word, but I genuinely believe it has been. He doesn’t like talking to them. We’ve been referred to CAMHS because of this as well. And also Danny has ADHD and we are in the CAMHS system with that. And again, the support has been lacking with that. So I think it has been really damaging for Danny. And it’s quite upsetting to hear your summarize them because it is so true what you said. I just want Danny to be able to be a 10 year old child, like any other 10 year old child out there without the worries of the world on his shoulder, you know, a child should not have to get up in the morning and worry about how they look and what they’re going to wear to disguise how their body is. It’s just not right. And this is my reason for supporting him with the hormone blockers, because I can help him, with medication, hopefully lead a normal, easy life that the child should be able to lead.

Helen Webberley:
I was talking to someone yesterday, Lindsay, and they said, Oh, well, it’s much easier to get hormone blockers from GenderGP, what’s your experience? Where have you got from with GenderGP at the moment? How far down that journey are you?

Helen Webberley:
So, GenderGP for me personally has been an absolute breath of fresh air. I remember the first meeting we had with one of your therapists, um and they spoke with Danny as well. Danny didn’t want to speak. He said, “I’m not speaking”, because of the way he feels about this whole thing. And I said, listen, you don’t have to speak, but just stay in the room with me. And if you want to join in you can do. And we had Jackie who I picked specifically because I just felt that she would really get Danny. And after that short meeting with her, Danny was speaking to her straight away. Sorry it takes me out to think about it. And I remember feeling really understood as a parent, she really got it. And she turned around and said, Danny’s really lucky to have a mum like you. And I’ve never heard that before. I’ve always felt so judged and like I’m doing something wrong. And I came away from that thinking, blimey, this is different to what I’ve experienced that quite quickly led on to Danny been approved to have hormone blockers. I’ve got the prescription, it’s sitting downstairs. He’s still not started them because I can now not get a GP to do a shared care agreement with GenderGP. So I’m on my second GP now, I’ve had a meeting with the last GP surgery who called in safeguarding. It’s just been such a difficult time as a parent. And I don’t want Danny to see this side of it. I want him to just, you know, think it’s all going to be okay.

Marianne Oakes:
Safeguarding the word’s getting abused in this context because there’s genuine children with genuine safeguarding issues and for a doctor to call safeguarding because you’re doing the best for your child, just seems a ridiculous situation.

Lindsay Game:
It really is. And there is absolutely no safeguarding issue with my child. He’s so loved and so supported. And at that meeting, there was somebody from CAMHS as well. And they were more interested in talking about medication for Danny’s ADHD. And I actually said to them, so you’re happy prescribing a medication for his ADHD, which can change his personality and dampen down who he is, but you’re not prepared to accept him on your books and support him with hormone blockers, you know, which will hopefully prevent mental health problems in the future because you can foresee that, it’s clear that that’s how it’s going to go if he doesn’t get the support. I’m really lucky with the new GP’s, she’s lovely, the new doctor she’s very supportive of Danny, but her hands are tied again. She’s contacted the QCC. I think it might be, I’m not a hundred percent sure. And they’ve basically said that her insurance would be invalidated if she was to give Danny the hormone injection. And she said, I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to risk the support we’re getting, but she will give us as much support as she can.

Helen Webberley:
I’m going to pull myself out of my association with GenderGP, and looking from a different place. And so we’ve got two different sides of the camp here. We’ve got the, your NHS GP and CAMHS and Tavistock who are all highly trained, highly experienced practitioners, doctors, highly regulated. And then on the other side of the camp, we’ve got Danny and mum and GenderGP. And it seems to me that there’s so much difference in thinking what is the right thing for Danny, and who’s right? How are we going to know who’s right. What do you think? Of all the people in the whole wide world, you know Danny best. How do, how do you know that you and GenderGP are right? If, if that’s what you think is right.

Lindsay Game:
All I can say is, as a parent, I would never allow Danny to have any medication that would harm him. He tried medication for ADHD a few years ago, and after less than a week, he was off it because it just didn’t agree with him. I didn’t like it. I didn’t feel comfortable with it. I cannot allow Danny to go through life, living in a female body that isn’t the body that belongs to him. I can’t do that to him, the only support, but I’ve been able to get is through GenderGP. And it has been thorough. You know, you’ve looked at Danny’s history. The questionnaire that you asked initially was so in depth the report that you sent me was superb. I mean, everything in there was so accurate. And in a way, I suppose, there isn’t anybody else who can help us. So GenderGP were the only company. And I was nervous of going to you. I must admit initially because of what I’d heard about you. But I did my own research, I joined some support groups that weren’t related to GenderGP, and all I could see was positives. So I had to look for myself. So that’s what I’ve had, that’s what I’ve experienced, it has been a very positive experience.

Marianne Oakes:
I think the real point is these two experts in Danny’s case the first one, the, the one that knows better than anybody else is Danny, Danny has got to be the first point of collecting the information and understanding what’s going on for Danny. And second is the person who knows him best. And that’s going to be you, the person that has been holding his hand, and if we can’t trust them two people, then there’s no expert alive that will know better than you two. And to sit in a room with people who’ve got nice titles and letters behind the name who know nothing about being trans, I bet there was not one trans person in that room.

Lindsay Game:
No, I know also we’ve had seven different caseworkers now from Tavistock in our four years with them. And I would say most of them, I might be generalizing them, but they’re quite young, so I don’t even know if they’ve got children and I really think you’ve, you’ve got to understand the whole area of this. It’s not just about a transgender child. It’s about a family. It’s about a mum. It’s about a dad. It’s about brothers and siblings and everybody involved. This just doesn’t affect one person. You know, you’ve really got to have that understanding.

Marianne Oakes:
I put a tweet out in the last week, you know, I’d spoken to a family that had been torn apart by this. And I just put this simple tweet out saying, you know, gender dysphoria is a powerful force that can’t be beaten, you know? And if you try fighting it, it will tell tear you apart, and what these experts who’ve never experienced it, that aren’t living with it are trying to say to you is you need to fight this and, and you can’t, it will, it will destroy families. It will destroy the people involved and it doesn’t need to.

Lindsay Game:
Absolutely. Right. I mean, for me personally, it’s affected me. I think I was close to, if not had a nervous breakdown last year, because of it. It’s literally, it consumes your life because you have to educate yourself on it in order to talk about the real facts around this subject, you know when you go to these meetings and it can be intimidating, you know, you’re at meetings with really high power people who are really educated, you know, and I’m on my own sat there. You’ve gotta be strong, haven’t you.

Marianne Oakes:
I feel you used a word that really made me cringe, you know, high powered, you know, that the power that they have on Danny’s life, and they’re never under threat of living with the consequences of their decisions. The only person, two people or one family is going to live with the consequences of their decisions. And you can’t go back when Danny is an adult and not functioning because of the decisions they made and sue them. Absolutely. You can have a doctor worried about their, you know, career and worried about their license. That will say, no, I’m not going to help this child, but not worrying about their license or their career, by the consequence of that decision, that if they did help the wounded, but if they don’t help there’s no comeback. And actually we’ve said a lot, haven’t we Helen, you know, doing nothing is doing something you shouldn’t have that option.

Lindsay Game:
You shouldn’t. And I think it’s the moral aspect as well. You know, medical professionals are there to look after people. And how can you morally sit there and tell a mum who’s begging for help, that there is nothing you can do to support them. You know, that’s what I was told by my GP and by CAMHS, there is nothing we can do to help you.

Marianne Oakes:
I had a mother say to me once, it was awful to hear, and it was awful for her to say, but she said, I sometimes wish my child had had anything but gender dysphoria, because there would be a pathway to care. But with gender dysphoria? She could see no pathway.

Lindsay Game:
No, you know, life would be so much easier if Danny wasn’t transgender. I would never change who he is. I love who he is. He’s an amazing child, but anybody who thinks this is easy, fashionable, a trend, whatever it really is not, this is massive. And just going back to something you said actually about being an expert and Danny is the expert of himself is interesting. He said to me a little while ago, you know, I sort of said about mine and his dad’s opinions, you know, we both really love you, but obviously we disagree. I think you should be able to have hormone blockers and daddy doesn’t and that’s okay. You know, but we really love you and we want what’s best for you. And his response was, “what about what I want?” And I said, well, what do you want? And he said, “I want hormone blockers”. And do you know what, it’s so true. A child’s opinion and their voice should be heard. And it isn’t, it just isn’t and something else I’ve found by doing my research is about Gillick competency. I’ve never been told about this and why have I not been told about this? You know? So for people that don’t understand it and correct me, if I’m wrong, Gillick competency is about children being able to understand the consequences of medication and the harm that it might have on them and the impact. So it’s understanding and having the ability to agree to it or not agree to it. Now I 100% know Danny understands this cause we talk about it. We speak about the risks. We speak about fertility. We speak about low moods and the side effects that you can have, he 100% understands that even with that understanding, he still wants them.

Marianne Oakes:
Just to add to that, Lindsay, is you haven’t just got to have the Gillick competence to understand the medication. You’ve got to have the Gillick competence to understand the implications of not taking the medication. And actually that’s a whole area that people forget. There’s a choice here for all of you, you know, for Danny to start puberty blockers or not. And yeah, there’s side effects of puberty blockers, but if he doesn’t take them, there’s a risk that is gonna, you know, his mental health is just gonna spiral. There’s a risk that it’ll go into a tailspin that you’ll end up, you know with the life of God knows, you know, mental health issues with addictions or alcohol, I’m not saying that it would happen. We’ve got to understand that that is a very high possibility when we look at the, you know, the suicide risk. So, so not helping, there’s probably more to consider by not giving the medication.

Lindsay Game:
Absolutely. And you know what, as well, I think it’s so important to talk about the risks because they’re always brushed under the carpet, you know, never at Tavistock or through my GP have we discussed self harm, you know, depression, anxiety, suicide risk, all of these things aren’t discussed, but they’re very much there. And that is what we need to know about. So that if that does happen, we can support our children.

Marianne Oakes:
I was going to say one of the first young people I saw when I started working with Helen they came to my therapy room in Wilmslow and you know, everything else had done online, but I think there were about 13 or 14 this child and the grandparent brought them, they were living with the grandparents and I met them in the waiting room. And I just said, do you want to come through? And I asked them, you know, the grandparent did they want to come through. And they said, no, I want to come through on me own, you know, okay. As he came into the room I said, do you want to take your coat off? And they took the coat off and the scars on their arms, I nearly wretched. I mean, it wasn’t just little vein type cuts. They were swollen all the way up both arms. Such was the pain being caused by dysphoria. And do you know if they could have gone to their doctor before it got to that and been given the blockers, then that would never have had to happen. And this is why I say that there’s a whole area of this that is ignored completely. People don’t want to, don’t even want to acknowledge that that’s a possibility. They’re so focused on the side effects of medication.

Lindsay Game:
I completely agree with you. I’ve seen it myself with Danny. He struggles with anxiety and low moods. This week has been really tough for him. I actually kept him off school yesterday. He, I’ve never seen him this low. He’s normally such a chatty bubbly child. I took him to school today and he never said a word the whole way, and that’s never happened. And I can see that he’s sad. And I said to him, you know, are you all right? And he said, no. And I said, he feeling sad. And then he said, “I do feel sad, mum”, you know, and it’s, it’s just not, it’s not on, it’s not fair.

Marianne Oakes:
It’s not needed. It’s not needed everything. You’ve said, Danny came out at a young enough age that you should never have had to go through any of that you know, I would say.

Lindsay Game:
It’s so hard though, as a parent, because what I’ve wanted to do the whole way through is, obviously, I just want to do it all above board. That in my mind, there’s no reason not to because you live in a country with an NHS service with all these agencies that are there for us, but the reality is that they’re not. And that isn’t fair and it’s not right. If I had the money, I would move abroad so I didn’t have to go through this, so that Danny could have an easy life. I’ve actually looked at it. I can’t afford it. So that’s not an option. It’s just, it’s a very sad situation that our transgender youth are in. And I feel so passionate about doing anything I personally can to change that, I’ve written to my own MP, who is Maria Miller. And I’ve asked for her support because it’s not right. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this podcast as well. I know I’m opening myself up to everything, you know, especially with the sensitivity around Danny’s case, but I have to do it, I have to be honest about what’s happening. And if this can help other people and hopefully change something about how these kids are treated and supported, then it’s got to be done.

Helen Webberley:
So Lindsay, you’ve read all the medical articles. You’ve read the Australia one. What all the ones you described, you’ve spoken to Jackie, you know, what can happen in the future, if you had the magic wand, if you had it your way and Danny’s way, what’s the next 10 years of Danny’s life going to look like in terms of being a transgender teenager, what are you hoping for?

Lindsay Game:
Oh, I don’t want to have to use the word transgender in Danny’s life. I want to be able to just let Danny be Danny. He’s a boy. We had this chat the other day. I don’t see him as a transgender child. He is a boy. He’s my son. That’s Danny. I want his next however many years just to be like any other child, his age, any other teenager, when he’s going to be a teenager, his age, he’s going to be starting senior school in, well, just over a year’s time. I don’t want him to go into senior school with all of these worries and concerns about his body and his gender and is someone going to find out that he doesn’t want to know? Is he going to get bullied? I just want him to go in there with his head held high for the wonderful person that he is. Um and to just be able to live a normal life like any other child, that’s all I want for him to be happy and not have to think about it. Not have to, do you know, I’m so fed up of having conversations with him about all of this, you know, just to sort of like double-check I’m doing the right thing. Double-check that I’m meeting Tavistock’s expectations, all of this stuff. I don’t want to have to talk to him about it anymore. I just want it to be a normal childhood and a normal home for everybody.

Helen Webberley:
I bet there’s quite a lot of mums there with their hand up saying, I want that for my kid too. And that’s what we want for our children, isn’t it. We just want normal, happy teenagers, normal, happy kids. So what does Danny understand about hormones, about the hormones that his body can produce, about puberty, what’s yours and his understanding of that?

Lindsay Game:
I think Danny has got a very good understanding of it. We’ve always been really open about bodies and you know how they are. And he understands that he’s genetically got a female body. If he doesn’t have hormone blockers, his body will grow into a lady’s body. You know, he will develop breasts, he’ll have periods. He understands that if he has hormone blockers, that he won’t develop breasts, he won’t have periods and his body will just be paused as it is. He understands that when he’s old enough, if he still continues and he said this to me, you know, he’s got no intention of ever being a girl again, but yesterday he actually said, if I ever did, there’s always that option. He’s a hundred percent sure that he doesn’t want to. You know, he’s aware that he can change if he wants to. He knows about testosterone, he calls it T, he knows that on testosterone, he will be able to, he’s so excited about the prospect of having hair, facial hair. He’s got quite a natural, deep voice. We were speaking about this yesterday and I said, it’s really strange Danny, I said, you know, genetically, you are a girl, but obviously like, even your voice is like a boy’s voice it’s quite deep. So he’s quite proud of that. But he’s got a very good understanding and we spoke about fertility yesterday as well in the car. He’s better off chatting in the car cause it’s not sort of, so face-to-face and intense and he’s made it quite clear. He has done for a long time that he doesn’t ever want to carry a child. He doesn’t want to be pregnant, but he really can’t wait, you know, one day he wants to be a dad. We spoke about surrogacy and how you can freeze your eggs. And one day, you know, he can have a biological child. He understands the difference between biological and non-biological. So yeah, he’s pretty clued up on it.

Marianne Oakes:
He’s his own expert. Just going back to what you said before, you know, what your hopes are for your child. And I think again, when I’m, when I’m working with parents, cause a lot of parents come to me thinking, I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think anybody has all the answers. But I think what I like to say is that the approach that we take at GenderGP is that, if I was talking about Danny, we just want Danny to have all the aspirations, he’s 10 years old now isn’t he, he should have all the aspirations of any 10 year old boy, and when he’s 12, 13 for whatever age he’s at, you know, when he’s starting to pick his the exams he’s going to take, when he’s starting to choose his college course, when he’s going to decide his university, he needs well to do that without thinking about his gender, that that should just be something that is a given now. And then he goes on and starts planning in his life. Going back to what the Tavistock said to you, you know, use gender neutral pronouns or whatever. You know, the reality is you want to, you’ve got to start conditioning your child to be a boy in the world. The parenting part of this, isn’t about working out what the gender is, the parenting is being a mother to a five, six, seven, eight year old boy, it isn’t being a, a mother to somebody that doesn’t know yet because how do you prepare them for the world? And now we’re going into this next stage, preparing them for secondary school. There’s so much that places like the Tavistock could be doing to make sure that there’s every chance the child is going to be fully rounded.

Lindsay Game:
Absolutely.

Marianne Oakes:
And they won’t stop obsessing about the medication.

Lindsay Game:
It’s interesting actually Danny, when he has a shower, he occasionally says, “Oh, I sometimes forget I’ve got girl bits”, because he’s a boy, you know, in his head he’s, and it’s, it’s really quite interesting to hear his take on things, you know, and how he feels. I just want it to go back to the Tavistock and mention something, actually. I really feel for families that are on the waiting list now to see Tavistock, because I know from speaking to some parents through some support groups that I’m on, on Facebook that they, like I did, they’ve got such expectations that when they see Tavistock that they’re gonna, you know, have all their questions answered and finally get the support they need. But I almost feel that they need their expectations to be a bit more of a reality. And you know, it’s not about bad-mouthing Tavistock, and it’s, it really is not, you know, if they could support the children, how they should be supported, it would be amazing. That’s what we need, isn’t it, in the country really?

Marianne Oakes:
I think it’s a catch 22 for some clinicians, that they’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t, it’s political, it’s public funding that goes in there, they’re accountable, and that doesn’t create the right environment for the best healthcare. You know Helen sometimes might, might snap at me, you know, but I genuinely believe that not all the clinicians at the Tavistock are bad, I think some of them genuinely believe some children are trans and that they should be helped, but their hands are tied. And then there are some clinicians there that genuinely believed they can save these children and cure them. So sadly, it’s a lottery who you get, but also when you look at, you know, the institution, you said before, you know, we live in a country where the wonderful NHS, and it is, but it doesn’t mean to say they don’t get it wrong.

Lindsay Game:
No, they’re getting this so wrong on every single level that I’ve experienced. And you shouldn’t have to prove how transgender your child is. And that’s how it feels sometimes. Well, all the time, actually, you know, the questions you’re asked and even the way they check to see if a child is at Tanner stage two, I was horrified when I heard this absolutely horrified. And I said, there is no way I’m letting anybody look at Danny to check he’s at Tanner stage two in the way that they do it, that is so damaging. You know, we’re bringing our children up to not let strangers look at their bodies in certain ways, but then I’m supposed to say, Oh, it’s okay, you know, show them your body. How degrading is that, for anybody?

Helen Webberley:
Well, Lindsay and Danny, thank you so much for sharing your story. I applaud your bravery and your strengths, knowing what you and your family need. And I really, really hope that Danny gets his teenager years untainted by being trans, but just by being Danny. And I also hope Lindsay that you’ll come back on and give us updates. And I hope that GenderGP will help you and Danny and the whole of your family to live through this in a happy, confident way and no more nightmares and no horror stories, just happy ending. That’s all that I hope that you get. So thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s been a very powerful one. I, for one need a really very big cup of tea to help me through it and you know, a massive high five and a, and a hug to you and, and to Danny, thank you for sharing.

Marianne Oakes:
Yes. Can I just add something just near the end, sorry I don’t, I don’t normally do this, but you said, you know, you felt you had taken a risk coming on and talking about this. I’m hoping, whatever happens to you, you get a lot of love and a lot of support and a lot of people appreciate, you know, actually what you’ve done there because I’m hoping that would outweigh any, any negatives. So my fingers are crossed and hopeful.

Lindsay Game:
Thanks Marianne.

 

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