The ban on puberty blockers was long overdue

For far too long, the NHS put the demands of trans activists above the safety of children.

Jo Bartosch

Jo Bartosch

Topics Identity Politics UK

NHS England has banned the use of puberty blockers to treat children struggling with their gender. Although the health service hasn’t quite admitted that it was wrong to prescribe these drugs in the first place, it has probably got about as close as the lawyers will let it. Yesterday, a spokesperson confirmed: ‘We have concluded that there is not enough evidence to support the safety or clinical effectiveness of puberty-suppressing hormones to make the treatment routinely available at this time.’

It has taken the NHS years to accept that these experimental, off-label drugs should not be given to kids. That it has taken so long speaks volumes about the stranglehold the trans lobby has had on the medical profession. After all, the dangers of puberty blockers have long been obvious to anyone paying attention.

The most commonly used puberty blocker, more properly called a Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone agonist (GnRH), was developed to treat end-stage prostate cancer. Prescribed under the brand name Lupron, it is also the same drug that is used to chemically castrate sex offenders. The side-effects can be brutal. The use of GnRHs in childhood has been linked to a permanent loss of bone density, damage to organs and lowered IQ.

Despite these horrific consequences, trans activists insist that puberty blockers are ‘life-saving’. As Susie Green, the former head of trans-youth charity Mermaids, claimed in a 2014 Daily Mail article: ‘The self-harm and suicide rate among transgender teens is extremely high, so offering blockers saves lives. It’s quite simple.’ But it is not so simple. The facts do not support the idea that puberty blockers reduce suicidal ideation.

Back in 2019, Oxford professor Michael Biggs analysed data collected from patients at the Tavistock clinic’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), the now defunct NHS gender clinic for young people. He found that far from alleviating distress, after a year of treatment, there was ‘a significant increase’ in female patients self-reporting to staff that they want to ‘deliberately try to hurt or kill’ themselves. Biggs accused the GIDS of ‘concealing [these] negative findings’.

When public concern about the Tavistock became impossible to ignore, an independent review into the service was ordered by the UK government. This review is ongoing and is being led by Dr Hilary Cass. The findings in her interim review, published in 2022, led the NHS to announce that the Tavistock would close down. Her review also noted that there is a lack of long-term evidence on what happens to young people who are prescribed puberty blockers, not least as GIDS did not gather routine and consistent data. This means it is ‘not possible to accurately track the outcomes and pathways that children and young people take through the service’.

The first rumblings of discontent about the Tavistock’s approach to gender-dysphoric children were felt decades ago. Psychiatric nurse Susan Evans first raised concerns about the GIDS’s ‘precipitous referral’ of children on to the medical path to ‘change gender’ back in 2004. She resigned in 2007. Numerous others in the medical profession have warned against blindly affirming children’s new identities and giving them puberty-suppressing drugs. One of those was David Bell, a former president of the British Psychoanalytic Society and former consultant psychiatrist at the Tavistock. In 2018, he wrote a highly critical report accusing GIDS of fast-tracking kids for medical transitioning, though his warnings were dismissed.

Established in 2015, one of the earliest campaign groups to mobilise against the social and medical transitioning of children was Transgender Trend. Its founder, Stephanie Davies-Arai, was relentlessly smeared and targeted by trans activists online and in the press. Back in 2016, she warned that a significant proportion of young people being treated by GIDS as ‘trans’ were actually on the autism spectrum.

LGB Alliance has also been sounding the alarm about puberty blockers. Last year, it sponsored a campaign called ‘Gay Teens Aren’t Sick’ to highlight the fact that ‘the majority of young people referred to gender clinics and subsequently prescribed puberty blockers are same-sex attracted’. As founder Bev Jackson tells me: ‘Historians will look back on the last decade the way we remember the thalidomide and other medical scandals. We are relieved that this chapter is coming to an end at the NHS.’

For campaigning against the medicalisation of gay children, LGB Alliance has been branded a hate group, even in parliament. Indeed, politicians have also faced threats and intimidation for speaking out against puberty blockers.

Back in 2019, I attended a meeting at the House of Lords to discuss the rise in the number of kids being referred to the Tavistock. The event, called ‘First Do No Harm’, was organised by Standing for Women (now Let Women Speak), founded by Kellie-Jay Keen, and was sponsored by Labour peer Lewis Moonie, who has a medical background. For the first time, lawyers, journalists, legislators and clinicians with concerns were brought together. Invitations were sent out to all MPs and peers. Yet aside from Moonie, the chair, the only politicians in attendance were crossbench peer Tanni Grey-Thompson and Tory MP David Davies. After over 40 years in the Labour Party, Moonie was told by Labour’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, that his membership would be at risk if he went ahead with the event.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those lobby groups who campaigned for puberty blockers are not accepting their defeat with grace. On TikTok, Mermaids has told its followers that the NHS ‘is failing trans youth’ and that it would continue to ‘advocate’ for ‘access to puberty blockers for those who need them’. Stonewall has released a statement on X claiming, incorrectly, that puberty blockers are reversible. Trans activist and former broadcaster India Willoughby has advised ‘families of trans kids’ to go private to access puberty blockers.

Arguably, trans activists have no choice but to double down. The idea that there is such a thing as ‘trans children’ is central to their movement. Rather than acknowledge that, for some men, there is a sexual driver behind the desire to identify as a woman, and that there might be nefarious reasons for their desire to shimmy into women’s spaces, the trans movement wants us to believe there have always been a minority of people who are innately trans, from birth. In practice, the idea of the ‘trans child’ is a fig leaf for the fetishes of adult men. The children who are encouraged to transition, and who suffer hideous side-effects from drugs like puberty blockers, are merely collateral damage.

Yesterday’s announcement on puberty blockers was the culmination of decades of work by those who had the courage to stand up against the emotional blackmail and bullying tactics of the trans lobby. Policymakers around the world now need to follow NHS England’s example. This scandalous experiment on children should not be happening anywhere.

Jo Bartosch is a journalist campaigning for the rights of women and girls.

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Topics Identity Politics UK


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