York LGBT Labour Group have issued a statement opposing plans announced by the Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss MP, to restrict healthcare for young transgender people. The statement is as follows:
We, as the York LGBT Labour Group, stand with transgender people in strongly opposing Liz Truss’ plans to restrict access to lifesaving healthcare for transgender youth.
Ms Truss has suggested that the Gender Recognition Act could be reformed so that young trans people will not be able to access any transition-related healthcare until they are 18. This is supposedly to ‘protect’ young people from ‘irreversible’ decisions. In fact it is entirely the opposite. Forcing young trans people to endure the wrong puberty, and to undergo hormonal changes that cannot be reversed by medical approaches as an adult, is cruel and inhuman. Puberty blockers are widely used and their effects are reversible – they give young trans people space and time to think. Furthermore, medical interventions like blockers are only prescribed after multiple assessments by specialist clinicians.
The suggestion of removing access to transition-related healthcare for young people also raises serious questions around Gillick competence. Individuals are currently able to access medical treatment without their parents’ consent from 16, and consent to necessary care below this age if they are considered to be ‘Gillick competent’ – that is, they are considered to be fully aware of what they are accepting and the implications of doing so. This autonomy and self-determination is a vital aspect of healthcare for young women, particularly accessing sexual health services. To alter access to transition related healthcare on the grounds of age alone automatically raises complex legal questions around Gillick competence.
The references to ‘checks and balances’ on transition and the protection of single-sex spaces are also worrying for transgender people. The Equality Act protects their right to access single-sex spaces of the gender they know themselves to be. The exceptions to this are narrowly defined and a clear need must be demonstrated, and rightly so. Trans people are overwhelmingly more likely to be the victims of assault, particularly when forced into spaces where they do not belong. The suggestion that ‘checks and balances’ are needed on their access to healthcare is an invasion of trans people’s privacy and ignores the reality of an overwhelmed system that does not support people enough.
We cannot remove human rights for marginalised young people based on bigotry and bad science.
We urge Labour to do everything it can to oppose any removal of healthcare access for trans youth, and to call out the government for attempting to make these changes under the radar, without proper scrutiny, while the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.