I have been raising concerns for some time about how services manage transgender issues and transition. In the wake of last night's BBC Newsnight piece on this issue, I thought it would be worth discussing, though no doubt it will be seen as controversial. I find most things that are controversial are also very important! Not everyone will agree, but it has to be discussed and not swept under the carpet.
I wholeheartedly believe that people's lives are their own and if they want to change gender - as fully informed and emotionally developed adults - then that's absolutely fine. It's their decision! However I've been increasingly concerned about the treatment of children and other vulnerable people within these services. The rate of referrals to the service has risen from 72 children in 2009/10 to more than 2,300 in 2018/19, according to campaign group Transgender Trend.
Treatments seeming to begin at a younger and younger age, and being progressed without sufficient time or support for people to get this unalterable and life changing decision right, as well as an increasing number of people appearing in chat rooms and online groups having changed their mind and stopped treatment, with possibly huge damage to their mental and physical health.
People had raised issues with me about a growing number of young people seeking to transition having autism or other mental health concerns, and about the nature of some of the 'educational' materials available to children that seem to actively encourage young people to consider their gender, where there were no such thoughts before.
The Newsnight program last night showed evidence from transcripts by staff at the Tavistock, the UK's gender clinic, some of which is shown in the images here.
These examples include a young person who was given treatment even though she clearly said that it was her mum that wanted her to do it more than herself, and of a young person being approved for treatment within an hour of walking through the door. Staff also said that it seemed that some parents were pushing their kids to change their gender rather than accepting them as being gay.
This evidence is absolutely shocking, in my view. Staff said that wherever they had raised it, they had been shut down.
You may have seen that JK Rowling has spoken out about this recently and shone a light on the issue. With new relationship and sex education guidance due to come in to play in schools in September, which has in itself caused something of a stir, now simply has to be the time to look at this properly and fully!
I was pleased that the PM has stopped proposed legislation that would have allowed people to legally change genders without needing any medical or psychological support or agreement, which would in my view have put the rights and protection of others, particularly women, at risk by allowing people with male genitals to enter 'women-only' spaces such as changing rooms or toilets, with the women having no say in the matter.
I can't be sure that I am right, of course. I'm not an expert, I'm just a citizen with some very grave concerns about the safeguarding children and protecting the rights of others.
However this is an issue that I think is hugely important, and where last night's Newsnight has only thrown fuel on the fire. I intend to raise this further with Government.
If you want to watch the Newsnight episode I'm referring to, it's here and starts around 16:30 in to the film.