Tavistock Clinic: Polly Carmichael

This is some background to a talk given by a member of staff from the Gender Identity Services  (GIDS) at the Tavistock. The talk is by Dr Polly Carmichael and provides  insight into clinical/ethical issues for Gender Identity Services.  I want to explore Dr Carmichael’s belief system and the alternative perspective of those of us who reject the Tavistock model.  Dr Carmichael reflects on the tension between “affirmative” approaches to children with Gender Dysphoria and what she labels “reparative” or “conservative”.   I will argue that parents resisting medical intervention are also “affirming”.  You can listen to the talk yourself  here

Proponents of an “affirmative” approach believe that a child can be “Born in the Wrong Body”. They will often use phrases like “assigned at birth” to describe how  sex is determined. They argue the sex you are designated at birth may not match your “Gender Identity”.  Therefore you may, in fact, have an opposite “Gender” to the sex which you were “assigned”.  The theory of an innate Gender Identity mirrors established child development theory on the age  a child realises they are a boy or girl. For advocates of Gender Identity Theory this is seen as a sign that we all have an innate sense of “gender” and become aware of it at around three years of age. Therefore  if a child communicates some discomfort/distress, at being treated as a girl, or boy, they are deemed to be exhibiting  a conflict between their sex and gender. As this is a feeling , relying on an internal sense of self, the child will, it is argued, know better than their parents which “gender” they are. This argument sets the stage for empowering children/teens to act without parental consent. Something lobbyists are openly arguing should take place.  Those that subscribe to this belief  often use language around bodily autonomy to push for positive affirmation of the child’s “gender”. This may take social forms; such as allowing a new name, style of dress or pronouns which match the preferred gender. This can also take the form of medical interventions such as Puberty Blockers followed by Cross-sex hormones.  

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