Are we hurting children?
I will probably make slow progress whilst I work my way through this book because it is such a painful read knowing that my own GP referred my son to the Tavistock. I fought a valiant battle to keep my son out of their clutches, because I had done my research. I did actually speak to Hannah but my son was not referred to the children’s unit and, I suspect, she spoke to me more out of compassion than for anything I could add to her research. This series is dedicated to her for doing the work and the Swift Press for publishing. I have purchased the electronic version for review purposes but my birthday gift will be a copy for myself and a copy for me to take to my GP. I will also order a copy for my local library.
This series will probably include more links to my earlier posts as I have covered much of the same territory as this book. It’s is also full of excellent footnotes so I will do detour to follow any of those I had not seen.
The first chapter has a headline grabbing title. I should just say the Hannah avoids sensationalising in all the interviews she has given, which is good to see, we don’t need to over-claim for the harms being done the plain, unvarnished, truth is bad enough.
Concerns were being expressed around the dramatic increase in numbers but also the demographic of referrals. Natal girls had inverted the sex ratios of referrals and bore little resemblance to the previous cohort of, mainly, gender non-conforming boys. Now referrals had an over-representation of natal girls, same sex attracted of both sexes, , autitistic children/teens as well as 25% of referrals of children who had spent time in care. I wrote about the Gender Clinics and looked after children here: 👇. One of the articles is based on the Tavistock’s own data.
Concern was often focused on the administration of puberty suppressant drugs to children as young as ten.
These medical interventions were, and still are in some organisations, described as “reversible” and administered to allow a “pause” : Time to think, if you will. However, we knew from the Dutch experience that the vast, vast, majority would progress to cross sex hormones. They will be sterile and it seems they will lose orgasmic potential. Natal boys will have stunted genitalia which will make surgeries more risky, requiring use of the colon to create a facsimile of female genitalia. One boy actually died of necrotising fasciitis following his surgery in the Dutch experiment. More on this below:
While Polly Carmichael, a senior clinician, admitted there was a lack of research into these interventions here’s what we do know: 👇
Here is another senior clinician, Bernadette Wren, with a similar admission.
I have done a series on Bernadette Wren. She famously told the Women’s and Equalities Committee (W.E.S.C.) that she felt at the cutting edge of a social revolution.
Even NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) concluded that the evidence base was very poor.
Chapter 2 provides the background to the setting up of the service. I covered much of this in my series on the first director, Domenico Di Ceglie.
What was new to me in this chapter was some research donee on the Tavistock cohort. I will have a detour to look at this research before I proceed to chapter three.
Before I leave chapter 2 it’s is worth noting that concerns were being expressed about G.I.D.s as far back as 2005. David Taylor was asked to produce a report which was then hidden for fifteen years! It was only after a protracted battle that the Tavistock were forced to release that report. I covered this below.
Chapter Two continues by documenting that unease with the service was not long in emerging. Different traditions of approaching physical distress with the body co-existed uneasily. Some clinicians were used to seeing the body used to signal distress. In lay terms they saw this as a problem with the mind, not the body. Medical interventions were regarded as a last resort and, crucially, only with a strong evidence base for the treatment. Therapeutic treatments were prioritised.
This chapter also covers the work of Dr Az Hakeem who ran a group for post -operative patients who were experiencing regret. He decided to combine this group with those who were considering surgery. As a result, Hakeem, advised only 2% of the pre-operative group decided to proceed with surgeries. For Bernadette Wren those working with patients experiencing regret developed a skewed attitude to the work of G.I.Ds.
In 2002 there was an open schism when the European Court issued a ruling that “transsexuals” should be granted full, legal, recognition for the sex they wished to be. Staff at the Portman’s published an open letter opposing this,
Ex staff began to notice the influence of the lobby group Mermaids. Domenico Di Ceglie was even a patron at one point. In the beginning Mermaids recognised that a “transsexual” outcome was unlikely for most of these troubled children but, over time, they became more militant and difficult to work with according to some accounts.
Sue Evans describes how she felt that the cases she was seeing required extensive, exploratory, work but other colleagues were prescribing drugs after a shockingly low number of session. All the recommendations from the Taylor report were ignored. 👇
The chapter ends with the case study of “Ellie” who was a non gender conforming girl who realised she was attracted to girls and found the opportunity to discuss her issues, with Tavistock staff, valuable. She eschewed medical intervention and is now in her forties, bisexual and has been in a same sex relationship for the last decade.
I am already finding this a riveting read. This book has the potential to save more children from being treated as guinea pigs by a health care system that has lost its way. I will be back with the next chapters.
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