COMMENT: Teens having breasts cut off will not solve problems

COMMENT: Teens having breasts cut off will not solve problems

Teenage girls having their breasts cut off will not solve their emotional problems, says founder of Transgender Trend STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI

Among those awarded a British Empire Medal in last week’s Queen’s Birthday Honours was Stephanie Davies-Arai, founder of the website Transgender Trend that campaigns against the increase in children being referred to clinics for gender dysphoria medical treatment. Here, she tells how she hopes the award is a sign of a change in public opinion.

Over the years I have been accused of wanting to ‘erase trans children’, of being ‘anti trans’ and worse. But my only aim has been to safeguard and protect children. 

I don’t care what label anyone wants to use for a child, whether it’s ‘trans’ or anything else. My sole concern is whether it serves the child’s best interests.

When I first spoke out on an issue about which it seems increasingly that people are not allowed to question, I had no idea of the level of vilification and bullying I would receive. 

But the fact is that transgender is a divisive subject. In any other area involving children, people are allowed to disagree. But on this subject, even questioning it can result in accusations of bigotry. Yet if adults cannot openly discuss the best practice in the treatment of children, I fear that some young people will be at risk.

I launched Transgender Trend, a parental support group, in 2015 to campaign for evidence-based care for young people experiencing gender dysphoria. 

Stephanie Davies-Arai, founder of Transgender Trend, who has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to children in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list

At the time, my daughter was 15 and she told me there was a cluster of girls at her school who had started identifying as boys. More than that, they were all planning to have double mastectomies. I still can’t believe that teenage girls are told that having their breasts cut off will solve their emotional problems.

I am a mother-of-four and a communication skills trainer by profesion, and had worked with parents and teachers for more than two decades before starting Transgender Trend. I also worked in a primary school for eight years, so I understand safeguarding.

But the advice given by transgender groups – that if a boy says he’s a girl, parents are told to ‘affirm’ him as a girl – is the worst parenting advice and goes against all common sense.

If a child tells a teacher ‘I have gender dysphoria’, support is put in place and the school works to help parents. Yet if a child says ‘I’m trans’, it’s no-questions-asked.

Keira Bell, who began taking puberty blockers when she was 16 before ‘detransitioning’, is pictured speaking to reporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London

The school will very often facilitate the child’s transition, allowing them to use the toilets and changing rooms of the opposite sex – and without telling the parents. Also, there are many professionals invested in proving that children are ‘transgender’.

For my part, I am convinced that they should not be the ones dictating policy in schools.

Now, as soon as a child says they are trans, they become a member of a political group, rather than being treated as children. But as more people become concerned about the risks involved, I think the tide is turning.  ‘Detran­sitioners’ – those who reverse their transitions – are increasingly speaking out, despite widespread vilification from the trans community that once welcomed them.

Stephanie Davies-Arai, founder of Transgender Trend, is pictured at her home in Lewes, East Sussex

More than 30,000 users are now signed up to a detransition forum on the Reddit website.

In 2020, a judicial review brought by Keira Bell, who was in her mid 20s, threw a spotlight on how children can grow up to regret the irreversible physical changes they are left with. She argued in the High Court that the clinic which gave her puberty blockers should have challenged more strongly her teenage decision to transition to a male.

Keira took on the Tavistock in London, Britain’s only NHS gender clinic for young people, arguing that she was unable to give fully informed consent to puberty blockers, and that clinic staff had put her on a medical pathway without thoroughly investigating underlying mental health issues.

Pictured: Health Secretary Sajid Javid leaving the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedralon Friday. He has called for an inquiry into hormone treatments for children

The Divisional Court agreed. Its judgment described puberty blockers as an experimental treatment which, in the vast majority of cases, leads to taking cross-sex hormones, possibly surgery and a lifetime as a medical patient.

I don’t believe this is the way to ‘be who you really are’, as the LGBT activists put it. Regrettably, the ruling was overturned on appeal. But following Keira’s case, Health Secretary Sajid Javid called for an inquiry into hormone treatments for children – just as I did seven years earlier.

Similarly, I believe the Government is right to have excluded transgender people from its proposed conversion therapy Bill. It would mean children get even less therapeutic exploration of underlying issues.

I hope that my award is vindication of those parents who believe their children deserve proper, nuanced and thoughtful support, not unquestioning affirmation that they are the opposite sex.

I am convinced, too, that it is a sign that the tide is turning at last.

I feel proud to have played a part in that process.   

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