Mixed response to equalities minister's trans pledge

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The Christian Institute has given a cautious welcome to the equalities minister's pledge to restrict irreversible treatments for transgender young people. 

Liz Truss MP told the Women and Equalities Select Committee earlier this week that she wanted children and young people to be "protected" from undergoing treatments that cannot be undone at a future point in time. 

She said that while the Government believed trans people should be free "to lead their lives as they see fit", there should be some restrictions on what course of action is available for minors. 

She added that it was "very important" to the Government that single-sex spaces be protected, and that there be "proper checks and balances in the system". 

The Government has been analysing responses to a consultation on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act to streamline the process by which people can change their legal gender. 

Ms Truss said that the Government would be making an announcement by the summer on the next steps it will be taking in response to the consultation.

In her comments to the select committee, she said: "Finally, which is not a direct issue concerning the Gender Recognition Act, but is relevant, [is] making sure that the under 18s are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future. 

"I believe strongly that adults should have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit, but I think it's very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions.

"Of course some of these policies have been delayed, Chair, by the specific issues around Covid but I can assure you that alongside the Covid work, our officials continue to do those things to make them happen."

Ciarán Kelly, Deputy Director for Communications at The Christian Institute, welcomed the minister's comments on life-altering treatment for under-18s but said that her statement still "leaves a number of questions unanswered".

"Will the restrictions be limited to surgery? Or will they also include other treatments such as puberty blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones?" he said. 

"Children and teenagers are being deeply affected by these drugs, which can lead to infertility. Young people cannot genuinely consent to treatments like this and should not be asked to."

Mr Kelly added: "It is also difficult to see how the Minister can reconcile her promise to protect single-sex spaces with her desire for adults to be able to do as they please.

"It's not just children who regret going down the transgender path, many adults do as well.

"The fact is that it is not possible to change biological sex, and that needs to be the foundation of the Government's considerations going forward."

Campaign group Transgender Trend, which is challenging the teaching of gender ideology in schools, said it was "pleased" with the minister's comments. 

"We need to be cautious about giving children rights that take away their protections," it said in a statement.

"If we do not exercise normal clinical standards of care mistakes will inevitably be made, with lifelong consequences for young people who are just starting out in life."

The group continued: "We hope that the Minister for Women and Equalities will strengthen existing NHS child and adolescent mental health service provision and inject the funding necessary to ensure proper therapeutic pathways for all young people who struggle with gender dysphoria.

"Medical intervention should not be the first resort in the treatment of a young person's psychological distress, which often goes hand-in-hand with underlying mental health problems or neurobiological conditions."