On Tuesday, three judges at the High Court in London ruled that children under 16 who experience gender dysphoria cannot consent to puberty blockers. For many trans campaigners who have seen the positive impact this reversible treatment can have on young kids with dysphoria, the ruling is a huge blow to a vulnerable demographic who already wait years for treatments.
The High Court case was bought by two claimants: Keira Bell, a 23-year-old who took puberty blockers, and later hormones, and then de-transitioned, as well as Mrs A, the mother of a 15-year-old trans child. As a result of the case, against the Tavistock clinic and NHS Portland Trust, children under 16 will have to get a court ruling to have puberty blockers prescribed.
While Bell said she was “delighted to see that common sense has prevailed,” many trans campaigners criticised the lack of consultation with young trans people during the case.
“I only wish the judges involved had actually talked to some of the young people affected by their decision,” said Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids, a charity that works with trans children and teenagers. “They were offered such an opportunity but refused.”
“They should have listened to the voices of older trans people who never had the opportunity to access puberty blockers, and desperately wish they could have,” she added. “They should talk to the young people on a two-year-plus waiting list who have now had hope ripped away from them.”
VICE World News spoke to young trans people, some whom have taken puberty blockers, others who were unable to, about how it has affected them, and what this new ruling means for the people affected first hand.
“When I heard the court decision, I cried”
“I was referred to the gender identity clinic, Tavistock, when I was 15/16, and I didn't hear anything from them for years. They got back to me and were like, ‘Oh you're too old to see us, we'll pass you on to the Adult clinic.’ So currently, my wait is six to seven years for testosterone.
“My mental health suffered drastically during the coming out process before I knew I was trans, but being put on hormone blockers would have stopped so much stress and anguish, and the hatred towards yourself.
“If I’m honest, when I heard the court decision I cried. If I had the ability to get hormone blockers when I was so much younger, I'd be so much happier. My parents are really supportive, but even for the young people who don't have supportive parents, when they're sat watching the news, watching their rights be debated, it's not going to fill them with hope and want for life. Now it's been blocked, it's not going to get any better for trans people.” Daniel Robinson, 17, Rossendale
“[Puberty Blockers] would have just alleviated my dysphoria”
“I find the High Court decision ridiculous because puberty blockers could help so many trans kids, feel so much better in themselves. Puberty blockers aren’t causing harm, we've done enough research to know that it's not hurting them. It just delays puberty.
“I think coming out would have been so much easier of a process to go through if I would have been able to have had access to puberty blockers. It would have just alleviated my dysphoria, and it would have just made the transition a little smoother.” Josh Evans, 19, Bolton
“I was heartbroken”
“When I first heard the outcome of the ruling, I was heartbroken. I never expected the ruling to go that way. The fact that the processes for acquiring puberty blockers and hormones has been made that much harder, that doesn't mean that younger trans people are going to go away. They're still going to exist. It's just now their lives are in so much more turmoil, and then this is going to have a huge impact on their mental health in a negative way.
“I came out as trans in 2017 when I was 14 and I was put on the top of a waiting list in November of that year. And since then, I've been on NHS waiting lists to speak to a gender specialist. However, this summer, I decided to seek out private health care, and since October, I have been on a testosterone suppressant and oestrogen.
“From day one, I have felt amazing. I've never felt more like myself than I ever have. And it's a real testament to the fact that if I had been on this sooner, I probably would have been a lot happier a lot faster.” Sonja Howells, 18, West Midlands
“Being on puberty blockers was such a great relief”
“I came out when I was 12, got into the Tavistock at 13, and on puberty blockers by 14.
“Waiting for them was pretty horrid knowing that I was going through puberty. I experienced a lot of dysphoria, distress, that kind of thing. Being on puberty blockers was such a great relief. So I am quite scared [about] making people wait until 16 to get onto blockers. The level of puberty that they're going to go through is quite a lot, and that's going to be horrible.
“Part of that medical process was got what got my family to realise that I was actually trans because it was somebody external saying, ‘No, this is an actual real thing.’” Alex Vellins, 18, Manchester.
“It's forcing trans kids to go through something extremely uncomfortable”
“It's really upsetting to hear about the High Court ruling. It's essentially forcing trans kids who most likely know that they are trans to go through something that will make them extremely uncomfortable and just ruin their mental health. And I can speak from personal experience saying that going through the wrong puberty – it's damaging.
“Puberty blockers are definitely something that I think would have helped in my transition. I suffered severely because of the difference in my brain and my body – they just didn't align.
“I think the easiest way to describe gender dysphoria to someone who doesn't know what it's like is it's a deep discomfort and almost a repulsion in your own body. Like I feel like a foreigner in my own skin, because I look down and it just doesn't feel like me, it's not who I am.” Liam Bradshaw, 19, Bolton.