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The Prime Minister's 'dangerous' transgender proposals will do more harm than good, warns doctors' group

Published: 19th October 2018

The Prime Minister's 'dangerous' transgender proposals will do more harm than good and seem to be based on nothing more than political ideology, a doctors' group has warned today.

The doctors group, the Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF), issued the stern warning as the Government's consultation on making it easier for people in England and Wales to change their legal gender closes today Friday 19 October.

The Prime Minister Theresa May had said that she wants 'to see a process that is more streamlined and de-medicalised - because being trans should never be treated as an illness.'

The main change being proposed is to a system of 'self-declaration', this CMF argues would make gender identity simply a matter of a person's subjective feelings about themselves, and changing legal gender simply a matter of personal choice.

Dr Peter Saunders, Chief Executive of CMF commented: "Such a dangerous change would encourage the view that gender identity has nothing to do with a person's biological sex, it is a merely a social construct. This new ideological dogma has no evidence-base in science and self-declaration would appear to reinforce it as if proven fact."

"There is considerable evidence (see here and here) that amongst those who present with gender incongruence there is an elevated prevalence of co-morbid psychopathology, especially mood disorders, anxiety disorders and suicidality. A Dutch study has also reported the co-occurrence of autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) and gender dysphoria. The incidence of ASD in a sample of 204 children and adolescents with dysphoria (mean age 10.8) was 7.8%."

He warned that self-declaration would deprive individuals of contact with mental health professionals at the time when their assessment and advice could be crucial especially when rates among young girls seeking transition services has leapt 4,000 per cent in just a decade.

Dr Saunders continued: "There is a real risk that people who require psychological support and specialised psychiatric treatment would not receive it. This is of particular concern for teenagers, struggling with the turbulent effects of puberty, social transition and identity issues in general. Pursuing legal gender transition may harmfully distract a young person from addressing psychological issues such as anxiety and depression that may complicate gender dysphoria or even be at the root of it, with the help and support of mental health professionals and others."

According to trans activists, such psychological issues are due simply to 'minority stress', resulting from society's negative attitudes towards trans people, but the doctor group says these claims are without supportive evidence.

Dr Saunders added: "Those supporting these changes offer no proof that radical therapies such as puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormone treatment will prevent adolescents from attempting suicide. If anything, the findings of the survey underline the need for serious scientific research into the potential environmental causes of gender dysphoria and the risks—both physical and psychological—of medical transition."

The group which represents thousands of doctors, nurses and medical students, calls for new research, highlighting a new phenomenon, known as rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD). This has been observed to begin suddenly in an adolescent or young adult (usually a girl) who would not have met criteria for gender dysphoria in childhood. A peer-reviewed study published in August 2018 noted: 'the worsening of mental well-being and parent-child relationships and behaviours that isolate adolescents and young adults from their parents, families, non-transgender friends and mainstream sources of information are particularly concerning'.

The role of social media in spreading a form of 'dysphoria contagion' among contacts needs further research. Mindful of this, Penny Mordaunt, the equalities minister has requested a study to look into why there has been so sharp a rise in referrals for gender reassignment among adolescents, particularly girls.

CMF believe that the same caution is needed in treating adults with gender dysphoria. The largest study following adults who have undergone medical gender transition was conducted in Sweden. Thirty years after their transition, the suicide rate was 19 times higher among transgender adults than among the non-transgender population. It is clear that these results do not support the alleged curative effects of transition.

They urge the Government to take note of the accounts of people seeking to 'de-transition' and re-identify with their birth gender. Self-declaration would make it both easier and quicker to change legal gender and thus encourage earlier medical transition. This would both expose the process to frivolous abuse and increase the possibility that people make choices they later come to regret.

Dr Saunders concluded: "The prevailing rush to treat adolescents with puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones is not based on robust evidence that this approach results in lasting, improved mental health outcomes - The treatment is highly experimental.

"The Government is to be commended for seeking to reduce the burden of the process, and it might indeed be possible to improve aspects of the existing law, but removing sensible 'barriers' to overly-easy transition will result in more people embarking on early medical transition with insufficient thought, more people living to regret irreversible changes to their bodies and an overall increase in co-morbid mental health issues including suicide."

You can read the full text of CMF's response to the government consultation here

For further information:

Dr Peter Saunders (CMF Chief Executive) 020 7234 9660
Philippa Taylor (CMF Head of Public Policy) 020 7234 9664
Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668

Media Enquiries:

Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225

About CMF:

Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 4,000 British doctor members in all branches of medicine. A registered charity, it is linked to about 65 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.

CMF exists to unite Christian doctors to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.

Christian Medical Fellowship:
uniting & equipping Christian doctors & nurses
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