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‘I should have been told to wait’: Woman treated with hormone blockers to reassign gender as a teenager takes NHS to court | UK News

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A woman who was treated with hormone blockers to reassign her gender as a teenager is taking the NHS to court, saying she “should have been told to wait”.

Keira Bell said the care she received for gender dysphoria, a condition where a person experiences distress due to a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity, steered her towards medical treatment.

Ms Bell, who used to identify as a boy, was 15 when she went to the Tavistock Centre in London. She said after “roughly three sessions” she started receiving hormone blockers.

Eight years later, and after undergoing surgery, Ms Bell is de-transitioning to return to a woman.

Transgender person Kiera Bell as a young girl. Supplied photo.
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Kiera Bell as a young girl

Ms Bell wants clinicians to do more to explore the reasons a young person changes gender before they are treated. She believes that during treatment, priority needs to be given to a person’s “biological sex as much as their gender identity”.

She said: “I am angry about the whole situation because of how things have turned out for me based on the medical pathway that I was put on, but I’m now just trying to focus on changing the system for the better and making it better for minors and children.

“I should have been told to wait and not affirmed in my gender identity I was claiming to have and given intensive therapy basically to make sure that I was on the right track for things and investigate the feelings I was having to figure out how I got to that stage.”

Ms Bell said she felt “trapped and alone”, and the Tavistock Centre should have taken into account the “confusion” teenagers experience before offering her treatment.

Kiera Bell, who received treatment to change her gender as a teenager, is taking the NHS to court. Supplied photo. 18/07/20
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Keira Bell used to identify as a boy

NHS England says young people with gender dysphoria are offered counselling, hormone therapy “and lifelong monitoring of physical and mental health to ensure people considering transition are supported in a safe and appropriate manner”.

Research by Stonewall showed that of the 3,398 transgender patients who had appointments at an NHS Gender Identity Service between 2016 and 2017, less than 1% said they had experienced regret after transitioning or had detransitioned.

Alex Vellins decided he wanted to become a boy when he was 12. Six years later he said he “wouldn’t be here” without the treatment he received at the Tavistock Centre.

Mr Vellins said the Tavistock Centre staff “talk to you in painful detail about how you feel about your body” and the process was “thorough”.

He said: “I’ve been seeing the same person for five years and they know me really well, and it’s taken me that long to get testosterone which is really the only permanent thing that I’ve had.

“There were so many times when they were like ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ and then there were so many consent forms and questions, there were so many points where you could be like ‘no’… Ironically, if you make it harder, then people are just going to inject themselves and it will make everything worse.”

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Ms Bell was already taking the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust to court for allowing children to give informed consent to treatment.

Ms Bell’s legal team argue the centre’s approach was unlawful because children could not give informed consent for this kind of treatment and the potential risks of treatment were not adequately explained.

The landmark cases could change the way childhood gender dysphoria is treated on the NHS.

Alex Vellins decided he wanted to become a boy when he was 12. He is pictured at aged 16 with his mum, Lisa. Photo supplied.
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Alex Vellins, pictured with his mum, Lisa, chose to become a boy when he was 12

The Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust said they provide a “thoughtful and measured service for children, young people and their families” who come to them in “considerable distress”.

A spokesperson said: “Our clinicians have no preconceptions about outcomes for the young people who are referred to our service, all of whom are provided with psycho-social support throughout their time with us.

“While physical intervention is only accessed by a minority of our patients, it is important that this option remains available and is informed by the latest evidence.”

“It is very clear from our first-hand experience of working with these young people and their families that, for some, doing nothing is not a neutral act.

“We also believe in the rights of young people, with support from their families and clinicians, to make informed decisions about their care, in the way they would do in any other aspect of their health.”

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