Conservative Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss has come under fire from LGBTQ+ activists and groups for recent comments she made about healthcare for transgender youth.
Discussing reforms around the Gender Recognition Act in a virtual session of a select committee on 22 April, she said:
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.
She also said that she wanted to ensure “under 18s are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future”.
But LGBTQ+ rights groups and activists have told indy100 that they are “shocked”, “concerned” and even "terrified" about the comments.
In a statement, Laura Russell, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research at Stonewall said:
While it’s good to hear the Government will set out its proposals for next steps on reform of the Gender Recognition Act, we’re concerned about comments that relate to protecting trans people who are under 18 from making ‘irreversible decisions’.
We’d welcome an opportunity to discuss this with the Minister, as it’s crucial all young people who are questioning their gender identity are able to access high-quality, timely support.
Every trans young person should be given the care they need, in an informed and supportive manner, so they’re able to lead a happy, healthy life.
In a follow-up blog post, Stonewall argued the comments are “concerning” because “it sounds similar to how young lesbian, gay and bi people were spoken about in the 1980s”.
They explained Truss’ language implies trans people are “impressionable, vulnerable and don’t understand themselves”.
Author Juno Dawson told indy100:
I knew I wanted to be a girl when I was four or five years old and really wish I'd had more support when I was a teenager. It would have greatly improved my life.
I'd strongly urge Ms Truss to speak to some young transgender people about how early medical interventions have helped them. A recent study found 'puberty blockers' to be 'life-saving' and I'd also remind her that 48% of trans youth have attempted suicide.
Similarly, Chair of the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights, Torr Robinson – who identifies as non-binary – said the comments risk “rolling back the rights that trans people do have”.
They told indy100:
It makes me worry not only for my own future as a trans person living in Britain, but for my entire trans community... Trying to receive needed healthcare, trying to find a job and community where it is safe to be trans, and to live without fear, distress and hardship, will become even harder.
Trans young people should have the right to life-saving healthcare which allows them to live with a greater sense of wellbeing and happiness just as anyone else does.
The consequences could be dire, says Robinson:
For some, it will become impossible, and the consequence of that will be even more trans people's lives being lost.
As the father of a transgender child, @dadtrans on Twitter – who wishes to remain anonymous – told indy100:
We are shocked and distressed that a Minister for equalities would imply any restriction on access to healthcare for trans adolescents. If the UK government is enacting policy, which limits access to healthcare for Gillick / Fraser – a guideline to determine a child’s capacity to consent – competent adolescents, including trans youth, we will look to challenge this using the fullest extent of the law.
Similarly, Lindsay Gray (@trans_mum on Twitter) said Liz Truss’ recent comments are “terrifying” as the mother of her transgender girl, Zara.
The concerned mother told indy100:
I know that forcing my child through her natal puberty would make her very likely to take her own life. She was suicidal at age 5 as she felt completely hopeless being forced to pretend she was a boy; those are her words.
She is petrified of developing a deep voice or facial hair or any other secondary male sex characteristic and I have promised her it will never happen. I’ve promised her that I will do everything in my power to make sure she has one puberty, the one she identifies with and in line with her cis peers if at all possible.
What Liz Truss proposes is that nothing reversible happens until you’re 18. So that means we could access blockers but not hormones. So my daughter could be on blockers to prevent her natal puberty but then will be in a state of menopause; suspended as a child until she is 18.
Not only is this illogical for someone such as her, she came out aged 6 and has lived as a girl since then showing she is insistent, consistent and persistent in her identity, it would be incredibly damaging both emotionally and physically. Frankly is pure cruelty.
The reaction to the equalities minister’s comments were swift on social media, with many calling them an "attack" on the lives of trans youth:
Stonewall said they'd be raising these issues with Liz Truss, adding:
We need to make sure that the system supports all children and young people to have the time and space to explore who they are, with the right support and information.
While transgender charity, Mermaids, said in a statement:
We believe that transgender young people should have the same right to make important personal decisions as non-trans people. Furthermore, we must question why Ms Truss is making a statement about clinical pathways while answering a question on the Gender Recognition Act, which has no bearing on medical care.