In the UK any child not conforming to gender stereotypes may be diagnosed as having gender dysphoria – defined by the NHS as:
“a condition in which a person feels there is a mis-match between their biological sex and their gender identity.”
The age at which treatment can start for this ‘condition’ was lowered in 2011 from 16 to 12 years old. According to recent reports, hormone blocking drugs are now allowed to be given to children as young as 9 years old.
The Gender Identity Service at the NHS Tavistock and Portman clinic deals with all cases of such treatment for those under the age of 18. Treatment involves hormone blocking injections in order for the patient to basically undergo the process of stopping puberty, as pre-stage to a possible ‘sex change’. The drugs used may also be potentially dangerous, and may have been previously used in the treatment of cancer for example.
Reports claim children as young as 3 years (!) have been referred to the clinic and the number of all referrals has tripled in the past 4 years.
In terms of adults there are many complex arguments surrounding this issue. Gendered roles attached to both sexes are not questioned however as limiting the behaviour and choices of all people. Biological females are supposed to display ‘femininity’- not a natural expression of being female but a social construct that alters according to historical conditions, cultures and societies. Likewise males are supposed to display ‘masculinity’. We are indoctrinated with the associated norms of gender from before birth according to our sex.
Any deviations from this has resulted in anything from societal pressures and rejection to extreme violence and state punishment.
Rightfully and for many reasons however many people either naturally or intentionally simply can not identify with the limiting gendered roles that are applied to them.
However to assume this inability to conform should manifest as necessitating a ‘swap’ of sex is disturbing. Not only does a ‘sex change’ involve many severe life changing and potentially dangerous medical interventions, but such procedures rely on the harmful dichotomy of the ‘feminine’/’masculine’ gender principles. In order to have such ‘treatment’ for example, a man must ‘live as a woman’ for a length of time before such procedures will be allowed to take place..(This was the experience of a friend of mine who while searching for answers to their actual intersex status and mistreatment by the medical profession, was instead advised to have surgery, to ‘live as woman’- an experience quite alien to them….). ‘Living as a woman’, in turn, is defined as little more than wearing dresses, make up and acting ‘feminine’, which is not actually the experience of genuine womanhood. It is a shallow patriarchal interpretation and gender stereotype. Being born female is a complex and particular experience which can not simply be ‘mimicked’.
Such ideas do not free anyone but continue to place people into limiting boxes of acceptable gendered behaviour which is automatically and wrongly associated with our biological sex.
However whatever the arguments are in terms of adults, what is happening to children is extremely worrying.
There are many reasons why both girls and boys do not conform to aspects of constructed gender identity. My own son naturally played with dolls, loved the colour pink and had long hair – all his own choices. He did so because he was given the chance to have that choice rather than being guided by parental and societal gendered expectations. In doing so he was allowed to express himself, something which did not alter or at all harm the fact he was also a male child.
Girls growing up especially have many reasons to reject ‘femininity’. Femininity can be extremely oppressive in terms of restrictions in clothing, behaviour and status. As many adult women have adopted perceived ‘masculine clothing’ and ‘masculine behaviour’ in conjunction with their liberation over the past centuries, girls likewise have found freedom in expressing themselves ‘like boys’ in order to participate and experience a more fully functional life.
To discuss these issues we must therefore consider the nature of patriarchal society and the limits and privileges constructions of gender places on children and adults, on the basis of biological sex.
Instead however and crazily…..children as young as 3 years old are being referred to be treated for ‘gender dysphoria’. Hormone blocking injections are now administered to 12 year olds.
It is actually a form of child abuse….
Any child simply expressing themselves while not fitting into a specific gender stereotype is potentially at risk of this harmful diagnosis and faces their lives being altered forever.