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Leading trans doctors debate the best way to treat trans kids

Leading trans doctors debate the best way to treat trans kids

Trans Solidarity Rally and March, Washington 2015

Some of the world’s leading doctors of trans and gender diverse young people have gone head to head about the best way to treat them.

Drs Bernadette Wren and Polly Carmichael of the NHS’ Gender Identity discussed the best treatment options with an American doctor at a trans health conference in Bristol, UK on Friday.

Wren and Carmichael went up against Dr Johanna Olson-Kennedy who is the medical director of The Centre for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

They presented at the (Re)Thinking Trans Healthcare:Bridging the Gap between Policy, Practitioner and Patient conference. Trans organizations TELI (Trans Equality Legal Initiative) and Mermaids hosted the conference in conjunction with the University of Bristol.

Heavy security

Attendees at the conference faced heavy security throughout the day, including a police presence.

Two security checks involving presenting ID were required to get into the conference.

Gay Star News asked conference organizer, Dr Peter Dunne, if the security was a normal part of conferences at the University of Bristol or if it was especially for the conference.

Dunne denied the security was brought in in case anti-trans protestors targeted the event.

‘We want to ensure the safety of all our conference attendees,’ the lecturer in law said.

The panel

After presenting the three doctors sat on a panel with Mermaids CEO, Susie Green, and trans advocate Jay Edwards.

‘Trans kids don’t have pathways carved out for them because they grow-up in a cis-normative world,’ Olson-Kennedy said.

Wren and Carmichael said they agreed with Olson-Kennedy who said about medical care for trans and gender diverse young people should be individual and not a ‘cookie-cutter approach’.

But the duo admitted the long waiting lists of up to 20 months to access the GIDS were unacceptable.

‘We have to remember there’s no training in this area and it’s hard getting staff, but I do think the NHS is committed to gender services and gender provisions,’ Carmichael said.

‘(In the meantime) we have to think imaginatively about how provide services.’

‘We have to think imaginatively about how we provide services.’

Who decides when kids get to start or stop treatment?

There was much discussion about whether or not to automatically put young people onto puberty blockers and engaging in the ‘watchful waiting’ model. It gives children the chance to explore their gender identity and if they eventually want to go ahead with medical interventions.

Carmichael pointed out that the GIDS and  Transyouth Center had a lot of similarities. But the GIDS is ‘a bit more cautious – and rightly or wrongly, that’s where we are’.

The American and UK doctors disagreed on what responsibility medical professionals had in helping patients move ahead with treatment.

‘I think it’s weird that someone would know your gender better than you. I just think that’s odd,’ Olson-Kennedy said.

But Wren said doctors had to be cautious and argued doctors are part of decision process.

Stewart told her: ‘It’s their decision, not yours’.

It’s important to have a debate

TELI’s co-founder Tara Hewitt celebrated the success of the conference saying it was the first time so many people from different professions outside the trans community had come together in this way.

She even welcomed the debate between the panel speakers in the morning.

‘I think when we don’t show different perspectives on how we do things, then people can become quite cynical,’ Hewitt said.

‘That’s what we’ve seen around the narrative about trans people and trans positive feminists, that they don’t engage, they don’t discuss.

‘We’re not here to discuss “do trans people exist”, we’re here to talk about how we create a world that everyone can live in and how do we deliver care.’

Other panels during the day also looked at the implications of accessing healthcare services outside of transition needs.