The article by Angela Driver welcoming the Court of Appeal’s overturning of the Tavistock vs Bell judgement (Solidarity 607 ) is headed “A win for teenagers’ rights” and states that the decision “is good news for young trans people under 18.” In fact, the decision applies to children under the age of 16 who are struggling with their identity and considering gender reassignment.
I have to say that I have serious doubts about the Court of Appeal’s decision and think the judges in the Tavistock vs Bell case made a good point when they said there would be enormous difficulties for young children weighing up the relevant information and deciding whether to consent to the use of puberty blocking medication: “It is highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers [...] It is doubtful that a child aged 14 or 15 could understand and weigh the long-term risks and consequences of the administration of puberty blockers.”
I am aware of the fact that the medical consensus is that the physical effects of puberty blockers are reversible if the individual stops taking them. However, the Tavistock Clinic’s own Gender Identity Development Service states on its website: “The blocker is a physically reversible intervention... However we don’t know the full psychological effects of the blocker or whether it alters the course of adolescent brain development.”
The concluding section of Angela’s article (“Even when ‘protectors’ mean well, such ‘protection’ can often result in oppression”) would, it seems to me, logically mean opposition to the age of consent.
Workers’ Liberty, unlike several other tendencies on the left, has always supported an age of consent, and has stated: “Any fixed age of consent is necessarily arbitrary, but 16 (the age of consent in Britain) does coincide with other markers of adulthood and economic independence (age of marriage, school leaving age, full-time employment). We oppose the call for the abolition of the age of consent.”
Of course, this statement was in the context of consent to sexual relations and not about elective medical interventions: but I think the same principle applies.
Solidarity and Workers’ Liberty are quite correct in supporting the right of adults to transition — and, of course, to oppose discrimination against trans people. But we must also protect the interests of children who are likely to be incapable of making complex and potentially life-changing decisions.
Jack McDonough, Birmingham