Another week, another blast of evidence as to why putting kids on hormone blockers is an abomination. Time to Think: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Tavistock’s Gender Service for Children by BBC journalist Hannah Barnes, which is released on 16 February, is dynamite. The revelations it contains are horrifying: former clinicians at the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), part of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust in London, detail how some children were placed on medication after one face-to-face assessment, despite many having mental health or family issues. More than a third of young people referred to the service had moderate to severe autistic traits, compared with under 2 per cent of children in the general population.
Much of the detail in the book has been known for some time, but has been denied, ignored or dismissed. Finally, action is being taken: the Tavistock clinic is due to close this Spring. But why did it take so long for this scandal to fully emerge?
My own dealings with GIDS – and the backlash faced by those who have dared call into question the practice of giving kids hormone blockers – goes some way to explaining what has happened. Even back in 2003, when I first contacted the clinic, I was horrified by the approach to transparency. I was writing an investigative piece on the diagnosis of ‘transsexuality’ in relation to children. I explained the angle I was taking (critical and sceptical) and that I was hoping for a response from the service, refuting (I assumed) my allegations. Instead, I was sent on a wild goose chase, from clinician to clinician, and ended up speaking with an administrator who was spectacularly unhelpful.