Debbie Hayton Debbie Hayton

Why Keira Bell’s victory matters

Keira Bell (Credit: BBC)

Keira Bell has won her case against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. As a transgender person, I am delighted for her but I am also relieved for the thousands of children who are chasing the impossible dream that it is possible to change sex.

Bell’s victory is an important one for teenagers and pre-pubescent children who are not old enough to make decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives. The High Court judgement made it clear that it is ‘highly unlikely’ that children aged 13 or under would be competent enough to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers. The judges went further and expressed doubt that children aged 14 and 15 could understand and weigh the long-term risks and consequences. Remarkably, they even voiced caution in the case of 16 and 17-year olds, where there is usually a statutory presumption of competence to give consent. Make no mistake: this was a profound judgment and a victory for common sense.

My own experience differs from Bell’s. I am the opposite sex, for one thing; I also have no intention of reversing a medical transition that I made as an adult. What’s done is done, and there are parts of me that can never be put back. Gender surgery is a one-way process.

But, crucially, that treatment was never available to me as a child and for that I am eternally grateful. If it had been an option, I would have obsessed over it and, had I managed to get to the clinic, I would have pressed for puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and gender surgery at the first opportunity.

I know this because that is what indeed happened to me when I realised that treatment was available. The internet has been both a blessing and a curse.

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