Dozens of transgender teenagers are freezing their sperm or eggs on the National Health Service (NHS) in case they want children after changing sex, doctors have said.
Boys as young as 12 who have been diagnosed with “gender dysporia” are having sperm frozen before they start hormone treatment that halts the onsent of puberty.
Doctors behind the scheme, which also preserves eggs from girls who believe they were born the wrong sex, said it was only fair to give patients the right to start a family.
Professor Gary Butler, head clinician for Britain’s only NHS service for young people with gender dysphoria – the belief a person is inhabiting the wrong sex – said: “Transgender people are not making a lifestyle choice. They are following their biological and psychological make-up about their identity.
‘Transgender’ is the umbrella term for people who identify with a different gender from the one they were assigned at birth – often diagnosed as ‘gender dysphoria’. The term ‘transsexual’ refers more specifically to someone who has had medical intervention, and is considered archaic.
The number of people being diagnosed with gender dysphoria is on the rise, as public awareness increases. When Caitlyn Jenner appeared on the July 2015 cover of Vanity Fair – her first photo shoot since coming out as a trans woman – Google searches of the word ‘transgender’ reached an all-time high worldwide.
Surgery and hormones
In the UK and most countries around the world, children need to wait until they are adults before they can undergo gender reassignment surgery, but they can be prescribed synthetic hormones to suppress puberty. The effects are fully reversible, so treatment can be stopped at any time.
There is no specific age when puberty-suppressing drugs can be prescribed: it depends when a child goes through puberty. The US state of Oregon recently made it legal for 15-year-olds to undergo gender reassignment surgery; most countries that do allow such surgery (including the UK) require the patient to be 18 or older.
Under President Obama, legislation was introduced to allow transgender soldiers to openly serve in the military. His successor, Donald Trump has announced plans to rescind that policy. All branches of Britain’s armed forces welcome transgender recruits.
“If they want to become parents and raise a family the science and medicine is there. It’s the right of the individual to be able to do that.”
He said dozens of patients who were born male, but planned to undergo surgery to change gender, are freezing their sperm first.
They are referred to the Gender Identity Development NHS clinic for under-18s at London’s University College Hospital after psychological assessments at the Tavistock Clinic.
NHS clinics are also freezing the eggs of girls from the age of 16 before they begin taking male hormones that will reduce fertility. Egg-freezing costs £4,000 for one cycle and around £300 for storage a year, while the price of preserving sperm is around £400, plus £300 a year to keep it frozen.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, former chairman of the ethics committee of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, yesterday criticised the scheme, which was disclosed in the Mail on Sunday.
“The NHS is about treating people who are ill – that’s what we pay our taxes for. It is not to aid people’s various wishes about what they want to do with their bodies or their futures.
“With increasing pressure on the NHS and so many essential services not being delivered, where are these funds for fertility treatment coming from?” he said.
Last month a Sussex secondary school banned girls from wearing skirts, to accommodate the growing number of transgender pupils.
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