An investigation has been ordered into the sharp increase in the number of trans children referred to gender services.
It will look in particular at children who were assigned girl at birth who want to transition to be boys.
And in the end that is great news for the trans community, because it’s part of a policy of shutting down transphobic comment online.
Very vocal groups of critics have suggested the increase is the result of peer pressure, or social media. But experts and studies suggest otherwise.
The Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt ordered the investigation at the weekend. But plans were first announced at the start of July this year, in the government’s LGBT Action Plan 2018.
It said: “The Government Equalities Office will gather evidence on the issues faced by people assigned female at birth who transition in adolescence”.
The government want an end to what Penny Mordaunt called “discrimination and bigotry”.
And she is determined to do something about it and to “really show that misleading information, unpleasant things on social media, or lectures and videos that are being broadcast are called out for what they are”.
Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt at the Women and Equality Committee, Parliament, 20 June 2018
Referrals ARE significantly up
There has been a significant increase in the number of children being referred to the Gender Identity Development service.
The investigation is only into the increase in the number of referrals of children born female, because it’s 45 times more now than it was 8 years ago.
The numbers are not unexpected
Importantly the rate of increase has been falling since 2015, which could suggest that referrals will steady in time.
So what has caused the big rise in numbers?
A big cause might be introduction of the Equality Act in 2010. The law brought significant changes in society, including the way schools handle trans issues and trans children.
“There is no single explanation for the increase in referral figures”, said Dr Polly Carmichael, Gender Identity Development Service Director. “But we do know in recent years that there has been significant progress towards the acceptance and recognition of transgender and gender diverse people in our society”.
She said more people now know about gender clinics and the treatments they can provide to young people.
But if that is the cause, why has the number of children born female who are looking for help gone up so much more than children born male?
Well, the same thing is happening in other countries too. And an academic study in 2015 looked at clinics in Amsterdam and Toronto, to try to work out what’s going on.
Going out is easier
Their conclusion was that it’s now easier for people to come out as trans, but it’s significantly easier to do it if you’re born female.
“There are greater costs for a male to adopt a female gender identity in adolescence than it is for a female to adopt a male gender identity”, the study concluded.
The transgender activist and author Julia Serano draws an analogy with what appeared to be a dramatic increase in left-handedness in the 20th century.
Between 1900 and 1950 the percentage of left-handed people shot up from about 2% to almost 14%. Why? Left-handedness became less of a stigma, and schools stopped forcing children to use their right hand instead.
Media Credits: Penny Mordaunt pic, Parliament TV. Women and Equalities Committee video, Parliament TV. GIDS logo, GIDS. The Facts graphic, TransNews. Table of figures, TransNews using data from GIDs.