The NHS in England has launched a consultation on the services available to those seeking access to Gender Identity Clinics, and how to deliver those services in the future. Hidden away in an appendix are extra requirements for referral to a gender identity clinic. A patient must not be deemed as a sufferer of “acute physical or mental health problems”, they must be registered with a GP, and must not deem themselves as intersex.
This disgraceful proposed policy ignores the discriminatory realities of the everyday lives of many transgender people. In the UK, in order to transition medically on the NHS and have treatments such as hormones or surgery, a transgender person must be referred by their GP to a Gender Identity Clinic. Clinics also offer speech and language therapy and counselling.
These three additional requirements create additional barriers which could prevent transgender people from receiving potentially lifesaving care. Many transgender people suffer from acute mental health problems, and the suicide rate among trans people is alarmingly high. Studies have shown that when transgender people are allowed to transition and are treated with respect, their mental health improves and suicide rates decrease. Instituting these barriers could directly contribute to the suicides of those seeking treatment from Gender Identity Clinics. They may feel as though they can only transition if they don’t seek treatment for their mental health, meaning they would not disclose any conditions to their GP. As a result, they would not receive any support.
The second requirement, that those seeking treatment must be registered with a GP, poses additional issues. In order to be registered with a GP, a person must have a permanent address. The level of homelessness among trans people is high due to discrimination from families, landlords, and employers. Therefore, this requirement is likely to affect a significant number of transgender people, preventing them from transitioning. In addition, it will also have an effect on migrant trans people, who may struggle to register with a general practice as a result of language barriers or lack of documentation.
The third and final requirement, that intersex people are not permitted to access the services provided at gender identity clinics, means that intersex people will be forced to live as the gender they were assigned at birth; this disregards the fact that they may have had surgery without their consent in order to assign those genders.
The quality of life of trans and intersex people depends on being able to access the services provided at gender identity clinics. There are already a number of hoops to jump through in order to receive treatment, and the NHS’s additional barriers are going to have a hugely negative impact on the lives of many trans people. Allowing transgender people to access gender identity clinics and the services they provide is vital to their health, and so this policy change seems inhumane.