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8 Apr, 2015 16:19

​Sharp rise in under-11s seeking NHS transgender treatment

​Sharp rise in under-11s seeking NHS transgender treatment

The number of children in the UK being referred to the NHS for transgender treatments has increased fourfold over the last five years, new figures indicate.

Britain’s only center specializing in gender issues saw the number of under-11s seeking consultation rise from 19 in 2009/10, to 77 in 2014/15.

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust said the referrals included 47 children aged under five and two under three years of age.

Experts suggest the rise could be associated with the current generation’s willingness to explore gender identity issues.

Based in London and Leeds, the clinic treats the condition known as “gender dysphoria.

The National Health Service (NHS) defines gender dysphoria as when a person experiences distress because their biological sex and gender identity do not match.

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It is recognized as a medical condition for which treatment may be appropriate, and is not a mental illness.

A spokesperson for the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust said: “It is probably fair to say that young people are increasingly interested in exploring gender.”

There is not one straightforward explanation for the increase in referrals, but it's important to note that gender expression is diversifying, which makes it all the more important that young people have the opportunity to explore and develop their own path with the support of specialist services.

In a recent BBC program, children who identified as transgender were interviewed in their homes.

One child, who was given the pseudonym Jessica, said she felt as though she was in the “wrong body.”

She told The Victoria Derbyshire show: “I really didn’t want to be a boy. It was really frustrating for me. It feels like I’m in the wrong body.

Jessica said there was a period when she stopped drinking water at school to avoid going to the toilet because boys “thought she was a girl.” The school forbade her from using the girls’ toilets.

The girl’s mother, Ella, said a relative had called the NSPCC to accuse her of “conditioning” her child by “forcing their boy to live as a girl.”

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Ella separated from Jessica’s father several years ago and is now in a relationship with a woman.

While Ella admitted considering whether her relationship may have contributed to her son’s gender dysphoria, she dismissed the idea on reflection.

There is nothing we have done to make this happen,” she said. “You couldn't put a little boy in a dress if he didn't want to wear it.

Jessica insisted that, even if she were 100 years old, she would never want to be a boy “because I’ve always wanted to be a girl.”

LGBT media outlet Pink News said the television program received a positive reception.

According to the website, one comment on a Facebook page related to the show said: “Amazing parents – congratulations on letting the child make the choice.”

Others voiced opposition, however, with one user posting: “The world has gone mad, is this really what the child wants?