Carnegie Education

Problems mount for transgender young people during COVID-19 lockdown

Transgender (trans*) healthcare, for children and young people, is bureaucratic and limited at the best of times, but COVID-19 has brought with it it’s unique set of own challenges.
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Gender identity clinics (GIC’s) across the UK have severely reduced their services. Some have cancelled all appointments. Others have announced publicly they are no longer issuing hormone prescriptions meaning young people’s social and medical transitions can be severely impacted. Others have closed the referrals to their waiting lists. Many gender-confirming surgeries have been cancelled and will be rescheduled.

Due to GP’s reducing many appointments, many young people who would have hormone injections cannot access them, and many have been unsafely trying to locate hormones from wherever they possibly can. As hormones are licensed medicines, individuals cannot simply walk into pharmacists to collect them on repeat prescriptions.

As testosterone, unlike estrogen, is a controlled substance, it is even harder to get hold of without a prescription. The aim of these hormones is to help trans* individuals feel more comfortable with themselves, both in terms of physical appearance and how they feel. They start the process of changing a person’s body into one that is considered more ‘male’ or ‘female,’ depending on the persons gender identity.

GIC’s waiting lists will now be longer due to COVID-19. Previously, waiting lists were horrifyingly long, at a waiting time of two-years on average, which naturally will now be even longer and slow down the progression of lifesaving healthcare that supports young people’s social and medical transitions.

Surgeries have been cancelled due to being deemed ‘non-urgent,’ when in reality, they are extremely ‘urgent’ to the young adults who have been waiting years for them.

There are many trans* young people who are homeless as a consequence of transphobia in their family homes and are therefore at higher risk of catching COVID-19.

Despite the world being in the middle of a pandemic, there are individuals campaigning against local authority guidance designed to minimise the risk of self-harm and suicide in transgender young people, such as the case with the Oxfordshire County Council Schools and College Guidance.

There are also people who are still actively campaigning for the prevention of trans* children and young people gaining access to medication that could improve their wellbeing and mental health outcomes, not just for now but for throughout their entire lives.

Trans* children and young people are entitled to be taken seriously and treated with dignity and respect. It is their basic human right. Article 12 of the United Nations states that ‘every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.’

Despite the legislation and statements, and a significant size of academic research that supportive environments from trans* children can help save lives, the rights of trans children remain continuously under threat.

You may be wondering what you can do to help. The best thing non-trans (cis) and trans* allies and supporters can do is donate to charities helping young people directly, such as Mermaids Charity who are actively helping trans* young people at this time. If you cannot do that, try to be knowledgeable and mindful about what the trans* community are going through during the pandemic and help in whichever way you can - even if the most you can do is a supportive retweet.

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By Professor Rachel Lofthouse
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