"We are just people too"
"We are just people too"
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England is an international outlier in trans healthcare - but sadly, not in a good way.
With just one NHS gender identity service for young people serving the whole of England, and only a handful of centres for adults, it’s almost impossible for people to get the treatment and support they are entitled to.
Legally, patients should be offered their first appointment within 18 weeks of a GP referral. But children are waiting on average 18 months, and some as long as three years. Of the adults referred in October 2017 some are only now having their first appointment - four years later. Waiting lists stretch into the thousands.
Such long waits mean trans adolescents are missing the short window of time in which puberty blockers are useful. Without them, their bodies will change in ways that they know they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.
To force teenagers to contemplate this, when a safe treatment is available which would give them breathing space to think, is unimaginably cruel. No wonder it correlates closely with increased suicide risks or self-harm. No wonder some feel they have no choice but to self-medicate with drugs purchased on the dark web.
While adults don’t face the same ‘window of opportunity’, the denial of treatment restricts the lives trans people are able to lead and has hugely harmful consequences for their mental health.
Delays have been getting worse and worse for some time. This cannot continue.
They explain the significance of this better than we ever could:
Eva said: “After spending so much of my life coming to terms with who I am, I took the decision to face it and I came out as transgender. But that liberation was short-lived when I discovered the extent of the gender clinic waiting times.
I've waited four years for my first appointment…I am still waiting. This has impacted my personal life in so many ways, and I feel so let down. It's like we're an afterthought in a service that's become complacent to its own astronomical waiting times.
Being trans isn't a choice. Let's face it - who would choose being hated, attacked, discriminated against? We are just people too.”
Alex adds: “Trans people are just trying to live their lives and feel comfortable and safe. We're not trying to trick you. We're not trying to get into your bathrooms. We're not trying to see how many people per day we can fool. We're not a puzzle, or a quiz, or a game.
For many of us, this is probably one of the few things we are certain about. We know we are trans and we know we need help - because right now, the lack of support is having such a negative effect.”
We’ve asked NHS England to explain why they are failing to meet their legal obligation to ensure patients are seen within 18 weeks, and to set out the steps they are taking to secure alternative provision and bring waiting lists down. We don't think they are doing enough, so are launching full legal proceedings.
The bottom line is waits for treatment are leading to the loss of lives and things are getting worse, not better. This cannot continue unchecked.
We are launching a new crowdfunder for this case as we have used a large proportion of the Trans Legal Defence Fund on our interventions in the Bell v Tavi appeal and a case about parental consent - both of which were successful - along with initial work on the present action. We have also carried out extensive work on Clinical Commissioning Groups’ refusal to fund fertility preservation for trans people and expect to do more when a suitable test case emerges. You can see an account of our spending here.
All funds raised will be governed by the same rules as our community-led Legal Defence Fund for Transgender Lives and any surplus will go towards future cases that protect trans and non-binary people.
Good Law Project has instructed David Lock QC, Jason Pobjoy and Rook Irwin Sweeney to act for it. They are acting at significantly below market rates.
10% of the sums raised will go to Good Law Project so that we can continue to use the law for a better world. It is our policy to only raise sums that we reasonably anticipate could be spent on this litigation. If for some reason we don’t spend all the money raised on this case, for instance if the Government backs down or we win, the donations will go towards supporting other litigation we bring.
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