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Many thanks to Fiona Walker and the rest of the BBC Reporting Scotland news team for producing such a good segment about young people's Gender Identity Clinic access in Scotland. Hugh thanks to Emily for doing a great interview. ... See MoreSee Less

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Several newspapers in Scotland have reported on the number of referrals to the NHS Glasgow Sandyford Child & Adolescent Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) and the unacceptably long waiting times young people experience. It is essential that additional clinician time gets funded by the NHS to bring down the waiting times. When a young trans person is going through puberty, a 12 month wait for a first appointment can cause huge distress and risk of self-harm as their body changes against their wishes.

There was a significant increase in the number of young people referred to the specialist GIC between 2013 and 2015. However, in 2013 when just 34 young people were referred, there was considerable community and NHS confusion over whether Scotland even had a Child and Adolescent GIC! Most newspapers and medical websites claimed that the Tavistock and Portman Child & Adolescent GIC in London was the only one in existence in the UK. It's very hard for young people to get referred to a particular clinic if they and their doctor don't even know it exists.

It was 2014 that Time Magazine described as the "transgender tipping point" where awareness about transgender people and acceptance of their rights broke through into the mainstream public consciousness. Young people experiencing gender dysphoria began to hear their school friends and families talking positively about transgender people they had seen on TV. Thanks to media coverage, young trans people began to realise they were not the only young person feeling like that in Scotland and that it was possible to be referred to a GIC. Families and teachers were more likely to listen to young trans people and take their requests for support seriously.

In 2013 there were 34 young people referred to the NHS Glasgow Sandyford Child and Adolescent Gender Identity Clinic. In 2014 there were 67 referrals, in 2015 there were 187 referrals and in 2016 there were 200 referrals. So between 2015 and 2016 the rise has slowed considerably to a 7% increase over a year.

We believe that newspapers using the words "huge" and "surge" to describe the increase in GIC referrals since 2013 can be misleading to the public. The 200 young people who were referred to the specialist GIC in 2016 are 0.02% of Scotland's under 18s population. That's 1 young person per 5000. Some anti-trans commentators falsely claim that gender non-conforming boys and girls are being pushed into transition. That is clearly statistically false. At least 1 in 100 young people are gender non-conforming - nearly every school class has girls who like activities which are traditionally labelled masculine and boys who like activities which are traditionally labelled feminine. The only young people being referred to a GIC are those who are very clearly and consistently strongly stating they identify as a different gender or who are very distressed about their physical sex characteristics and puberty changes.

Once at a GIC, young people are assisted by highly skilled clinicians to carefully explore and self-reflect about how they feel about gender and their futures without being pushed in any particular direction. The puberty-delaying medication that some of them receive is not experimental - it has been used for over 20 years to treat thousands of children who have entered puberty too early and has been proven to be a safe way to temporarily put puberty on hold. No irreversible treatments take place until they are an adult.

The only thing that society needs to be concerned about in regard to these referrals, is the appallingly long waiting times these young people currently endure between referral and getting a first appointment at the GIC. Just a small increase in clinician hours - equivalent to one full time member of staff - could provide a much needed reduction in waiting times. Being able to access specialist support in a timely manner can enable young trans people to thrive and achieve their full potential at school and wider society.
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