Woman says 'rushed' gender reassignment treatment left her suicidal

A woman who received treatment to reassign her gender as a teenager says her care was "rushed" and left her feeling suicidal.

Keira Bell is taking the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust to court over the treatment she received for gender dysphoria, a condition where a person experiences distress due to a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.

The 23-year-old, who used to identify as a boy, said the puberty-delaying drugs and testosterone prescribed to her have irreversibly damaged her physical and mental health.

Ms Bell started receiving treatment, including hormone blockers, after "roughly three sessions" at the Tavistock Centre. She says at the time she had "no doubt" she wanted to become a boy.

She says: "I wanted to go onto the medical pathway as soon as possible, I was very eager and I was very reluctant about speaking to anyone who would possibly get in the way of that."

Ms Bell described her decision to transition as a teenager as a "coping mechanism" and says there was "no real investigation" into the other mental health issues she was going through at the time.

She says: "I just realised that it (gender reassignment) hadn't worked after a few years… I just went into like a menopause like state and everything just kind of shut down.

"I felt drained and tired and had nothing but negative effects from it really, I didn't have a good experience with it at all.

"I think the depression kicked in a bit more because I was without any hormones in my body, especially at such a young age when it's supposed to be at such a peak.

"It's very detrimental to someone and the psychological and the brain effects I think are completely understudied as well."

However, most gender reassignment stories are positive.

Lisa's son Alex decided he wanted to become a boy when he was 12.

"Since being on the blockers he's absolutely flourished, he's come out of his shell, he's settled in a new school and he's flourished academically. I'm incredibly proud of him."

Sky News previously revealed that former staff at the Tavistock Centre fear children are being "over-diagnosed" and "over-medicalised".

Our research suggested that 35 psychologists have resigned from the children's gender-identity service in three years.

Six of them have now raised concerns about hormone treatment being given to children with gender dysphoria.

The Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust is where children with gender dysphoria are treated on the NHS.

GIDS had 2,590 children referred to them in 2018-19, compared with just 77 patients a decade ago.

According to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, there are now around 3,000 children on the waiting list, with waiting times for an appointment at about two years.

The London clinic sees children under 18, including some cases who are as young as three.

Around half of children are put on drugs to pause their puberty, known as hormone blockers.

Some charities have been campaigning for all children aged 12 and over to get streamlined access to puberty suppressants if they identify as transgender, and hormone blockers have been hailed as revolutionary by some trans activists.

But Ms Bell said she found her experience at the Tavistock Centre so distressing that she has since decided to de-transition.

"It's very difficult because you have to live with the physical changes you've experienced, especially when it comes to things like surgery," she said.

"The whole process is really traumatic looking back on it, there's no going back from it really because you are changed forever visibly."

Ms Bell's legal team will argue the centre's approach was unlawful because children could not give informed consent for this kind of treatment and the potential risks of treatment were not adequately explained.

The landmark case will be heard at the High Court later this year and could change the way childhood gender dysphoria is treated on the NHS.

In a statement, the Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust said: "A judge has this week decided that the proposed judicial review of the Gender Identity Development Service approach may proceed to a hearing.

"We welcome the opportunity this provides to talk about the service and to stand up for our dedicated staff who put the best interests of the young people and families at the heart of their practice.

"GIDS provides a thoughtful and measured service for children, young people and their families who come to us in considerable distress.

"Our clinicians have no preconceptions about outcomes for the young people who are referred to our service, all of whom are provided with psycho-social support throughout their time with us.

"While physical intervention is only accessed by a minority of our patients, it is important that this option remains available and is informed by the latest evidence."

The statement added: "It is very clear from our first-hand experience of working with these young people and their families that, for some, doing nothing is not a neutral act.

"We also believe in the rights of young people, with support from their families and clinicians, to make informed decisions about their care, in the way they would do in any other aspect of their health.

"We welcome the opportunity to make the case for the quality of care the service provides in a thorough and nuanced way.

"Our work in GIDS is provided in accordance with best practice and relevant national and international specifications and guidelines.

"We are disturbed by the level of misinformation in relation to the support provided to these young people. The often-toxic debate around the topic has caused considerable distress to patients and families.

"We hope the hearing will serve to set the record straight and put centre-stage the voice and interests of young people living with gender dysphoria."