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Letter in response to The Observer editorial on the Cass Review

Our Chief Executive Paul Jenkins and Director of GIDS Polly Carmichael have published a letter in The Guardian in response to The Observer’s editorial on the Cass review on gender identity services for children.

Last week The Observer paper published its view on gender identity services for children calling, without a hint of irony, for an end to ‘ideology’. For years the Gender Identity Development Service has been positioned as variably both ‘affirmative’ or ‘gate-keeping’, ‘too rushed’ or ‘too ponderous’. These are false dichotomies.

At GIDS, we take a young person’s sense of themselves seriously. Some may refer to this approach as ‘affirmative’. However, being respectful of someone’s identity does not preclude exploration. Recent independent research relates first-hand the experiences of young people.

Most of our young people meet the criteria for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Yet only a minority access puberty blockers. Gender dysphoria alone is a poor predictor for who might benefit from a medical pathway.

Our specialist NHS service works developmentally to arrive at a shared understanding of what support may be needed. While we are trained to identify wider psychological or safeguarding needs, we liaise with local services to meet these. We do explore and seek to understand the impact of co-occuring difficulties and neurodiversity, but do not conceptualise the experience of gender incongruence as a symptom to be resolved with extensive therapy.

There is a reason GIDS evolved over decades at the Tavistock – it is a place with a long history of holding complexity. Simplistic notions about gender have no place and do not serve young people. Of course, what is universally accepted is the recognition that young people need more support from other services. Something we have long been calling for.