Last week, the UK’s High Court granted a landmark judicial review into whether young transgender people can give informed consent to puberty blockers.
The legal challenge is an attempt to force trans teens to go before a judge before being given medical treatment by doctors.
But what are puberty blockers?
Puberty-pausing medication, known as puberty blockers, delay puberty until a young trans person is old enough to make decisions about having gender-affirming medical treatment, for example hormone therapy or surgery.
Puberty blockers can also temporarily prevent the development of secondary sexual characteristics (like an Adam’s apple or facial hair), which means that trans teenagers can potentially avoid some gender-affirming surgeries later in life.
In the UK, the medication is prescribed to trans teens by specialist gender doctors at the NHS’s only gender clinic for under 18s, the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the NHS’s Tavistock and Portman Trust in London.
Multiple medical associations, including the Endocrine Society, have guidelines recommending doctors offer trans teens pubertal suppression therapy, also known as puberty blockers, which has been a treatment option in the US since 1998.
The treatment has been used for decades and a recent piece of research found that access to the drugs is “life-saving” for trans teenagers.
The landmark study, published in medical journal Pediatrics in January 2020, was the first to look at the impact of access to puberty blockers on suicide risk of trans kids.
The study found that if trans teenagers have access to puberty blockers their chance of suicide and mental health problems significantly declines.
The age at which trans kids can be given puberty blockers was lowered from 16 to around 11 in 2011, after nearly a decade of consultation with international experts.
A spokesperson for the transgender children’s charity, Mermaids said that they would be taking a “close interest” in the High Court judicial review.
“It is clearly relevant to the work we have done for several decades, supporting transgender and gender-diverse children and young people.
“We will take steps to support those for whom we advocate if it becomes necessary and may apply to intervene in this claim.”
According to the BBC, the judicial review is likely to be heard this summer.