FiVE times as many children have been referred to an NHS service for transgender youngsters this year than in 2010, according to new figures.
In Wigan and across the North West, there has been a large increase in young people seeking support and treatment for gender dysphoria – a condition where a person experiences confusion or distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.
The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, the UK’s only centre specialising in gender issues in under 18s, has confirmed that the number of young people referred from the North West has rocketed from 16 in 2010 to 78 in 2014/2015.
The Evening Post reveals the figures at the start of our series, Trapped In The Wrong Body, looking at the different issues and turmoils faced by those living in the trans community.
The Gender Identity Development Service run by The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust sees young people up to the age of 18.
While most referrals come from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, the service also received referrals from GPs, paediatricians and schools.
The trust, which has clinics in London and Leeds, works with children and young people who are experiencing difficulties in the development of their gender. This includes people who are unhappy with their biological sex.
A spokesman for NHS Tavistock and Portman says: “Every child and young person we see here is different and there is no right or wrong way to explore one’s gender or indeed a pre-prescribed age that children transition.
“Social transition is generally the first stage of transition and people experience this in different ways, at different times.
“Younger childer are increasingly tending to make earlier social transitions.
“If a young person does decide to start the process of physical transition, the process can be started when the young person is in the early stages of established puberty.
“In the case of younger children, young people and their families take part in a comprehensive psychological and social assessment for a period of about six months before a referral to the dedicated endocrine liaison clinic is considered.
“Cross sex hormones can be prescribed from the age of 16.”
The current caseload the service is seeing is about 800. However, some of these cases are open from referrals in previous years menaing the caseload is higher than the number of annual referrals.
Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of referrals.
Carolyn Mercer, chair of trustees at Lancashire LGBT says: “Young trans people now have greater access to information, advice and support than ever before.
“Online communities and an increasingly visible media presence are giving young trans people a far better understanding of gender identities and what it means to be transgender and/or non-binary.
“Lancashire LGBT works closely with schools across the county who are supporting young people undergoing gender transition as well as providing support for the parents and families of those young people.”