Senior Catholic officials in the United Kingdom have applauded a ruling from the nation’s highest court that says certain transgender children lack the legal competency to consent to medical treatments administered by a gender identity clinic. The response from the Catholic leaders diverges from previous inclusive viewpoints related to the LGBTQ community.
According to The Catholic Register, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled in Bell v. Tavistock that the use of puberty blockers administered by the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), a clinic for children under 16 years of age, are prohibited unless a court determines that such medication interventions are in the “best interests” of the child.
GIDS is a world-renowned speciality clinic for children experiencing psychological and emotional distress related to their gender identity. The Tavistock and Portman NHS (National Health Service) Foundation Trust manages GIDS, which was sued by Kiera Bell, a former patient.
The high court also opined that a separate court adjudication should be obtained for patients up to 17 years of age to ensure that they are fully aware of the ramifications of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as well as gender-confirming surgeries.
Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth called the high court’s ruling “a ray of common sense.” He expanded further:
“‘As Christians, we believe that God creates people as male and female,’ he said in a Dec. 4 statement sent by email to Catholic News Service. ‘This is why gender dysphoria is a condition that needs to be addressed first and foremost by spiritual and psychological therapies, with real love and emotional support for the individual concerned, rather than leaping to surgical and hormonal interventions.’” . . .
“‘The primary aim of therapy should not be to help people physically change their sex, but to assure them that they are loving and loveable human beings and to help them find their true identity.’”
The bishop’s response was echoed by Dr. Dermot Kearney, president of the Catholic Medical Association:
“‘People with gender dysphoria need understanding and help…There is no evidence, however, that interventions that reinforce or affirm a preferred gender rather than the gender genetically and biologically determined are helpful or indeed safe.'”
Bondings 2.0 has previously reported on the Catholic Church in England and Wales’ generally inclusive and affirming viewpoint on LGBTQ issues, though the Scottish bishops have acted somewhat differently. The English and Welsh bishops published a robust guide for educators to address the problem of LGBTQ bullying. Numerous dioceses have facilitated welcome Masses for the LGBT community, and the Westminster Diocese in London implemented an LGBT outreach program back in 2015. Msgr. Keith Barltrop, the head of LGBT ministry for that diocese, has also underscored that the church should pastorally embrace transgender people through their transition process.
In contrast, however, Bishop Egan’s response to Bell v. Tavistock disparages the scientifically-proven efficacy of puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy, and gender-confirming surgeries for transgender people, some of whom experience gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria, the feeling of discomfort or distress that a person may associate with living as the gender that the person was assigned at birth, can lead to a myriad of negative consequences, including suicide, if left untreated.
Moreover, reinforcing a myopic understanding of gender expression via the male/female binary diminishes the psychological and spiritual space for transgender children to grow into their identities, and to know that they are loved by God.
Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, the U.K.’s largest LGBT organization, criticized the high court’s ruling and issued the following statement:
“Today’s Court ruling about the prescription of puberty blockers is both deeply concerning and shocking. We’re worried this judgment will have a significant chilling effect on young trans people’s ability to access timely medical support.”
The voices of trans youth who have been patiently waiting to access the various medical treatments administered by GIDS were captured in an interview, as reported by PinkNews. One youth, Amber, a patient of GIDS, said:
“‘It is incredibly unnecessary, distressing and dehumanising to subject me to wait another year because they do not think I am ‘trans’ enough.’ . . .
“‘Simply saying ‘I am trans, I have felt dysphoria for seven years’ should have been enough. Suffering through the wait list queue should have been enough. Waiting a year while they diagnosed me with monthly appointments including calls on the telephone should have been enough.’”
If the U.K.’s Catholic Church hopes to embrace transgender persons pastorally on their journey of discovery, the church’s policy statements should be informed by all parties, including the parents of transgender children, as well as the scientific research of medical experts and psychologists who specialize in gender identity development.
—Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, December 16, 2020