Why Therapy is Crucial for Dysphoric Girls – A letter to Marsha de Cordova

Today we write to Marsha de Cordova, shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, to express our concern with the standard of care for young dysphoric girls in the UK and to stress the importance of therapeutic practice in their treatment.

Dear Marsha,

We are concerned at the answer you received to your recent parliamentary question regarding surgery for transmen. Hopefully the minister’s answer will satisfy transmen that their needs are being taken seriously and the deficit in provision is being addressed. However, whilst we can appreciate the frustration of those on interminable waiting lists who have elected to have surgery we were alarmed to hear how far this experimental surgery has been accepted into mainstream.

Prof Robert Winston described the phalloplasty procedure as experimental butchery. A large international study published this year reinforces this view, exposing high complication rates, surgical revisions and poor mental health outcomes. Therefore, we believe that a pause in developments until the Cass review has been completed is imperative to prevent more girls taking irreversible medical routes in haste and without the full picture, which they may later regret.

This is of concern to us as Lesbians because a significant proportion of the 4000% increase in girls presenting with Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) are gender non-conforming girls who, left to mature naturally would settle into same-sex attraction. Instead, now there are huge pressures on these girls to identify out of Lesbianism. They meet two powerful obstacles:

  1. The heteronormative assumption that only opposite sex attraction is valid, normal and acceptable. Therefore if they are sexually attracted to women they must be a man. This transing of Lesbians is deeply homophobic.
  2. Societal expectations that women and girls should behave and dress in a certain manner, under a very real threat of harassment/corrective rape.

For these girls to hear about advances in medical science that could turn them more “convincingly” into a “boy” can seem like a perfect solution to their struggles with sexuality and misogyny. However, the true reality of such lifelong medicalisation rarely lives up to these expectations. This is reflected in the growing numbers of detransition groups such as Post Trans, the Detransitioner’s Advocacy Network and The Pique Resilience Project. Internalised homophobia and sexism as well as comorbid conditions are commonly reported among detransitioners, which exposes the dearth of rigorous psychological support and assessment prior to medical transition.

We would therefore like to propose a follow-up question to inquire what provision there is to fund adequate counselling for those seeking gender reassignment treatment.

We feel certain that the Keira Bell case and the concerns raised about the lack of appropriate counselling at the Tavistock clinic are only the tip of the litigious iceberg.

I hope you find this information useful.

Comradely greetings,

Lesbian Labour

It could have been me

In September 2017 I considered going down to London to attend a meeting. It was about the potential impact on Women and Girls if the definition of Woman were to be changed from “the adult human female of our dimorphic species” to “anyone who feels like a woman”. This would include men – adult human males.

I had concerns about the safeguarding issues this would present, and concerns for survivors of male violence who needed Women-only spaces in which to heal and be safe. I also had personal experience of being part of a regular Women-only event. It had become unviable to keep it Women-only when existing single-sex exemptions provided in the 2010 Equality Act proved to be unworkable. I had a diary clash I was unable to change, so in the end I didn’t go to the London meeting.

Hounded out of the venue
The talk – ‘What is Gender? The Gender Recognition Act and Beyond‘ – was the first of a series being held across the UK. Like others I knew of, it turned out that this one was left without a venue. Those opposed to these meetings had put pressure on the venue – which, concerned for the safety of its staff, had cancelled the event. The attendees were instructed to gather at Speaker’s Corner – that symbol of Free Speech – and await information about an alternative venue.

We are all Maria
Maria, a woman my age, was taking photos and video clips of the gathering when she was suddenly physically assaulted by someone who believed the meeting should not take place. That could have been me. A 61-year-old Woman, waiting to attend a meeting. That made it personal. That made it my fight. A real “We are all Maria” moment.

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