Professor Tanya Byron: We Think You Failed This Dad

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This week Professor Tanya Byron failed a dad who’d asked for help about his 6th former child who identifies as non-binary. We’d like him to know he’s welcome in our group and we offer some advice, parent to parent. We’d like Professor Byron to please read it, too.

To the concerned father

Firstly, your evident closeness with your daughter is a strong protective factor. It’s also excellent that you’re trying to meet them where they’re at. Your child needs you, and keeping that dialogue going will be vital in helping them overcome their distress about gender.

You’re right to be alarmed that they might remove healthy body parts for the sake of “authenticity”. Here’s the reality as experienced by a mum in our group only weeks ago:

Here’s how it looks from the other side – as told by @ImWatson91, a young woman who showed her mum the results of the double mastectomy she’d got when she understood herself to be a man:

So please get support for yourself. You face much bigger problems than pronoun etiquette. Who’ll listen without judgment to your confusion, rage & loss when hormones break your child’s voice? When they come home having removed their breasts in the name of “authenticity”?

Incidentally, there’s no evidence that hormones and surgery for non-binary identities help. Here’s Dr Leighton Seal, consultant endocrinologist at the gender clinic Professor Byron pointed you to:

“We have to accept that there is no robust literature on this subject…there are no clearly established guidelines for the hormonal treatment of non-binary people, and a lack of empirical evidence on which to base practice”.

Richards et al, Genderqueer and Non-Binary Genders (2017)

In the words of Michael Biggs, Oxford UNiversity’s Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine:

“…the off-label use of drugs that occurs in gender dysphoria largely means an unregulated live experiment on children”

Doubts over evidence for using drugs on the young – The Times, April 2019

You mention a difficult adolescence and divorce. So please support the broader developmental and mental health needs of your child. Whatever route your child takes in life, having explored these issues will leave them in a better place to take sound decisions that will serve them long-term.

With luck they will find new ways to understand and manage their distress about their female body, which do not involve these hugely invasive experimental medical approaches that are rightly a huge concern for you.

You say she’s an introvert, academic, anxious, lonely. Consider if she’s on the autistic spectrum, which is much under-diagnosed in females. If so it can have a powerful explanatory effect on a young person who’s struggled and couldn’t understand why. Many autistic women spend some time identifying as trans – read some experiences here:

Autism, Puberty and Gender Dysphoria – The view from an autistic desisted woman

We-re Lesbians on the Autistic Spectrum. Stop Telling Us to Become Men

More Rote Than Meaning – An Autistic Take on Medicine, Radical Feminism, Identity and Left-wing Politics, Lesbianism and Cats

Knowing Your Body Is Not a Science

I was allowed to transition at 18 without question – but I regretted it

If your child is in Year 12, don’t approach GIDS, whose years-long waiting list means that referrals aged 15+ won’t be assessed by them, but are bumped up to the adult service, whose “new streamlined service model” is underpinned by “minimal evidence” (the clinicians’ own words).

Gender clinicians themselves admit that the “model of care in adult GICs is based on experience with older transwomen, not younger transmen or non-binary service users” like your child. Rates of detransition or stopping treatment, as measured in two recent studies, are very significantly higher than historic estimates, and are as common as 20%.

Be in absolutely no hurry to know the eventual outcome of your child’s gender exploration:

young people’s development does not have a fixed time frame attached. Much of this development will take place after reaching the legal age of adulthood at 18.

Making Healthcare Work For Young People, Northumbria Heathcare NHS Foundation Trust

Set aside empty flattery from Professor Byron for your ‘open-mindedness’. Trust your parental instincts and keep your eyes wide open.

We wish you and your child luck.