Subscribe to our weekly round-up of the LGBTQIA+ world and support queer creatives to kick start their career 🏳️‍⚧️🏳️‍🌈

Conservatives "last desperate act in power" was to ban puberty blockers for transgender youth
Explainer Transgender

Conservatives "last desperate act in power" was to ban puberty blockers for transgender youth

Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham
TL;DR: Conservative Health Secretary Victoria Atkins used a power which she herself described as "extraordinary". At the last possible stage before Parliament was dissolved, she made it a criminal offence for a pharmacist, doctor or any other individual in Great Britain to sell or supply puberty blocking drugs to transgender patients under the age of 18.

Just eight hours before the UK government was dissolved for the general election, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins used a rare piece of legislation to ban private prescriptions (both in the UK or abroad) of puberty blockers for all under 18s who use them for gender dsyphoria.

The minister admitted that this was an "extraordinary" and unusual use of the law, which introduced an emergency restriction on puberty blocker medicines (GnRH analogues). This includes medicines with buserelin, gonadorelin, goserelin, leuprorelin acetate, nafarelin or triptorelin in them - GOV.UK

Bans like this usually have to be tested by a parliamentary committee - unless the Minister is able to argue, under Section 62 of the Medicines Act 1968, that it is "essential to make the order with immediate effect to avoid serious danger to health".

When this happens, the ban is only able to take effect for three months - as is the case with this ban. However, both Atkins and now the shadow Labour Health Secretary have signalled they "welcome" this approach meaning it could get extended after the election - Evening Standard

Dr Aidan Kelly, Clinical Psychologist and Director at Gender Plus, the UK’s only CQC-registered independent gender identity clinic serving young people and adults, called it "one of the Government's last desperate acts in power."

"This is clearly an attempt to score political points in the run-up to the General Election at the cost of a tiny and vulnerable section of our society - transgender youth."

The organisation is one of a few groups, including the Good Law Project, who have announced plans to seek legal advice to challenge the ban.

How quickly will it come into effect?

The banning order, which was published this week, has already made ripples. The ban will be effective from Monday 3 June.

A letter explaining the implications of this has been sent to everyone who is on the waiting list for the NHS Children and Young People’s Gender Service. Seen by QueerAF and What The Trans, it explains that "it will become a criminal offence for a pharmacist, doctor or any other individual in Great Britain to sell, supply or even possess these drugs for patients under the age of 18.”

However, the letter—sent to us by multiple parents—does set out some caveats for people with NHS prescriptions.

Puberty blockers for young people can still be obtained using an NHS prescription. Private prescriptions will need to be dated prior to 3 June 2024, whether as a one-off prescription or a repeat prescription, so long as they were issued within the previous six months.

For those who already have prescriptions dated after June 26th, further restrictions will apply. After this date, GPs and Primary Care will only be able to start or continue supplying to patients if they are older than 18, or:

  • they are 17 or under and have already started the medications,
  • they are part of an as yet unannounced clinical trial, or
  • the prescription is for a medical condition that isn't gender incongruence or dysphoria.

The short of this is that young Trans people who already have NHS prescriptions for puberty blockers are, for now, safe to continue. However, any new NHS and all private prescriptions will be either impossible or illegal to continue with. 

Meanwhile, this ban will only effect trans young people, not cis youth, who have safely taken the drugs for a number of years. 

How do families with transgender teens feel?

Emma Campbell, a parent of a transgender teen, told us they "sobbed" when they read the letter.

Their teen, Morgan, has accessed blockers for 19 months via a private healthcare service. Since getting these treatments and seeing his body change, Emma tells QueerAF, "he is so much happier, his mood is much better, he is no longer depressed".

Fortunately, the family were able to get a shared-care agreement between their GP and the private healthcare company, meaning Morgan's care can likely continue despite the ban.

However, Emma says she is "disgusted by the timing of this". When first reading the lengthy letter, and before realising the caveats would protect Morgan for now, she was trying to work out how she could tell her son that the treatments that make him feel better would have to end:

"My heart is breaking for all the parents around the country who are going to have to have that conversation."

They discussed "uprooting our entire family" just to protect their child's wellbeing and his "life-saving" treatment:

"Along with many other parents, we are aware that these treatments are vital to keeping our kids alive. Trans healthcare is lifesaving. I am totally brokenhearted for all the parents who now face watching their children fall into extreme depression over this unilateral decision the Government has made.

"Young People are having their options taken away from them and it will cause deaths."

Other parents who contacted us said that they’re “dreading” having to tell their children the news this weekend. 

Analysis: "A last desperate act of power"

When we first reported on this last week, we wondered whether this was just electioneering, designed to signal to gender-critical campaigners the Conservative Party are a 'safe pair of hands'.

Instead, it was a use of a statutory instrument, which even the minister admits was "extraordinary." This has now been backed by Labour, which leads in some polls by 20 points, meaning they will likely hold a huge sway in what happens in the next parliamentary term.

Meanwhile, the letters sent out to families of trans youth all over the country are stark, scary and troubling. The letter ends by reminding families that if they choose to ignore this new emergency legislation, "GPs may conclude that safeguarding procedures should be explored."

As we've been reporting on for a number of weeks, this is part of a broader post-Cass Review clampdown that will leave many young trans people with no choice but to medically detransition or face safeguarding referrals. That’s of course, if they were even lucky enough to be able to access gender-affirming care in the first place.

Today is the start of Pride Month, where CEOs celebrate 'the gays', corporations dare to temporarily rainbow it up, and in the LGBTQIA+ sector we brace ourselves for an exhausting four weeks.

The UK will be laser-focused on our community this month, and not just because of Pride. Because we're set to be a political football bandied about in a general election.

I'm worried about the election. In order for us to make informed decisions, we need to be able to trust the information we get and where we get it from.

We know all too well how terrible so many of the mainstream media titles have been to our community. And while they lean into anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric to chase clicks and rage bait, some of the gay news sector has been left with little choice but to go against its natural instincts thanks to market forces.

We're hearing more and more in our meetings with activists, community groups, and journalists about the shift you’re noticing away from original news and investigations.

Despite dedicated LGBTQIA+ journalists working hard across the sector to prioritise our news – editors and titles are telling them it's celebs, gossip and clickbait first, news, investigations and investing in the community last.

No news is bad news. And I don't use this word lightly: this is a crisis issue for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Without journalists with the lived experience of the issues that need reporting on, those who hold power will be left without accountability. That's something we simply can't allow to continue.

Investing in queer talent and communicating news costs money to do justice, and queer creatives deserve to get paid well. As a not-for-profit, we're uniquely placed in the LGBTQIA+ sector to reinvest in stories, news and investigations that matter to our community. We're also committed to doing that.

So this Pride month, instead of spending money on a rainbow t-shirt, we're asking you to make a purchase that has a year-round impact: A QueerAF membership.

And as part of the PINF's Indie News Week which we're taking part in, every membership you buy this Pride Motnh doubles the money we will get. That's why we're running a Pride Month sale.

There has never been a better time to sign up: a discount for you, double the money for QueerAF's creatives.