FaceApp – gender recognition

‘Young’ Matt

Everyone’s doing it at the moment – seeing how they would look ‘old’ or ‘young’ with FaceApp, the image-altering app from Russian company Wireless Lab.

Firstly, what an incredibly clever app it is! But how many of you have noticed that when it scans your picture and processes your face, that it decides for itself what gender you are? You don’t get a choice!

For a trans person this is highly significant. Often our equivalent of ‘Does my bum look big in this?’ is ‘Do I pass?’ (as male, female, non binary etc).

Even before transition, I was very often gendered male, so I thought I’d put the app to the test. Digging out some old photos of me before transition and testosterone, I was genuinely surprised with the results.

Apart from a couple of pictures when I was very young (slightly more girly hair I’m guessing) the app still decided I was male, even before testosterone.

Me at 30 and 9 or 10 years old. In both these pre-transition pictures FaceApp has automatically given me its male options. I can add a beard to either of them – not available for ‘female’ pictures

 

Yes!!! What a result huh?

However, I’m still unsure if I think the app’s automatic ‘gender detection’ is amazing or absolutely terrible for trans people. It could be a lovely way to test whether you pass, and very affirming when you see yourself starting to pass in your preferred gender as your transition progresses. But it could also be devastating and highly triggering for those who don’t pass in their preferred gender or are non-binary, causing increased dysphoria. And this could potentially cause harm.

A more inclusive developer might have given users the option to enter the gender themselves. Possibly even included a non-binary/gender neutral option too. And woah, what about any cis people who might find themselves being misgendered by the app! Ahggggg! Now I can’t see them being very happy, can you?

‘Old’ Matt

What are your experiences with this when using FaceApp?

 

 

 

 

 

 

LGBT education in schools

There has been a lot of debate recently about LGBT, same sex relationships and transgender education in schools. Some parents think the topic should be in the curriculum whereas others think they should be able to opt-out, often because they feel their children are too young for the topic or that it will harm their child in some way.

My experience with my own transition whilst working with children in my own music school has only been a positive one. A lot of this has been because the children have covered the topic at school. While I was transitioning I had many parents telling me when they told their child I was about to transition, their child responded in a very matter of fact way with things such as “Oh yeah, we’ve done that at school” and then just continued with whatever they were doing, showing it really was no ‘biggie’. In fact in many ways the children took things in their stride far easier than the adults did. Not that any of the adults struggled, everyone I have told about my transition has been fully supportive.

 

My thoughts are schools should be educating their pupils about the world. So for example take religion, whether you believe in, agree with, or disagree with a religion, it is important to know about them. Why? They exist and there are people who live by each religion, and so we will all come across them at some point. When we do it’s far better that we have some degree of understanding.

 

I feel the exact same with LGBT issues. It doesn’t matter whether you yourself are gay, straight, transgender, or in a same sex relationship, these are all things that exist so we will all, and this includes children, come across LGBT situations. Therefore to be clued up about these topics is a must!

 

Also, I suffered a lot as a child because I shut up about my gender dysphoria for fear of what others might think. In the late seventies and early eighties there was no internet and it certainly wasn’t a topic taught in schools, so I knew nothing about what was possible. This meant I hid my feelings and so grew up very unhappy, not myself, was held back in many areas of life, and ultimately was prevented from achieving my best as a result.

 

I think it’s a real shame that it’s often a lack of education and understanding by parents that lead them to believe their own children shouldn’t be educated about LGBT issues either.

 

Educating children won’t turn them gay or transgender, but it will allow those who are gay or transgender to understand themselves better and this will give them a far better opportunity to be themselves, and to truly achieve the best they can in their life.

 

It will allow those who aren’t gay or transgender to fully understand, and therefore accept and support those around them who are. This makes for a more positive environment. It allows teams to function better, will enable better productivity at work, and stronger relationships between family, friends and work colleagues.

 

Allowing people be their true selves can really only be a win, win, win for everyone!

Finding Courage To Make Change

At the age of 39, after decades of fear, I chose to make one of the most fundamental and disruptive changes a person can make. Gender transition has seen me become a different person, a better person, and one who even now, years later, is still growing and achieving as a result.

I’ve been asked “What makes you‘re story so different to the many other inspirational speakers out there?”

I think one of the biggest differences is ‘Choice’!

I’ve been inspired by those who have shown great courage in the face of life changing adversity, maybe due to accident or illness. These instances are testament to the fact that humans are remarkably resilient, can overcome the unthinkable and still thrive….when we are forced to.

However I made the choice to face the changes I made. I battled my inner demons of nearly 40 years, overcame them, and as a result elevated my quality of life.

Fear usually plays a big part in holding back change, but as fear and understanding are inversely proportionate, knowledge is key to facilitating change.

In this fast paced world of change we MUST initiate change to keep up. To stand still is literally to go backwards! So the only way to keep ahead of the game, or your competitors, is by making fundamental changes.

 

Here’s just one example from my journey.

Sometimes you can’t see past your own blocks. I was incredibly scared about what people would think of me if I transitioned. If people thought it was freaky, or that I myself was a freak, then potentially my life could be ruined, and not worth living. I found the thought of losing everything very scary.

However, upon educating myself (in this case through seeing an experienced gender counsellor/psychotherapist) I learnt that given time, I would be passing as male 100% and as new people came into my life they would be unaware of my ever being anything other than Matt. That’s all they’d know.

This understanding was fundamental in enabling me to move forward and make one of the biggest and disruptive changes a person can make.

If I’d had the courage to make this change 20 years earlier I would have been a long way past that stage, and life would now be just great. So at worst, all I had to do was get through maybe a year or two of potential difficulties, and then I’d be on the other side and life would be far better. My fear then dissolved and I could move forward with ease and confidence.

Of course there were other considerations, but again all quite easily overcome with greater understanding (these stories are for another blog).


How is this relevant to others, and in particular the business/corporate world?

Ask yourself, what is it that’s holding you back from initiating the changes you need to make? Look at those things. If need be take a step back and try and see past that initial fear. Work out what actually might happen if you make that change? Very often we latch onto the worse case scenario and simply can’t see past it. We can’t see the forest for the trees so to speak. So try and look through that block. Also look at the positives that may happen as well the negatives.

Of course you do need to examine the negatives, otherwise you might blindly go ahead with change that goes spectacularly wrong. But ask yourself, even if the worse does happen, what would be the consequences of that? How could you over come it? How long would that take? Once resolved would you be in a better place?

If you can see a way through your worse case scenario (which probably won’t happen) with things improving overall despite this scenario, then what is there to fear in initiating that change and elevating your life or your business? To really thrive? Yes that’s right, NOTHING!

 

Another working example

Geoff, my partner, teaches English pronunciation and is well known in his field. Language evolves and changes just like everything else in life. If it didn’t we would still be speaking how Shakespeare did. Geoff is trying to update how phonetics is taught because the current teachings still relate to old-school Queen’s English (RP or Received Pronunciation for any of you in the know). Nowadays hardly anyone speaks like this and it’s considered very old fashioned. Yet he faces a lot resistance to updating. One of the reasons given for this resistance is “…but it would confuse the students to change everything”.

This example relates directly to my example above. Given a couple of years new students will be coming through who won’t know the old way of doing things so won’t have anything to get confused with. They will be taught up to date material that is actually useful and relevant for them NOW. Yet so many teachers are simply too scared to make these changes, clinging onto out of date ways of doing things. They latch onto a reason not to make change, genuinely thinking it would be a disaster if they tried to.

Geoff’s latest book on English after RP – https://www.amazon.co.uk/English-After-RP-Standard-Pronunciation/dp/3030043568

 

Coping with the challenges that change inevitably throws at you

One of the things that makes change feel scary is that you can never know for sure what will happen. It’s bound to throw some challenges at you that you couldn’t foresee.

This doesn’t mean the change was wrong, or bad, or that things will turn out worse for you or your business. We all deal with difficult challenges regularly, often without giving them a second thought. Yet when it’s something new it can feel different. It’s easy to feel bad if it was our own actions and choices that brought about these challenges, and that maybe we made a mistake by doing what we did.

My worse case scenario didn’t happen at all, yet even so I found many challenges popping up throughout my journey. With just a little thought about how to deal with them I was able to overcome every single one of them, and quite easily too. At the very least a compromise was met, and even on those occasions things were still a lot better than before. I soon learnt that these challenges weren’t anything to be scared of and in no time I was taking them in my stride with no stress or worry. I actually found in many ways they made life interesting. Often leaving me with funny anecdotes to re-tell later down the line. I believe learning to deal with these challenges is just practice. However if you never make change, how can you gain that practice?

 

Lessons learnt

I found I had constructed a wall (no, please don’t mention Trump!) and I couldn’t see past it. I was looking so strongly at the short term I couldn’t see ahead at what could be. Sometimes things might initially be a struggle, but if working through that struggle enables you to elevate your life, whether that’s on a personal or corporate level, then surely the struggle is worth it.

The wrongful and shocking conviction of a pioneer of trans healthcare – Dr Helen Webberley

Dr Helen Webberley truly understands the needs of the transgender community and genuinely wants to help. She’s a pioneer, trying to drag trans healthcare into the 21st century where it should be, and as a result of her forward thinking has been attacked (by our own side).

As a transman (non-biased as never been a patient of Dr Webberley but I know of her work and the principles of her clinic) I live in fear that if something changes at my GP practice I will be refused my medications, vital medications. Simply because many of the healthcare profession freeze and don’t want to take responsibility for our care because they are not educated on it. With reference to the ‘Do no harm’ moto, in a trans healthcare setting doing nothing is most certainly DOING HARM.

Helen has done nothing medically wrong and unfortunately was caught out by a rule she was initially unaware of. So after being told to stop treating her patients while registering her practice, by people unaware of the harm stopping treatment would do both physically and mentally to her patients, she put the care of her patients over her own needs and continued treating, and as a result this wrong doing has happened.

I truly believe Dr Webberley is one of the most ahead healthcare professionals for trans care in the UK and I hope despite what has happened here that she continues to ‘fight the fight’ for us.

Please, please if you care about trans rights and trans health care please donate to the crowdfunder set up to help Dr Webberley.

Matt

https://www.gofundme.com/supportdrw

The Excitement of Medical Transition

Many people, I’ve found, think that the medical interventions are the hard part of being transgender.

 

In fact they are often the most exciting part.

 

The hardest things to deal with, usually, are hiding your identity before deciding to transition, or dealing with discriminatory behaviors from those around you. And these pains are invisible. If you can’t see something, it’s hard to understand how difficult it is. The pre-transition times are usually the most damaging times for a transgender person.

 

The results of surgery can be liberating and thrilling. I liken it to having a large growth on your face. Many people would tell you it doesn’t matter what other people think. Even if people don’t stare at it, you will be very self conscious and would rather it wasn’t there. Now if a surgeon comes along and says they can remove it for you, you’re going to be very excited by that prospect. Yes, it will leave a visible scar, but that is far preferable than living with the growth. And I think this is pretty close to how a transgender person feels about surgery, and hormone treatment too. Things will never be 100% perfect, but will be greatly improved for sure. Most people who need surgery or need to take medication, do so to stop something bad from happening, in the hope of continuing life at the same level as before. This is why most medical interventions carry a negative feeling. But for a transgender person, everything that happens with treatment brings positive changes and is raising their life to a higher level.

 

One of the most risky periods for a transgender person is often between asking for help and then receiving medical intervention. They’ve reached a point where they are ready to make huge changes, but now they are faced with a long period of time before those changes start to happen. There are guidelines [W-Path Guidelines] that physicians the world over follow before initiating treatment, and as a result of these guidelines the assessments can be a lengthy process. The wait to even begin the process can be lengthy, thanks to long waiting lists or the need to raise funds before seeking treatment.

 

A great comparison is a child waiting for Christmas. If it’s a long way off, it’s easy to wait. But as the time approaches, the waiting can become almost painful. When you’re ready to make huge, fundamental changes to your life, and to remove such heartache from it, time seems to pass slower. It also becomes psychologically harder to cope with the bad things. Stresses already there can be heightened; any risk of self-harm or suicide may be increased during this period. This is one reason GP’s can prescribe bridging prescriptions for hormones during this vulnerable time, to reduce the risk of harm to their patient.

 

Not everyone wants to follow the same path, some people may choose hormones and all the surgeries that are available, while others may choose just some of these. Some people decide not to have any medical intervention at all, choosing just to transition socially. Each of these choices are as valid as the others.

 

For those who take hormones, this can be a very exciting part of transition. Hormones are a very effective way of changing and maintaining secondary sexual characteristics. They change the shape of the face, muscle mass, fat distribution, texture of skin and hair, and much more.

 

Hormones can have drastic effects on the appearance. But there are still a lot of people who have no idea quite how effective hormone therapy is, even including many within the medical profession. I once heard of a trans man (that is, he had transitioned from female to male) whose status as ‘transgender’ had been revealed to a work colleague; the colleague, convinced he was born physically male and was wanting to transition to female, told him he’d never be a real woman because he looked too much like a man! Just goes to show!

It’s the inside that counts

 

I am saddened to hear yet again of trans-women facing this type of abuse.

 

The old me is often described as ‘HORRIFIC’!

In the talks I give I often show a picture of me at 16 wearing a skirt as part of my Police Cadet Uniform. I’m lucky to be blessed with a body that easily passes as male, even before testosterone, so this image is often received with shock, and has even been described as ‘horrific’.

For most people all they can see is what they perceive as a 16-year-old male forced to wear a female Police Uniform.

Once they’ve seen this and I’ve described what life was like, they really begin to understand how disturbing it was to be a male who was forced to live as female.

This horrific situation of living life in the wrong gender, is absolutely no different for any trans person. As trans people we all begin our lives living the wrong gender and it’s just as stressful for each of us whether we pass or not.

Yet some people think it’s OK to victimize others based on their own perceived notion of what a particular gender should or should not look like. But remember gender comes from within.

 

Lesson

I think the lesson here is that people sometimes find it hard to imagine things they can’t see. Because my outward appearance matches me on the inside people can’t help but understand my situation. In fact they wouldn’t be able to understand me NOT transitioning!

The fact is though that I am no different to the many trans-women and trans-men who are attacked, discriminated against and abused simply for being transgender.

 

Remember

Remember as with many things in life, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, it’s what’s inside that truly counts!

 

Clothes and Gender: Life Sentence or Liberation?

Imagine taking a child, dressing them in clothes that are strongly the opposite gender and taking them out or forcing them to school like this?

How distressing would this be? Not to mention the detrimental psychological effect, especially if done long term.

Yet this is exactly what happened to me (and many other trans people) every day of my life, for years!

 

Clothes are an expression that trans people miss out on

The choices we make with our appearance (inc. hairstyle, tattoos etc) convey information to those around us about who we are and what we stand for.

So consider the implications for a trans person who’s spent most of their life living within the wrong identity, and whose entire wardrobe simply can’t reflect who they are.

After nearly 40 years living this nightmare, I know this all too well.

 

Coping strategies

For each trans person you ask you’ll hear a different story, but for me, once I was old enough to choose my own clothes I went along the ambiguous route.

I simply couldn’t do feminine so lived as a tomboy, but I also felt too uncomfortable going any further along the masculine route than society deemed acceptable, so couldn’t wear most of the clothes I yearned to. I lived in jeans and sweaters, as this was the only way I could survive.

I would wear baggy tops to hide my breasts and would suffer for as long as I could in the heat of summer before removing my jumper to reveal an oversized t-shirt. Then I’d slouch forward, being far too uncomfortable at the thought of anyone seeing the rounded shape of my chest.

I very clearly remember the occasion, aged around 5, that I’d noted boy’s waists sat lower than girl’s, and looking at myself in the mirror, I positioned my trousers onto my hips. I felt this looked much better. They have sat there ever since! Although I have taken them off occasionally to wash them!

 

Impact on career

As clothes become more formal and move away from jeans they typically become more gendered.

Because of my inability to wear anything formal/feminine I made career choices that enabled me to wear casual, gender neutral clothes such as jeans. This had huge implications on the direction my whole life took, and also affected my income and therefore my standard of living.

 

Fitting rooms

It’s great to try clothes on before you buy; it saves the hassle of returning any unwanted articles. But unfortunately these spaces are usually gendered, and gendered spaces often cause distress for a trans person.

This adds to the numerous problems around clothing, for myself not least because with a female shaped body, buying men’s clothes meant it was harder to find clothes that fitted, so I really wanted to try them on first.

 

School

At school in the 70’s/80’s I was forced to wear a skirt, and hated every moment. I was very jealous of the boys who, simply because they’d been born into a boy’s body, could wear trousers. It seemed dreadfully unfair.

I did used to wear boys shoes however, as there were no rules prohibiting this. I am very surprised I wasn’t bullied, as this was a time before any female fashions were styled on men’s designs, as many are today.

 

Police cadet

I was a Police Cadet at 16 and to my horror, although at this time Police Women were allowed to wear trousers on certain occasions, my uniform was issued with only a skirt and no option allowed for trousers. I left the cadets shortly before my 19th Birthday and that was the very last time I ever wore a skirt!

Matt’s Police Cadet Hat – He hated wearing this too!

Formal occasions

Even the mere mention of a formal occasion would distress and panic me with instant thoughts of “But what will I wear?”. I dreaded things like weddings or funerals, or even parties.

I was called for Jury service and this posed particular problems. As you can’t ‘opt-out’ I was feeling particularly trapped simply due to the problem of what to wear, and this distressed me.

 

Finally Free

Imagine my relief upon finally becoming Matt and being able to wear just what I wanted. Before I used to walk past the men’s clothes sections in stores knowing they were out of bounds for me. I just had to switch off, suck it up, and accept it wasn’t allowed.

Then all of a sudden this changed. As a male, society now gave me ‘permission’ to wear these clothes.

At first it felt like a dream, or even a game, and that it was going to end. But slowly as my mindset changed, I began to realise that this was actually real, and was forever!

I now long for formal occasions so I can get suited and booted.

 

Getting fads out my system

There were many male clothes I’d wanted to wear when I was younger which weren’t always the best fashion choices, and of course fashions have changed a lot since then too. I still find that I want to wear these things and can’t see past that until I’ve got the fad out my system. So I’ve ended up buying clothes that in fact I never actually wear, or at least not for very long before I replace it with something more current.

 

Topman Personal Shopping

I’ve done a few Topman Personal Shopping Experiences, which have been amazing.

I’ve found myself in a trendy men’s clothes store, with my own fashion expert, whose job it is to make me look good. And they’re good at their job! Picking out styles you’d never have chosen but that suit you to a tee.

I’d highly recommend this experience to trans or cis people alike. Topman’s clothes (or Topshop for women) are trendy, look great, are very reasonably priced and with no minimum spend you’re not obliged to purchase anything. I guarantee you’ll want to though. You’ll feel like a celebrity being styled and made to look stunning.

As a trans-man who’s life long struggles with clothes had a very negative impact and who hadn’t found his style/look, this experience was truly liberating and literally LIFE CHANGING!

 

Please note: I have no sponsorship from, shares in, or affiliation with Topman!

(I was honored to witness other’s delight too at being liberated with their clothes after organising Topman Personal Shopping for the trans support group FTM London when I was co-chair.)

 

 

Matt, Topman 2018

 

Matt, Topman 2018

 

Matt, Topman 2014

Health risks of cross-sex hormones? Or can transition reduce risks?

As there are such strong differences in the appearance of the sexes and because cross-sex hormones bring about such radical physical changes, I can understand how some might think that doing something which appears so extreme to the body must be very unnatural and will cause it stress or even harm. But it’s not a completely alien thing that will cause all sorts of weird and wonderful things to happen. We won’t suddenly sprout a second head!

Think about the very beginning of our life, just after we’re conceived. At this point our bodies are gender-neutral and are capable of becoming either male or female, or occasionally even a mix of the two. What determines how masculine or feminine we develop are the levels of sex hormones running through our blood. This is initially from our Mother while growing in the womb. This step determines which genitals we grow. Then later our own genitals produce these sex hormones. They are a natural substance that the body is supposed to contain. As long as they are within the correct parameters for either male or female our bodies will be healthy.

 

HRT for all

A male with low testosterone will likely have many undesirable symptoms and may be prescribed testosterone (male HRT). Raising his testosterone to within the normal male range will have many benefits for him, helping his body and mind function healthily while reducing the unwanted symptoms.

This also applies to a post-menopausal woman on female HRT, but I am using the male example as he may be on lifelong HRT from a younger age. No one would bat an eyelid or question what the long-term implications are for him to take this drug for decades. I imagine simply because it seems to be ‘natural’.

It is no less safe for a transgender person to be on HRT. The fact it is cross-sex HRT has no health bearing on their body. The body will just react and grow according to the hormone it is receiving from the blood. It’s just a chemical reaction within the cells. As long as levels are within male or female ranges this is a very natural and healthy state for the body. This is unlike many other prescription drugs which the body wouldn’t usually have inside it. Again no one bats an eyelid about these because they feel ‘needed’. There appears to be something very emotive about treating for gender dysphoria, which causes some people to think something really bad will happen. I even had these feelings from my first GP, which made accessing treatment very difficult and stressful for me.

 

Side effects

As with any medication there are potential side effects but most feel the benefits outweigh the risks, and there may be no side effects at all. The patient would be monitored and any treatment adjusted or halted as required.

 

Real risks

As a transman myself I know one of the potential side effects when taking testosterone is polycythemia. This is an abnormally high red blood cell count, and it’s symptoms can be serious if not treated.

It is easily diagnosed via a blood test, and any male on testosterone will have their blood monitored regularly. It is very easily treated.

The risks, diagnosis and treatment of polycythemia is the same for both trans-men and biological men on testosterone treatment.

 

What about effects on gender specific organs receiving cross-sex hormones?

It is still unknown what the full implications and risks are to gender specific organs receiving cross-sex hormones. For example what might happen to a womb or cervix when receiving male levels of testosterone over a long period of time? This doesn’t mean there is greatly increased risk though. Very often these organs are removed meaning it’s not a concern, but if not then appropriate monitoring can be carried out to catch potential warning signs and allow treatment before problems develop.

 

Gender transition frequently results in reduced health risks

Cancer is a considerable threat to humans, with an estimated one in three people developing the disease. Some of the more common forms can be gender specific. E.g. prostate, testicular, cervical or breast cancer.

As a transgender person the risks of gender specific cancers are often reduced or even eliminated. A trans person will often have those organs removed, thus reducing or removing that risk, and of course they can’t develop cancers of their acquired gender because they don’t have those organs.

 

Desirable side effects of cross-sex hormones

The physical changes that happen on cross-sex HRT could potentially be considered a side effect. Of course these are very much desired, and can lead to a happy, healthy and contented life.

 

Hormone blockers: No trans-man should have to live with scars on their chest, and no trans-woman should have to live with a man’s voice!

You might assume if you’re listening to a qualified, experienced and well-respected psychiatrist, such as Dr Lucy Griffin, that what she has to say about an area of healthcare would be well informed and correct. Especially when the points she makes sound like common sense. [See Daily Mail article here]

But without working regularly with high numbers of transgender patients over a period of time, it’s impossible to have full insight into the difficulties this patient group experience and therefore how best to successfully treat those patients.

First off my warning bells were alerted by the fact she is calling trans-women men and trans-men women. Mistakes such as these are often the first tell-tale signs of someone with little knowledge or experience of this patient group.

Here is an analogy that I hope will help people understand why you need to be a gender specialist to comment on the care of transgender patients.

If it appears someone has broken their back, medical advice is not to move them. Common sense, yes? Then we see a group of Dr’s who start quickly pulling the injured away from the scene of the accident, risking paralysis! Other Dr’s publically chastise these actions, sighting their many insights from their professional knowledge and training as to why this is wrong and is ‘risking harm’ to the patient. The public agree with what seems like common sense coming from a qualified source.

Without the full picture, what the chastising Dr’s, and the public, don’t realise is that in these particular cases the patient needs to be moved quickly because of a greater risk. For example, maybe they are in a car which is on fire – one risk can outweigh another.

Transgender people can be harmed immensely by having to live the wrong life year after year. By waiting until they are 18 for medical intervention, not only have they already experienced great distress at seeing their bodies change in ways that is not correct for them but they then have permanent physical changes that are either difficult or impossible to correct.

To ‘do nothing’ is not always the best way to ‘do no harm’. Early intervention for a transgender patient is often life changing with very positive long-term outcomes.

Gender transition is a big step and certain questions do need to be asked and addressed. But the reasons against hormone blockers that Dr Griffin sights are not an informed view – she hasn’t seen the fire, so to speak!

 

So let’s take a look at some of the issues:


 
Age of consent

Many people still believe that a child is too young to make such a life affecting decision.

Gender dysphoria is not something that develops, it is something you are born with. Gender specialists are trained and experienced in diagnosing true gender dysphoria and distinguishing it from a passing phase. They also see the possible devastating consequences suffered when treatment can’t be accessed or is delayed.

The problem with waiting until transgender patients are adults is that irreversible changes have already happened to the body by going through the wrong puberty and these changes usually have a very negative affect on quality of life.
 

What if it’s a phase?

Children can go through phases of cross-gender play and dressing, many girls are tom-boys etc. This is very different to gender dysphoria although the two can be confused if you don’t know what to look for. So any treatment for gender dysphoria does need to be carefully considered.

Normal Spack is a US endocrinologist with vast experience of treating transgender patients with hormone blockers. He states that if a child is going through a phase they will almost certainly have grown out of the phase by the time they reach puberty.

You can watch Norman Spack’s very informative Ted Talk on this topic here

Stringent assessments performed by trained gender specialists ensure that before patients can access any irreversible treatment that they do indeed have true gender dysphoria and are not simply going through a phase.

 

Safety net

The use of hormones blockers provides a safety net and ensures no harm is done. Rather than induce the patient’s desired puberty at the age puberty would normally be experienced, blockers temporarily hold off or slow any form of puberty. This is fully reversible and buys time. While on hormone blockers professionals can assess the patient who can also receive counselling. When they reach the age of consent for treatment if they still feel gender transition is right for them they can start treatment and begin their desired puberty. If at any point the patient or the gender professionals decide that transition is not the right step, the blockers can be stopped and the patient will go through their biological puberty with no harm done. They will develop just as they would have, just at a later time. And to address Dr Griffin’s concerns over fertility, they will still be fertile.
 

Benefits of blockers

When we reach puberty our body starts developing secondary sex characteristics and many of these changes are irreversible. Some changes can be corrected with surgical procedures, but of course this means undergoing that procedure, which isn’t pleasant, and then living with the scars it leaves behind.

 

Unfortunately some of the changes can’t be altered at all, and the transgender person has to live for the rest of their lives with sexual characteristics that are not in keeping with their gender identity.

Some of these changes include:

  • Height
  • Voice breaking
  • Width of hips
  • Size of hands
  • Size of feet
  • Breast growth
  • Body and facial hair growth
  • Bone structure (including facial)

 

Other than being distressing and triggering, many of these irreversible characteristics also hinder the transgender person’s ability to pass in their acquired gender. This plays a huge role in quality of life due to how society perceives and accepts them. It can make life highly challenging, and is something they have to deal with day in, day out for the rest of their lives. Yet such distress is preventable with the use of hormone blockers.

 

Summary

Hormone blockers are an effective way to slow down the changes that happen at puberty. There is a safety net because they are reversible and buy time while the patient and the gender specialists work out what the best course of treatment, if any, is for the patient.

By preventing the distressing and irreversible changes that occur during puberty hormone blockers can greatly improve long term quality of life. They enable a transgender person to develop in a way that is correct for their internal gender. This can reduce distress and allows them to live the rest of their lives in the ‘right’ body. The benefits they bring help with passing and therefore to alleviate problems that still occur in today’s society’s due to misunderstanding and non-acceptance.