Trans advocates are outraged prominent trans health professionals have suggested creating an international global registry of trans children.
A recently published article in the Journal of Sexual Medicine called for the registry to ‘further study of this basic demographic and its associated factors’.
One of the authors is Dr Polly Carmichael, the director of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS). The GIDS is currently undergoing a self-imposed review after a senior staff member accused it of ‘fast-tracking’ children to gender transition.
Called ‘Evidence for a Change in the Sex Ratio of Children Referred for Gender Dysphoria: Data From the Gender Identity Development Service in London (2000–2017)’, it researched the difference in the number of trans boys and girls and at what age they were most likely to start accessing treatment for gender dysphoria.
As far as the research goes, trans advocates don’t consider it a ‘priority’. But one sentence in the article’s conclusion has them worried.
‘It’s not really interesting in terms of priorities, it’s not an area of research that should be a priority for children referred to the gender identity service,’ Twitter user @Dad-Trans told Gay Star News.
Dad-Trans has a trans child and is a vocal advocate for trans children. He remains anonymous to protect his child’s and family’s identities.
‘On the scale of things this paper is really something that is very minor in interest as parent of a trans child,’ he said.
‘They’re (researchers) are seeing a difference in numbers and they think it’s interesting. I’m not so concerned about the numbers.
‘It seems less interesting than thinking why these children need help and what we can do to help them.’
Dad-Trans describes the call for a trans registry as ‘chilling’.
‘We’re living in a time when Donald Trump recently released a memo where he’s basically talking about legislating about assigned sex and then basing laws upon that, so it’s concerning,’ he said.
‘Once your name is on that registry it can be used for any number of reasons.
‘I don’t trust these people with my child’s data, with my data and i’m really concerned about how it might be misused politically and as we’re seeing now, the intention is there and we’re already seeing policy and legislative decisions by people in power who wish ill of trans children.’
The trans advocate expressed concern about private data being shared across international borders and with private medical practitioners.
One of the practitioners he was most concerned about was Canadian doctor, Kenneth Zucker. The Canadian doctor also contributed to the controversial article.
Zucker is a controversial figure in trans children’s health globally.
Until 2015, he headed Child And Adolescent Gender Identity Clinic at Toronto’s Centre For Addiction And Mental Health (CAHM). The centre stood him down from the role after Canada banned reparative therapy for gender identity or sexual orientation.
Zucker’s methods came under review because he argued that gender dysphoria is not fully formed in very young children. He also encourages parents to stop their children engaging any ‘cross-gendered behavior’.
‘Allowing a little boy to cross-dress just perpetuates [his] confusion,’ Zucker told Daily Xtra.
Even though Zucker successfully sued CAHM he is still widely criticized among LGBTI advocates.
Dad-Trans said it was very worrying that Zucker called for an registry of trans children.
‘It’s deeply worrying, an international database of gender dysphoric kids is just rife for abuse and every time we see something like this, [it reminds me] every time fascists begin and that’s with creating a list of people,’ he said.
‘They’re not seeing these children as humans, they’re seeing them as numbers.
‘I don’t feel that they’re putting the health of and the well being of those young people front and centre which is what they should be doing.’
Zucker told Gay Star News that criticism of the proposed registry is ‘absurd’ and ‘ridiculous’.
‘If one did establish some kind of registry or a cross-clinic database you would go through institutional review board procedures [to approve it],’ he said.
‘You would have the permission of parents, of minors to use information anonymously. So, individuals would be de-identified.’
Zucker said while the details haven’t been ironed out, the database would include anonymous data such as: the age of the child’s referral to the gender center, ‘sex assignment at birth’, did they meet the full criteria for gender dysphoria or were they sub-threshold for it’.
The doctor admitted there wasn’t a strong need for the register but cross-referencing the data would be ‘interesting’.
‘The suggestion isn’t to identify individuals,’ he said.
‘It’s to understand a phenomenon, so, even if you do research in a single centre, and you have your institutional review board, databases are always anonymous with regards to individuals. I could send you a raw data file of, let’s say, 500 participants in a research you would have no idea who they are. It’s an absurd criticism.’
But Zucker’s arguments have not eased Dad-Trans’ concerns.
‘If they’re using data up to 2017, even if that’s been anonymised, at a minimum they’ve got the gender, the sex assigned at birth, their age and the time they went to the service,’ he said.
‘So when your dealing with a very small number of children at the age of 12, you can create a jigsaw of data that’s very simple to find out the identity of those children.
‘I think it’s utterly disgraceful that they’re involved in sending data across international borders.’
Carmichael and Zucker
Along with concerns about the international registry, trans advocates have questioned the appropriateness of Carmichael teaming up with Zucker to publish a medical journal article.
‘I am concerned that by publishing with Zucker the Head of GIDS, is effectively endorsing his (Zucker’s) widely discredited approach, and that this signals a broadening division between GIDS and the rest of the world including Canada, America, Australia, Spain, the Netherlands, who, unlike Polly, and the England service, follow both the latest World Professional Association of Transgender Health approach to affirmative care, and the clinical guidance from the Endocrine society,’ Dad-Trans said.
‘I am also very concerned about the data protection considerations of sharing referral data of NHS patients, including my daughter, with a dismissed psychologist in private practice across international boundaries.
‘I call on NHS England, the Health Ombudsman, the Care Quality Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office to investigate as a matter of urgency.’
Gay Star News sent Carmichael and the GIDS multiple requests for comment but did not receive a reply.