What does Genspect strive for?
We want to see schools, colleges and higher education establishments hold neutral space for students as they explore their gender, sexual orientation and identity formation. We value supportive environments for students, so they feel neither encouraged nor discouraged to follow certain paths.
We advocate for an evidence-based approach to gender distress, and we would like health care professionals to take the time and care to evaluate the low-evidence base for the current affirmative approach, looking more closely at the harms that medical treatment paths can cause. We recognize the high occurrence of comorbidites such as autism and ADHD among children and young people who are questioning their gender.
We would like to raise public awareness of the issues facing gender-questioning children and young people. We wish to help create a society that supports gender non-conformity — one which doesn’t require the heavy burden of medical treatment. We acknowledge that gay, lesbian and bisexual youth are often gender non-conforming; rather than suppressing hormonal urges with medication, we support an approach that allows adolescents to explore their sexuality with freedom and acceptance.
Finally, in this fast-paced world, we advocate for a slower, more thoughtful approach to any difficulties that children and young people face.
Is Genspect affiliated with any political or religious groups?
No. We are a non-partisan, independent organization, with members hailing from across the political spectrum and holding a range of personal beliefs. Our interest relates exclusively to the well-being and safeguarding of children and young people, and does not extend to party-political or religious allegiance. We welcome people of all faiths and none.
What is Genspect’s position on sexuality?
Genspect wholeheartedly supports the rights of sexual minorities in society and is proud to include many gay and lesbian members of our team. We abhor homophobia and biphobia and have a zero-tolerance policy towards such forms of discrimination. We stand alongside members of the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities in continuing to fight prejudice on the basis of sexual orientation.
Why do you say “gender-questioning” instead of “trans”?
Identity in children and young people is often flexible, changing throughout adolescence and early adult years. We challenge the idea that gender identity is a permanent property: using terms such as “trans kids” indicates immutability, and may conceal a far more nuanced and fluid reality. A change in gender identity can sometimes manifest as a concrete physical solution to a psychic trauma that leads to a belief parts of the self can be discarded or left behind. It is the role of the clinician to encourage the young person to understand their less conscious, inner defenses and motivations. This can be painful work and should be done in an empathetic and slow paced manner, respecting the young person’s defenses. When we use the word “trans,” we are talking about people who have undergone medical transition — sometimes more explicitly termed “transsexuals” — and not making a statement about gender identity.
Is Genspect welcoming to trans people?
Yes. We value open and honest discussion between the trans community and others to ensure that strongly held beliefs about sex and gender do not overpower one another. We have no prejudice against trans people in any way: one of our advisors is trans, as are many of our supporters.
Is Genspect welcoming to people who are transphobic?
No. We treat everyone with respect and dignity, whether or not they are trans. Transphobia is real, and it’s ugly: Genspect will not tolerate hateful or dehumanizing rhetoric towards trans people under any circumstances. We believe that members of the trans community deserve the same fundamental rights as all of us.
What is Genspect’s position on medical transition in children and young people?
We do not believe that children are equipped to make life-long decisions about medical transition procedures. Adolescence and young adulthood is a key developmental stage during which identity is evolving. We believe that young people should be encouraged to accept — and to love — their bodies. We do, however, support the rights of mature adults to make informed healthcare choices regarding medical transition.
So why not support medical transition, if you don’t believe in discrimination?
Human sexuality requires no medical interventions. In contrast, medical transition carries a heavy burden on the body. If left to develop naturally, many kids who are exploring their gender would grow up to be gay or lesbian, so setting them on a path of medicalization can be seen as a form of homophobic discrimination in itself.
What are puberty blockers?
Puberty blockers are drugs which change young bodies in ways we have yet to understand, and may be permanent. This is an experimental treatment program: puberty blockers have never been licensed to treat children with gender dysphoria, in any country. They block sexual development, sexual desire, organ growth and cognitive function — and that doesn’t even cover the unknown long-term effects which we are yet to understand. By prescribing puberty blockers, clinicians are interfering with the emotional, developmental and social stages which every human must experience to become a fully-functioning adult. When a child enters into a simulated chemical puberty through the means of cross-sex hormones, there is no indication that this has the same impact as natural, biological puberty.
Puberty blockers have often been used in cases of precocious puberty, where very young children (e.g. five years old) start to experience developmental changes long before they are ready. However, quite suddenly, in the wake of two Dutch studies, a decision was made to use these drugs to treat gender issues. This new “Dutch Protocol” quickly took hold in other countries, at the same time as — and perhaps due to — the extraordinary explosion in the numbers of gender-questioning adolescents. However, from 2020 onwards, countries in Europe have begun rolling back this protocol.
It is vital to stress almost all children prescribed puberty blockers go on to transition medically. The proportion who take puberty blockers but do not continue to take cross-sex hormones is tiny, at roughly 2%. This makes the claim that puberty blockers are simply delaying a developmental stage until a more appropriate time entirely false. The bone, brain and cardiovascular health issues which puberty blockers engender are infrequently discussed, as is the fact that puberty-blocked boys develop so little penile tissue that subsequent genital surgeries become far more complex and risky.
What is the Dutch Protocol?
The Dutch Protocol is the current basis for medically transitioning youth. Prior to the Dutch experiment, only mature adults (above 30-35 years old) were allowed to transition. Because those results were suboptimal, with persistent distress and mental illness despite the transition, the Dutch researchers hypothesized that through early intervention they could achieve better cosmetic outcomes — and happier and better-functioning adult trans people as a result. This hypothesis leaves a lot to be desired. Genspect calls on other countries to follow the progressive Scandinavian model: not only is it more scientifically rigorous, it also makes space for non-traditional gender roles.
The Dutch experiment involved identifying 12-14-year-olds who had a life-long persistent and consistent gender dysphoria that worsened during puberty, screening them extensively. They were then administered with puberty blockers between 12 and 14 years old, cross-sex hormones at 16, and genital and non-genital surgeries when they turned 18.
The Dutch researchers followed their study subjects to the average age of 21. They found that although puberty blockers did not alleviate gender dysphoria, surgeries did, and the patients reported feeling happy with their choices. What the Dutch researchers relegated to a footnote was the fact that, of the original 70 patients, only 55 were followed. Of the remaining 15 patients, a significant number developed complications that made them ineligible for surgery. Several patients refused to participate in the follow-up, which would be extraordinary in any other field of medicine. Tragically, one young patient died following complications from genital surgeries. And yet, the Dutch Protocol continues to be considered the gold standard by so many advocates of transition.
There are many reasons why rolling out the Dutch Protocol across the world is reckless:
- There are no data on the long-term psychological outcomes for gender-reassigned youth: one year after surgery is not sufficient follow-up.
- We do not know anything about the short- or long-term physical health outcomes. However, we do know that one person died, and there were several serious complications among others of the initial 70, which got only cursory mention by the Dutch researchers.
- The Dutch team disqualified any patients who had adolescent-onset gender dysphoria, the predominant presentation that is now treated with the Dutch Protocol.
- They explicitly discouraged social transition, as they believed it would harm both the majority of the kids who would desist, and the minority who would persist. The latter would need good knowledge of biology, in order to thrive in their altered bodies that only approximate the desired sex and don’t operate as such.
- The Dutch gender clinic population is very different from every other country’s gender clinic populations; in particular, the Dutch patients have fewer patients with mental ill health.
- While the UK study followed the same protocol as the Dutch, it failed to replicate the results. In fact, the preliminary UK data (published in a separate report but not included in the study) showed that some kids, especially girls, develop increased suicidal ideation while on puberty blockers.
- The Dutch researchers recently voiced concerns about the fact that their careful experiment is being promoted worldwide, without the thorough screening, assessment and follow-up which would constitute responsible practice. In particular, they highlighted the possibility that youths whose gender distress began at adolescence may benefit from psychological, rather than medical, interventions.
Several countries (Sweden, the UK and Finland) have recently banned the use of the Dutch Protocol in minors under 16 or 18 in regular clinical settings, insisting that these interventions either cannot be provided ethically to minors, or should be provided only in rigorous clinical trials with proper informed consent.
What is Genspect’s position on scientific research?
We believe that good science comes from a spirit of free enquiry. When it comes to issues concerning sex and gender, we have seen a tremendous asymmetry of information, at the expense of scientific rigor. From the harmful effects of puberty blockers to WPATH’s low-quality evidence base, there is much to be improved when it comes to the quality of the research on gender-questioning children.
What is Genspect’s problem with the research as it stands?
We believe that censorship is the problem. Many studies’ abstracts, available free of charge, cherry-pick the most positive outcomes, with the fine print of negative outcomes and limitations hidden behind a paywall. A prime example of this is a UK study that compared the outcomes of children who were on puberty blockers with those who were on the waiting list. While the abstract reported that puberty-blocked children had better outcomes at 12 months compared to the control group, the study behind the paywall painted a markedly different picture. After 18 months, there was no clinically or statistically significant difference between the two groups of children in terms of their function: puberty blockers failed to show improvement.
What about gender identity?
In our view, many contemporary ideas about the transgender phenomenon derive from the theory of gender identity, a belief system which posits that every one of us has an invisible, unprovable and unfalsifiable gender identity. We simply don’t believe that the case for gender identity has been made, and we certainly don’t think it’s a basis for medicalization.
What does Genspect believe about gender?
Gender is a culturally variable set of behavior and personality expectations applied to sexed bodies. We appreciate that identity formation is an important psychosocial stage of development for youths, from pubescence to early adulthood, and this can present as an identity crisis. We believe that a change in identity can sometimes present as a concrete resolution of a trauma, leading young people to believe that they can leave their old selves behind them.
So, is sex binary? What about intersex people?
Sex is binary. The sex of an individual is based on their reproductive anatomy and is determined by the type of gamete this anatomy is organized, through natural development, to produce. For over 99.9% of people, the sex of a person as female or male is unambiguous, determined at conception, and observable, whether prior to birth (by chromosomal analysis or sonogram) or at birth. We know what we’re talking about on this: two of our team members were born with intersex conditions.
What about brain studies? Don’t they prove that trans identities are firmly rooted in biology?
Scientists have not been able to locate a “gender area” of the brain that is innate and fixed: when controlled for sexual orientation and exposure to hormonal interventions, the brains of trans-identified individuals cannot be reliably distinguished from the brains of people of the same sex who do not identify as transgender.
What’s your stance on medical care?
We are deeply concerned with the medical care that gender-questioning and gender-dysphoric children are receiving. Children and young people in the West are treated with a highly experimental protocol that was not designed for the group to which it’s commonly applied: adolescents with no childhood history of alienation from their body.
What are the risks of medical intervention?
Recently, several systematic reviews of evidence conducted by independent health authorities in Europe (the UK, Sweden and Finland) have sounded the alarm about the significant risks of medical interventions with gender-dysphoric young people, and the weak evidence of benefits. The risks range from adverse effects on bone and brain to infertility — or even premature death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. There are yet more unknown risks, which will emerge as more people stay on these drugs for life. The risks of surgeries themselves are also significant, often involving urinary complications and long-term pain.
What’s Genspect stance on gender non-conformity?
Genspect believes that we should embrace gender non-conformity. Girls should be able to play with fire trucks; boys should be able to play with dolls. As they grow up, they should be allowed to experiment to find a personal style that matches their personality and preferences. However, treating these preferences as a basis for exclusion from a child’s biological sex imposes regressive gender norms on kids: bucking these norms is common, and should not be mistaken for gender dysphoria. A truly progressive society embraces all personalities, whether or not they match traditional stereotypes.
How can we help children and young people who are questioning their gender?
We believe that children should be allowed to explore their own identities at their own pace, without adults jumping to assumptions about them. Whether we are male or female, gay or straight, small or tall, blue-eyed or brown-eyed, we are all born in the only body available! If anyone is born in the wrong body, surely people with physical challenges like spina bifida and cerebral palsy should be at heart of this debate. Learning to love and take care of your body is a key part of growing up and growing old. The transition from troubled child to happy, confident adult is always possible.
What is the truth about detransition?
The research on detransition is paltry, and detransitioners’ testimonies are — with scant exception — overlooked. Members of our team work extensively with detransitioners, and Genspect wants to bring their voices to the fore. It’s important that people who regret transition have their own voice, uncensored and unexploited.
What is the risk of suicide among gender dysphoric children and young people?
Although it is often perceived that gender-questioning young people are at high risk of suicide, their suicidality is similar to that of adolescents with any other mental health issue, and lower than conditions such as eating disorders and body dysmorphia. While gender-questioning young people need extensive emotional and psychological support, parents should know that suicidality is still a risk after medical transition, and so transitioning will not necessarily help.
Are all types of gender dysphoria the same?
No. This is a quickly changing landscape, and we simply don’t have enough research into this expanding condition. However, there are certainly two distinct types of gender dysphoria, and probably more. The key distinction is based on the time of the onset of transgender ideation and bodily distress.
What is the future prognosis for different kinds of gender dysphoria?
Various studies show that plenty of kids with early-onset gender dysphoria — perhaps some four fifths of the total — will outgrow it naturally, if not “affirmed” as members of the opposite sex but loved and supported as they are. We do not yet know about the trajectories of those whose gender dysphoria has developed in adolescence; however, there is growing evidence that these trans identities, too, may often be temporary in nature. Increasing numbers of young people in their mid-to-late twenties share stories of identifying as trans for a few months to several years, but then experiencing a natural re-identification with their sex.
What about kids who are much happier when parents accept they are trans?
Children thrive when they have loving and engaged parents and good relationships with peers. Shaming children and young people for being gender non-conforming is harmful and wrong. But socially transitioning — “affirming” someone as a member of the opposite sex — can have unforeseen, detrimental consequences and has not been demonstrated to improve outcomes. In fact, the Dutch Protocol (the sole basis for the current approach to intervening medically with gender-dysphoric youth) explicitly discouraged the social transition of children and early adolescents.
At what age does Genspect believe people can make the decision to transition medically?
We are in favour of the rights of mature adults to make their own decisions. The current state of the research indicates that most people do not fully mature until 25, in terms of cognitive function and the development of the personality; for this reason, we have grave qualms about anyone below this age making the decision to transition. We also believe that those classed as “vulnerable adults” — a specific legal term in the UK and Ireland — may take even longer to develop a stable social and sexual identity. It is possible to accept the principle that adults in general should be free to pursue their own happiness while also accepting that vulnerable adults are not well-placed to make major decisions.
What’s the role of schools and teachers?
Many parent groups report that schools are inadvertently contributing to the growing incidence of gender dysphoria (which inexplicably increased by a factor of twenty or thirty within a single decade in most developed countries). This is in part because education policies have become one-sided, repositioning gender non-conformity as a “transgender” identity and teaching children that sex is nothing more than a menu of hormones from which they can choose.
Aren’t you just denying trans people’s right to exist?
We believe people when they say that they feel they’re born in the wrong body. We also believe those who say that they feel much better after medical transition. At the same time, we also believe people who did transition and subsequently regretted it, whether they reversed the procedure or continued to live with the changes they made because it was too difficult to “go back”. Likewise, we believe adults who recall extreme gender non-conformity, feeling trapped in the wrong body, and other forms of gender dysphoria as kids. Many of our members have joined Genspect for this exact reason: none of us still feel this way as mature adults, and we are relieved to have grown up in a time before the medical transition of minors became so popular.
What can Genspect do for people who share our beliefs?
We help to provide an alternative source of information for parents, addressing the (often overwhelming) bias in other online resources. We can also help people in the healthcare, education and media sectors, who are increasingly observing the same lack of objectivity. Our voice is reliable, moderate and well-informed, giving you access to all the relevant facts so that you can make rational decisions which are in the best interests of children and young people.