In the past two years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of referrals of children feeling unhappy about their assigned gender.
Since 2010, 83 children have been referred to a specialist NHS clinic in London that specialises in transgender care for minors.
This spike in referrals is attributed to the growing recognition of gender dysphoria: the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to their gender identified at birth.
Compared to 2015, the number of children travelling outside of Ireland for gender identity support has more than doubled to 33 in 2016.
Around one-third of the children treated in the Tavistock Clinic from all over Britain and Ireland are born biologically male and two thirds biologically female.
The clinic reports that young people in Ireland who proceed to the endocrinology clinic post-assessment are seen at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin where temporary measures are taken to block puberty.
Permanent surgery can only be carried out at the age of 18 under the current Gender Recognition Act.
Across Ireland, around 300 families are receiving support to help their children with gender identity.
Catherine Cross, family support and education officer of TransParenCl, said the growing openness around gender has resulted in an increase in attendance at their support groups over the past few years.
“There are 300 families around Ireland. We run support meetings for families in Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Kerry,” she said.
“It started in 2011 and there were about six couples.
“We support the family. With a lot of the young children, it’s gender expression.
“It may or may not be more significant later on in their life but we support families in what they need at that time.
“The biggest cohort would be around puberty, so the 13 to 17 age group.”
Last Friday, TENI and LGBT Ireland launched the first ever listening and support service for families of trans and gender non-conforming people in Ireland called The Gender Identity Family Support Line (01 9073707).
It held its first evening of operation last Sunday (March 25) and will operate on the second and fourth Sunday of every month from 6 pm to 9 pm.
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