Written by Keira Bell, April 7 , 2021
By the time I was 14, I was severely depressed and had given up: I stopped going to school; I stopped going outside. I just stayed in my room, avoiding my mother, playing video games, getting lost in my favorite music, and surfing the internet.
Something else was happening: I became attracted to girls. I had never had a positive association with the term “lesbian” or the idea that two girls could be in a relationship. This made me wonder if there was something inherently wrong with me. Around this time, out of the blue, my mother asked if I wanted to be a boy, something that hadn’t even crossed my mind. I then found some websites about females transitioning to male. Shortly after, I moved in with my father and his then-partner. She asked me the same question my mother had. I told her that I thought I was a boy and that I wanted to become one.
As I look back, I see how everything led me to conclude it would be best if I stopped becoming a woman. My thinking was that, if I took hormones, I’d grow taller and wouldn’t look much different from biological men.
The consequences of what happened to me have been profound: possible infertility, loss of my breasts and inability to breastfeed, atrophied genitals, a permanently changed voice, facial hair. When I was seen at the Tavistock clinic, I had so many issues that it was comforting to think I really had only one that needed solving: I was a male in a female body. But it was the job of the professionals to consider all my co-morbidities, not just to affirm my naïve hope that everything could be solved with hormones and surgery.
Last year, I became a claimant against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in a judicial-review case, which allows petitioners in Britain to bring action against a public body they deem to have violated its legal duties. Few judicial reviews get anywhere; only a fraction obtain a full hearing. But ours did, with a panel of three High Court judges considering whether youths under treatment at the clinic could meaningfully consent to such medical interventions.