By Anthony Horan, Director, Catholic Parliamentary Office

LAST week, the Scottish Government launched a consultation on proposals to make it easier for people to legally change their gender. The plans could allow children as young as 12 to decide what their gender should be. Equalities Minister Angela Constance said the change was needed “to make sure transgender and non-binary people in Scotland were treated with dignity and respect”.

The suggestion that 16 and 17-year-olds (never mind those as young as 12) should pursue a change of gender at a time of their life fraught with confusion and vulnerability is deeply disturbing.

In the rush to virtue-signal, some very serious risks are being ignored. For a start, there is a real concern about the number of children being given treatment such as puberty blockers at an extremely vulnerable and uncertain time in their life. Puberty blockers are not without significant risk. They can stunt growth and decrease bone density during use; and girls who take testosterone may develop serious acne or feel irritable, aggressive or unbalanced. There is also the likelihood of lifelong monitoring for those taking artificial hormones with the risk of serious side effects. Perhaps most serious of all is the risk of lifelong infertility, as sterility is inevitable when puberty blockers are followed by cross-sex hormones at an early stage of adolescent sexual development, or if prepubertal children are placed directly on these hormones, according to Dr Michelle Cretella of the American College of Paediatricians.

The claim of those who promote the belief that a human being can change his or her sex is, according to Dr Paul McHugh, “starkly, nakedly false” with every cell in the human body marking individuals as either male or female, with males bearing an XY chromosome and females an XX chromosome. Dr McHugh states that “transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men. All become feminised men or masculinised women, counterfeits or impersonators of the sex with which they identify. In that lies their problematic failure.” A sex ‘change’, comments Dr McHugh, is “biologically impossible”. Are we starting to send our children down the road to acquiring a “new gender” with lies and deception?

In 2015, Harvard paediatrics professor and epidemiologist Sari Reisner and colleagues conducted a retrospective matched-pair cohort study of mental health outcomes for 180 transgender subjects aged 12-29 years, matched to non-transgender controls based on gender identity. His findings make disturbing reading. Transgender youth had an elevated risk of depression (51 per cent vs 21 per cent) and anxiety (27 per cent vs 10 per cent), and a higher risk of suicidal ideation (31 per cent vs 11 per cent), suicide attempts (17 per cent vs six per cent) and self-harm without lethal intent (17 per cent vs four per cent). These statistics alone should shame the Scottish Government into ending this deplorable crusade.

A study in Sweden of the long-term follow-up of transsexual persons undergoing sex reassignment surgery reveals some alarming facts about those who opt for surgery. It reveals that “persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population”.

These proposals should be considered thoughtfully, sensibly, and with considerable caution. In reality this is unlikely to happen. Its consultation may be supportive, but the Scottish Government will soon, to its long-term cost realise that public opinion is not. Our children deserve better.