Despite growing acceptance, research shows the transgender community is at greater risk of stress, self- harm, bullying, isolation, and depression, and transgender children often have a complex range of needs.
Between April 2015 and April 2016, 27 Irish children were referred to the UK’s Tavistock and Portman Foundation NHS Trust in London for help while, in 2012/2013, that figure stood at just three.
Due to this increase, Tavistock started running a satellite clinic at Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin four times a year, but families must seek help under the treatment abroad scheme to access the Dublin clinic.
Research shows just 20% of children who seek help before adolescence go on to have sex reassignment while, conversely, 80% of those who seek help during puberty go on to change sex.
Clinical psychologist at the Tavistock Polly Carmichael said the figures presenting in Ireland are “without doubt” an underestimate.
“The concern is that there could be a lot of unmet need amongst young people [in Ireland] as there is not really a pathway,” said Dr Carmichael.
Kirsty Donohue from Lucan, Co Dublin, is a mother of a 15-year-old trans boy, Dylan.
“We were battling for 20 months to get a gender dysphoria diagnosis as demand for the Tavistock clinic has soared,” she says. “Now we could be waiting 6-7 months for hormone blockers to pause puberty. The system needs to move much, much faster.”
One of the country’s experts in gender dysphoria in children, consultant psychiatrist, Aileen Murtagh, who works at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services said: “The HSE has been consulting with a range of professional organisations, advocates, clinicians and families in proposing a service development model for transgender children, adolescents and adults.
"This is currently being finalised.
“Ideally, a national specialist service for young people and adults is required which would also provide consultation and training to local services to up-skill local clinicians in meeting the needs of these young people and their families.”