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Sperm and eggs of transgenders to be stored by NHS before sex changes

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD,October 2, 2017

Several transgender adolescents are opting to freeze their eggs and sperm with the Britain’s NHS to leave an option for parenthood later in life open, according to doctors.

Adolescent boys as young as 12, who have been diagnosed with “gender dysphoria” or a gender identity crisis are having their sperms frozen before they go for hormone treatment that would stop their puberty before they could opt for surgeries to change them into a female. Girls with the same condition are also freezing their eggs or ova in a similar manner say doctors. According to the medical fraternity, it is only fair that everyone be given a chance at parenthood should they choose later in life.

Professor Gary Butler, head clinician for Britain’s only NHS service for gender dysphoria in the youngsters said that choosing to change the sex is not a “lifestyle choice” for a transgender person. “They are following their biological and psychological make-up about their identity”, he explained. He said that there is a technology available in science and medicine that could help them start a family later so why not give them a right to choose? He said that there are dozens of males who choose to turn into females, who are freezing their sperms first before the change. Girls less than 16 years are also freezing their eggs before they are given the male hormones that halt their fertility.

For this process they are first referred to the Gender Identity Development NHS clinic for under-18s at London’s University College Hospital. This is after they have been assessed psychologically at the Tavistock Clinic. The cost of freezing sperm is around £400, plus £300 a year for continuous storage and the cost of freezing eggs is £4,000 for one cycle and an additional £300 for storage annually. Fertility treatments if and when they decide to become parents would costs an additional thousands of pounds say experts.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, former chairman of the ethics committee of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority was critical about this new scheme. He said that essential services are a priority over “funds for fertility treatments”.

Gender dysphoria

Gender dysphoria is a condition in which the patient feels that his or her gender identity is a mismatch with their actual biological sex. It is also known as gender identity disorder, transgenderism or transsexualism or gender incongruence. People with a strong and persistent desire to live as their identified sex are sometimes called transsexual or transgender people. These people may opt for sex-change treatment so that their physical appearance is consistent with their gender identity.

Biological sex is determined based on the appearance of the infant usually at birth. Gender identity is the sex the person feels themselves to be. This is not a mental illness but is a recognized condition that may need treatment.

The condition may appear at a very young age. Normally children begin to identify their biological sex by the age of three or four. This condition is usually manifested as a child’s refusal to wear their anatomical sex-specific clothes or dislike taking part in sex specific games and activities. In most of the cases this may be just a normal part of growing up but in a handful this may persist into adulthood. The person with this condition may feel trapped inside a body that does not match their gender identity. This may lead to anxiety or depressive disorders and self harm. This may also affect their choice of sexual partners, display of masculine or feminine behavior, mannerisms and dress codes and self-concept and esteem. Gender identity disorder is not the same as homosexuality.

Treatment may involve psychological counseling. For some, however, hormonal or gender reassignment surgery may be recommended in order to change their physical appearance.

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