The co-founder of a support group for transgender children and their families has told the Journal he’s not surprised there have been 25 referrals of children from the Western Trust area to a new regional gender identity service in only its first two years of operation.
Simon Stewart, who helped found SAIL (Support, Acceptance, Information, Learning) in 2008, said the demand for services has been growing.
“I would say it’s no surprise that there have been so many referrals from the Western Trust area and from Foyle.
“We’ve been saying for years that we are seeing a wave of transgender children and we’ve seen that in the work we’ve been doing with SAIL,” said Mr Stewart.
He said SAIL, which regularly hosts family support meetings in Derry, was relieved to see the establishment of the under 18 Gender Identity Dysphoria Service - Knowing Your Identity, in August 2014.
“Previously there was only the adult service,” said Mr Stewart. “It’s great that it’s now there for young people and their families. There’s a growing need.”
He added: “It’s been proven that trans people suffer higher levels of self-harm and suicide so this support is vital.
“The important message we want to put out is that we don’t want any family up in Derry to feel that they are alone and to let them know that there are supports out there for them. What we do at SAIL is provide support, not only for the young people themselves, but also for their families.
“It can be a very daunting experience and families need support with a lot of things outside the medical side. There are all sorts of issues with schools, society in general, youth clubs, churches, etc. We help provide that support.”
Health Minister Michelle O’Neill revealed that there were 25 referrals of young people from the Western Trust area between August 2014 and last month. There were 134 referrals across the whole of the north during the same time period.
Meanwhile, over the past decade there were many more referrals to the adult Gender Identity Service in Belfast. Between September 2006 and September 2016, two children aged between five and fifteen were referred to the service; 1,433 people aged between sixteen and sixty-four were subject to referrals; and 32 people over 65 were referred.
If you would like to attend one of SAIL’s parent meetings in Derry contact: 02830570075. Further useful information is available at www.transgenderni.com and www.belfasttrust.hscni.net/services/BrackenburnClinic.htm