Children diagnosed as transgender could be autistic, a controversial psychologist believes.
Latest figures show that the number of children under 10 in Britain being referred to the NHS over transgender feelings has quadrupled in five years.
One psychologist says these youngsters are seven times more likely to be on the autistic spectrum. Dr Kenneth Zucker believes autistic traits of “fixating” on issues could convince children they are the wrong sex.
He makes the claims in a BBC 2 documentary on Thursday at 9pm called Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best? It follows his sacking in 2015 from a Toronto gender identity clinic over his controversial approach with transgender children of trying to “cure” them.
The film presents evidence that most children with gender dysphoria eventually overcome the feelings without transitioning and questions the science behind the idea that a boy could be born with a “female brain” or vice versa.
The documentary examines the approach of encouraging parents to support their children’s change of identity.
Dr Zucker says in the film: “It is possible that kids who have a tendency to get obsessed or fixated on something may latch on to gender. Just because kids are saying something doesn’t necessarily mean you accept it, or that it’s true, or that it could be in the best interests of the child.”
He later adds: “A four-year-old might say that he’s a dog – do you go out and buy dog food?”
Susie Green, chief executive officer of Mermaids, which represents transgender issues, said the documentary is a “backwards” step.
We are trying to move away from the perception of it being perceived as a psychological ailment, a mental health issue where a person is uncertain of who they are, unclear of their biology, and this just goes backwards. We want to celebrate these people, not tell them they have a mental health issue. We want to say to them it is very normal to want to change your sex.”
The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, the UK’s only centre specialising in gender issues in under 18s, said its latest figures reveal that the number of under 11s referred to the unit has risen from 19 in 2009-10 to 77 in 2014-15.
Over the period these included 47 children aged five or under, and two children just three years old.
A BBC statement said: “With a rise in the number of children being referred to gender clinics, this programme sensitively presents different views from experts and parents on gender dysphoria in children.
“For more than 30 years Dr Kenneth Zucker ran Canada’s biggest child gender clinic and was considered a recognised authority on childhood gender dysphoria until he lost his job. He believes he was fired for challenging the gender affirmative approach. Other hospital in the USA have stopped operations on children who are simply confused. A spokesperson said, “There is very little promotion or conversations on those many people who revert back to their biological status when they are in their 20-30’s.”
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