An explosion in the number of children wanting to change sex has prompted an inquiry by ministers.
Penny Mordaunt, the Minister for Women and Equalities, wants to understand the reasons behind a 4,400 per cent increase in girls being referred for transitioning treatment in the past decade.
Officials will look into the role of social media and the teaching of transgender issues in schools as part of their inquiries.
There are concerns among some MPs that drug treatment is being offered too readily to children – some of them as young as 10 – without fully understanding what lies behind their desire to change sex.
In 2009/10 a total of 40 girls were referred by doctors for gender treatment. By 2017/18 that number had soared to 1,806. Referrals for boys have risen from 57 to 713 in the same period.
Last year 45 children referred for NHS treatment were aged six or under, with the youngest being just four, though younger children are not given drugs.
Officials in the Government Equalities Office will look into whether the influence of social media is driving more children to consider changing sex, and whether it is appropriate to treat pre-pubescent children with drugs.
Some educationalists have previously warned that the promotion of transgender issues in schools has “sown confusion” in children’s minds and that encouraging children to question gender has “become an industry”.
Dr Joanna Williams, author of the book Women vs Feminism, has said that schools are “encouraging even the youngest children to question whether they are really a boy or a girl”.
A recent study found that almost two thirds of children and teenagers who say they want to change sex have previously been diagnosed with serious mental health disorders.
There are concerns among some doctors that children are being given hormone treatments without due consideration of the long-term side effects, which can include infertility and osteoporosis.
Last year 800 children in England were given injections to stall the onset of puberty, including some aged 10, with some also given hormones to start the process of changing sex.
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