Homophobia and gender distress

Sir, – Colm Keena raised some interesting issues of concern in his article on gender distress in young people ("Gender distress treatment in young people: a highly charged debate", June 26th). A worrying pressure point in this area also worth mentioning is the homophobia and sexism driving gender dysphoria in children, and even the very concept that the child is transgender or born in the wrong body.

Sexism is written into the criteria for recognising gender dysphoria in children. Until very recently the HSE website listed “wanting to wear clothes typically worn by the opposite sex” and “wanting to take part in activities and games typically associated with the opposite sex” as possible signs of dysphoric behaviours in children.

The World Health Organisation ICD-11 criteria for gender incongruence in childhood similarly appeals to non-adherence to sexist stereotypes as a basis for diagnosis.

Both the BBC and The Times in the UK have reported on clinician concerns regarding homophobic bullying, or familial homophobia, being a factor in childhood gender dysphoria, and the desire to present as the opposite sex.


The concept that some children can be born in the wrong body seems, to me, to be a rehashed version of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs’ 19th-century explanation for gay men, who he thought had a female psyche in a male body. Would any of us seriously argue in the 21st century that gay men have a female soul in a male body? Yet, invasive medical treatments are being prescribed to minors on the basis of similarly metaphysical thinking.

Let’s hope Keena’s article encourages some much needed critical thinking in this area.

– Is mise,