Nearly 700 children with gender identity concerns were referred through the UK's National Health Service in 2014/15.
Drew Sheldrick

30 Oct 2015 - 12:07 PM  UPDATED 30 Oct 2015 - 12:07 PM

The UK has seen an increase in the number of children with gender identity concerns being referred to specialist services.

The figures come from the National Health Service's Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), which found 697 referrals in 2014/15 - up from just 208 in 2011/12 - although not all of those will fulfill the criteria for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

In response to the higher rates of referral, GIDS director and consultant clinical psychologist Polly Carmichael said young people are more aware of the services available and seem to be more interested in exploring gender.

"It’s true we’re seeing more children and young people here; it’s also fair to say there’s not one straightforward explanation," she said.

"What we also know is that for every young person we see their journey and decisions will be personal – there’s no pre-determined diagnosis, or fixed outcomes and it’s certainly not a question of being 'transgender' or 'not', it’s about young people having the freedom to decide who they are, themselves."

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The UK Parliament's Women and Equalities Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into equality for transgender people. It held its final evidence session on Wednesday, with testimony from six government ministers.

In 2010, the UK government passed the Equality Act which made it illegal to discriminate against trans people, with exemptions for ministers of religion. It also released a Transgender Action Plan in 2011 to address the wider policy needs of transgender people.