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Specific gender dysphoria service raised in Senedd

THE WELSH Government has been urged to develop a Wales-specific gender dysphoria service so children and young people no longer have to travel to England.

Caerphilly MS Hefin David raised a campaign led by Sean Donovan, a constituent, who is calling for better access to help with gender dysphoria closer to home.

In a BBC article on the weekend, Mr Donovan, 19, warned that transgender children and young people in Wales are being let down.

Dr David pointed out that the Welsh Government’s LGBTQ+ action plan contains a commitment to deliver a Wales gender service.

The Labour backbencher was concerned to read in the BBC story that the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee has no immediate plans to develop such a service.

Hannah Blythyn, for the Welsh Government, stressed that she wants to see a service developed in Wales that is shaped by people’s experiences.

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She said it was a privilege to meet Sean, and his mother Sarah, in the autumn to hear about his experiences as a young trans man in Wales.

The deputy minister told the chamber the first year following the action plan has been about putting foundation blocks in place and it is important to build on that.

“We’re proud of the plan …,” said Ms Blythyn who highlighted an online tracker showing progress against the 46 actions.

“We’re absolutely committed to improving that gender identity service for children and young people in Wales, recognising the work that’s already been done on an adult service.”

Gareth Davies, a Conservative, who represents Vale of Clwyd, raised concerns about the Welsh Government’s links with Stonewall Cymru, an LGBTQ+ rights charity.

Mr Davies said swathes of organisations – such as University College London, Channel 4 and the Equality and Human Rights Commission – have cut ties with Stonewall.

He told the chamber: “Aside from the poor value for money, reasons cited for the flood of dis-affiliations include concerns that Stonewall adopts radical positions not necessarily reflective of the LGBT community as a whole.

“They’ve been accused of giving advice that misinterprets or contravenes the Equality Act.”

During social justice questions on March 6, Mr Davies urged the Welsh Government to reassess the relationship with Stonewall Cymru and its suitability for public grants.

Ms Blythyn was disappointed by the Tory’s line of questioning, saying: “It’s a cheap shot.

“You’re playing to the gallery, targeting organisations that have a long and proud history of supporting, advocating and campaigning for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Adam Price, who represents Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, supported the deputy minister in rejecting the “transphobia” of the modern Conservative party.

The former Plaid Cymru leader called for Wales to join an index which ranks European countries according to their support for LGBTQ+ rights.

Ms Blythyn committed to exploring whether Wales may be able to join in readiness for May 17, the international day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

Responding to a question about hate speech, Ms Blythyn drew on her own experiences.

She said: “There’s a difference between scrutiny and challenge, disagreeing and debate, but then there’s a balance that flips, when the benign goes to something slightly more sinister.

“And I’ve spoken here about how I’ve had abuse on the back of simply not just being myself, being an out MS but actually for doing my job, too, around the LGBTQ+ action plan.”

She recalled online comments after a debate to mark LGBT history month: “Somebody said, ‘Oh, who cares who she sleeps with?’, and things like that. Well, actually, my wife does!”

Ms Blythyn said the launch of the LGBTQ+ action plan triggered a heap of online abuse, with one person emailing her, her wife and dad to say she needed to go for conversion therapy.

Highlighting international women’s day on March 8, Ms Blythyn said: “I think we need to say today that I don’t think it’s the sisters that need sorting, it’s society and the system.”

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