Trans teens occupy ledge at NHS England headquarters: ‘Lives are at stake’

Protest outside NHS England Offices by trans Kids Deserve Better

A group of transgender teenagers are three days into their occupation of a ledge at NHS England’s headquarters in central London, with a simple message that trans kids deserve better.

On Friday (28 June), two young trans activists from the ​​Trans Kids Deserve Better network scaled the building on Waterloo Road and held aloft a sign which reads: ‘we are not pawns for your politics’.

The youngsters have remained on the ledge ever since, having been joined by other protesters – also under the age of 18 – and have received support from wider members of the community, activists and influencers.

The protesters are using the direct action to call for access to gender-affirming healthcare for trans children and young people, protection from discrimination and disrespect in their daily lives, and the right to be heard in all decisions that affect them.

The teenagers have been on the ledge since Friday. (Trans Kids Deserve Better)

“We are staging this protest to remind politicians and voters that we’re real kids, not just political talking points. We may not have a vote, but it is our lives that are at stake,” said one of the activists.

“Gender-affirming healthcare is a matter of life and death for us and we hope our actions will bring awareness to this fact and encourage others to fight for the healthcare and dignity we are so shamefully denied.”

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The protest comes after NHS England halted prescriptions of puberty blockers for trans youth and just days before the British public head to the polls, following a General Election campaign in which transgender people have been treated as a culture-war topic and political football.

Videos shared on the group’s Instagram account show other members of the trans community and allies joining the protest.

The additional protesters drew members of the public’s attention to what was happening, waved trans flags and held signs which read “The Cass Report is built on transphobia”, “This Barbie says protect trans lives” and “Trans kids are cool as f**k.”

Stonewall co-founder and LGBTQ+ campaigner Lisa Power said: “[My] heart leapt when I saw what they’d done. It’s good to see young people taking direct action against injustice. The queer community has been missing its spirit for a while, fitting for Pride month. I’m proud of them.”

Dr Ronx Ikharia, an emergency medic and TV personality, said: “My passion is young people. I want them to stay alive, survive and thrive. It is our job as adults to support our young people, even when we don’t understand their lived experiences.

“We as adults must centre their humanities away from the politics of the world. Trans young people need us all to fight for them. They aren’t political fodder, they are experiencing healthcare injustices resulting in increased levels of physical and mental pain and death by suicide.

“Trust me, and trust my peers, when we say support us to support them. As a trans non-binary doctor, I see and hear the struggles of trans youth in and away from work. It’s real.”

Other members of the community have turned out to support the protest. (Trans Kids Deserve Better)

Dee Whitnell, the founder of the Trans Kids Deserve to Grow Up solidarity campaign, said: “[Young people] are tired of having their identities debated, erased and dismissed. They have decided to take action for their future, and the future of other trans+ young people. They are extremely brave.”

And Gay Liberation Front (GLF) veteran Roz Kavene said: “As someone who has always been so terrified of heights that even stilettos were a problem, I am lost in admiration for the gallantry of these kids.

“Right from the start, in GLF, we knew Pride had to be a protest as much as a party. They’re fighting injustice in a brilliant, brave way. I’m proud of them and scared for them.”

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