As we approach 2018 and the planned government consultation on the Gender Recognition Act, which is likely to take place early in the New Year, we look back on the year 2017 in the UK. There is reason for optimism, despite what often seems to be a juggernaut of changes happening socially and culturally preceding the new proposed legislation.
We think that 2017 was a pivotal year. The move towards global adoption of gender identity ideology at times felt overwhelming, with a low point being the removal of the World Health Organisation’s page on ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ and its replacement with a factsheet on ‘gender’. Here in the UK, the creeping indoctrination of children in the classroom, with the publication of yet more transgender schools resources (with their uncritical acceptance of the idea that children should just be ‘affirmed’ as the opposite sex) and the addition of ‘gender identity’ to the UKCP Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy, has left children at the mercy of a political ideology with no basis in science, research or evidence. All the main political parties in the UK expressed uncritical support for the idea of what would be a system of self-declared gender in all but name if proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act go ahead.
However, this was also the year when opposition to gender identity politics became public in the UK. We think that in the future we will look back on 2017 as the year when public consciousness began to shift. It started with the broadcast of the brilliant and revealing BBC2 documentary ‘Transgender Kids – Who Knows Best?‘ in January, the first time the public was shown the reality behind the transitioning of children, rather than the uncritical ‘happy trans kids being their authentic selves’ stories shown previously. Trans activists tried, and failed, to prevent its broadcast and their complaints of ‘bias’ were not upheld by the BBC. Our thanks go to Sam Bagnall for producing such a unique and valuable documentary which dared to show all sides of the story.
2017 was also the year when the bullying of high-profile women such as Jenni Murray became news and when people learned the word ‘detransitioner’ and realised that important research was being stifled, thanks to Bath Spa University and the courage of James Caspian in speaking out. It was also the year when people learned the practical impact of self-declared gender identity, courtesy of Top Shop’s prioritisation of a ‘non-binary’ male over their customer base of teenage girls; and women learned they must accept a teenage male’s authority over them as a Labour constituency ‘Women’s Officer.’
The violent side of trans activism was revealed to the public through events at Speakers Corner. We learned of the high rates of violence amongst male transgender prisoners, the fact that rapists may be housed in the female prison estate and that a trans campaign group with a violent agenda was one of those who had been invited to give evidence at Maria Miller’s Transgender Equality Inquiry. We don’t suggest that all activists or transgender people are violent (obviously) but that these stories illustrate the spuriousness of the claim that rights to self-declaration can have no impact on the safety of women and girls.
We want to show how much has been achieved in 2017 and acknowledge all those who have worked hard to raise awareness in the UK. Here are our highlights.
Our report on media coverage of the issue of ‘trans kids’ from April 2016 – April 2017 was bleak reading. (Link). But the second half of the year has seen a massive increase in critical pieces in the UK press, led by The Times and The Sunday Times. A debate which has been silenced is increasingly being given a platform by the UK press, thanks to some brave journalists who are leading the way. Many of the journalists listed below have been called ‘transphobic’, ‘bigoted’ and ‘haters’ for questioning the transitioning of children and the teaching of gender ideology in schools, and some have been trolled more than others (the female ones). We thank them all for upholding the freedom of the press and the importance of proper investigative reporting.
For her consistent clear arguments, her bravery, her interview with James Caspian, for asking Maria Miller some hard questions and for writing one of the most important pieces of the year about the crisis in teenage girlhood “Why Do So Many Teenage Girls Want To be Like Alex Bertie?”, our journalist of the year is Janice Turner of The Times.
Special mentions to Andrew Gilligan of The Sunday Times for critical reporting on Mermaids, Dr Helen Webberley, Action for Trans Health and the new Scottish schools guidance amongst other wider issues such as transgender prisoners; Sanchez Manning of the Mail on Sunday who gave a voice to the parents who are not usually heard and highlighted Girlguiding transgender policy; Lucy Bannerman of The Times who drew attention to the harms of chest binding, gave Heather Brunskell-Evans a platform for her views on transitioning children and published a revealing report on Lily Madigan, the ‘first transgender women’s officer’ and Nicholas Hellen, Social Affairs Correspondent of the Sunday Times, for questioning the ‘affirmation’ of teens who may just be experiencing anxiety and revealing that the EHRC is to produce national guidance for schools.
Other journalists who deserve a mention are Sian Griffiths, Education Editor at the Sunday Times, for keeping us up to date with what’s happening in schools (here), Stephen Naysmith of the Scottish Sunday Herald (here), Tim Shipman, Political Editor of the Sunday Times (here), Steve Bird and Joe Shute of The Telegraph (here and here), Mark Macaskill of the Scottish Sunday Times (here), Rebecca Hardy of the Daily Mail (here), Kate Foster, Health Editor at the Scottish Daily Mail (on the Scottish schools guidance, no link available), Martin Bagot of the Mirror (here), Guardian writers Joan McFaddon (here,) Catherine Bennett (here) and Hadley Freeman (here and here), Libby Purves in the Mail (here) and on wider issues Miles Goslett and Helen Hendry of the Sun (here and here) and Claire Heuchan in the Guardian (here). The Independent published an excellent piece by Jo Bartosch (here), The Express had a good Leader comment (here) and so did The Times:
The year has ended with a scathing assessment of the ‘madness of transgenderism’ by Leo McKinstry in the Express (here), a view which has been confirmed by a report in the Mirror of the manufacture and sale of prosthetic penises for ‘gender non-conforming’ little girls under the age of five (here). An article by Harry Yorke on the dangers to free speech and research in UK universities, including interviews with James Caspian, Heather Brunskell-Evans and Sheila Jeffreys, in the Telegraph (here) was followed by a widely-reported announcement by higher education minister Jo Johnson that universities that fail to protect freedom of speech could be fined (in the Guardian here).
And on the very last day of the year, Sanchez Manning reported in the Mail on Sunday that the Hampstead Ladies pond will no longer be a private space for women and girls (here).
And Nicholas Hellen reported in the Sunday Times the case of a woman who had requested a female nurse to perform her cervical smear test who was met with a transsexual male nurse (here).
We know that these things are happening but the big shift in 2017 is that more sympathetic journalists are reporting such cases and publishing the opinions of women, whose view (or consent) has not been sought by government.
There were so many good pieces we may have overlooked some, so our thanks to all journalists who have raised questions over the past year. The Guardian and The Independent continue to largely provide an uncritical platform for trans activism and our hope for 2018 is that the left-wing media will catch up with the right, look beyond the knee-jerk accusations of ‘transphobia’ and begin to critically examine the ethics of transitioning children as well as the political implications for the rights of women and girls.
We also saw slightly more balanced reporting from the BBC this year. Broadcasting on transgender issues was still largely uncritical and the normalising of childhood transition continued with such broadcasts as radio drama Just A Girl (here), Victoria Derbyshire (here) and various regional documentaries (here). But the BBC did screen ‘Transgender Kids – Who Knows Best?’, BBC Radio 4 Today broadcast a balanced item in October which included comments from Janice Turner and a detransitioned young woman ‘Kate’ and an episode of Moral Maze in November included Heather Brunskell-Evans and James Caspian arguing for caution around the medical transition of children, with Claire Fox in support. BBC Radio 4 Today also gave a platform to Professor Robert Winston who spoke out about the unhappiness he sees in young people who have medically transitioned and regretted their surgeries and loss of fertility, for which he was vilified as a bigot.
At Transgender Trend we have been interviewed and asked for comments many times throughout the year and our quotes have appeared in over twenty articles, including the Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday, the Telegraph, the Sun, the Express, the Scottish Herald, the Scottish Daily Mail and BBC Online (here (including an interview with Sarah Ditum) and here). We have been interviewed on LBC Radio seven times, BBC Radio London twice, the Vanessa Feltz show, Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio Sussex, BBC Radio Ulster, and on TV four times: BBC South East Today, BBC London Today, BBC Wales News and Channel 4 News.
We thank all journalists and broadcasters who have sought our viewpoint and worked with us over the year. Our radio presenter of the year award goes to Mark Forrest of BBC Radio London (sitting in for Simon Lederman) for his extremely respectful and considered interview on December 11th (you can listen here).
Finally, we’d like to thank Private Eye for their consistent irreverence and humour throughout the year.
In 2017, if the left-wing mainstream press was largely silent, women on the Left came out in force and a number of male allies have spoken out in support across social media platforms. In February, trans activists tried to bully the Working Class Movement Library in Salford into withdrawing their invitation to veteran feminist and activist Julie Bindel to speak about growing up as a working class lesbian, with a petition and a stream of violent and abusive messages on their Facebook page. Bea Campbell published an open letter to the library (here), a counter-petition was circulated and the library had the courage to stand its ground.
If there was one news story which was given the most publicity across the media however, it was the attack on a 60 year-old woman by trans activists at Speakers’ Corner in July, where women had gathered for a debate about the Gender Recognition Act at a secret venue after the original venue had cancelled due to threats from trans activists. The debate went ahead with speakers Julia Long, Miranda Yardley and Sheila Jeffreys, despite attempts by protesters at the new venue to disrupt proceedings.
It was this incident which led to the formation of the Socialist Feminist Network who published an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn (here) and the new campaign organisation A Woman’s Place who succeeded in getting a letter condemning violence against women in the name of trans rights published in the Guardian (here). The press reports were covered on Sky News ‘Press Preview’ whose guests, the writers Christina Patterson and Matthew Syed, discussed the issues raised with great intelligence and insight (here).
The woman who was punched to the ground at Speakers’ Corner, Humanist Maria McLachlan, founded a new website, Peak Trans, in response to the attack on her.
A Woman’s Place has been very active and has achieved great support and influence over a very short space of time. They organised a very successful event in Cambridge (here), giving a platform to several women who had been threatened, no-platformed or bullied this year: Helen Steel, who was aggressively bullied at the London Anarchist Book Fair (here), Anne Ruzylo, who was subject to an orchestrated campaign against her, prompting the executive committee of her Constituency Labour Party to resign in solidarity (here) and Heather Brunskell-Evans who was put under investigation by the Women’s Equality Party after complaints by trans members that she was “promoting prejudice against the transgender community” for expressing concerns about the medical transition of children on Moral Maze (Heather’s response here).
The Morning Star resolutely and courageously continued to use its platform to facilitate debate, including a letter in support of Kiri Tunks (here) who was subject to abuse and a petition calling for her removal as Vice President of the NUT for writing a very reasonable and well-argued article (here). Following the inevitable accusations of transphobia, a letter expressing solidarity with the Morning Star attracted a large number of signatories (here).
Female politicians on the Left who have spoken out include Caroline Flint (here), Thangam Debbonaire in Parliament (here), Liz McInnes, who dared to publicly disagree with Owen Jones’s views on trans rights on Twitter (here) and Labour Councillor Ann Sinnott who regularly uses her Twitter platform to call for more open debate (here). Jess Phillips tweeted her opinion that the demands of A Woman’s Place were reasonable and was roundly attacked by trans activists for holding that view.
On the Right, Caroline Farrow spoke very reasonably on Sky News (here) and wrote consistently for the Conservative Woman (here), which published several critical pieces including an informed and comprehensive summary of the effects of pushing transgenderism on children by Simon Marcus (here). Gender Critical Greens continued to be the intelligent critical voice of the Green Party and were given a platform by the Morning Star who published a favourable review of their excellent pamphlet (here).
Our politician of the year award, however, must go to Conservative MP David Davies, who met with us, wrote a very good article (here) and organised the event ‘Transgender Law Concerns‘ in the House of Commons in November. The room was packed with journalists, professionals, parents, activists, feminists, representatives of various organisations and cross-party MP’s and many audience members spoke out about their concerns. We would like to credit the woman who took on the responsibility for liaising between all involved in order to create this hugely successful event, who must remain anonymous. If Westminster was unaware of the strength of public unease about gender identity legislation, this event put the record straight. David Davies published a review of the event on his website (here) and continues to speak out about the rights of women and girls. We salute him.
Grass-roots organisations such as May Day For Women began organising events and protests and another new organisation was founded, the Sex and Gender Ethics Society (SAGES). Venice Allen organised a programme of events across the UK to debate proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act. Already-established organisations such as Critical Sisters continued to write and campaign (here), as did Fair Play for Women, who published important research on transgender prisoners (here) from a study by Dr Nicola Williams who was a calm and authoritative spokesperson on Good Morning Britain in November.
As well as the organisations referred to above, feminist writers and journalists in the UK continued to produce important writing on gender and the new proposed legislation, including Marina Strinkovsky (here), Sarah Ditum (here), Glosswitch (here), Louise Pennington (here), Helen Lewis (here), Claire Heutchan (here), Jeni Harvey (here), Jo Bartosch (here), Julian Vigo (here) and Helen Saxby (here). Meghan Murphy continues to provide a global platform for feminist gender-critical voices at Feminist Current (here) and A Room of Our Own publishes some of the best writing in the UK (here). A very powerful piece was written by an anonymous lesbian childhood sexual abuse survivor (here).
Julia Long wrote a letter signed by various organisations which was published in the Sunday Times in July.
Julie Bindel appeared on Sky News in March, debating the meaning of the word ‘woman’ with Jane Fae (here) and again in December on BBC2’s Daily Politics (here) which also included an excellent interview with Sarah Ditum (here).
Women who risked their careers and reputations by saying reasonable things in public (and were punished for it) include Jenni Murray (here), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (here), Kiri Tunks (here), Linda Bellos (here) and Heather Brunskell-Evans (here). BBC journalist Hannah Bayman was the subject of relentless trolling for expressing her views on Twitter. Feminist organisation FiLia issued a statement in support of women’s right to speak (here).
As parents we want to especially thank Kiri Tunks for taking such a risk in her position as Vice President of the NUT. Her (very reasonable) view provided hope and relief for parents horrified by the imposition of this ideology on their children in schools as well as parents of adolescents caught up in the trans peer-group culture in secondary schools.
Transgender / transsexual people themselves also contributed to the debate and they too were vilified by trans activist campaigners for the crime of arguing for caution, including Miranda Yardley (here), Debbie Hayton (here), Kristina Harrison (here) and Hope Lye (here). Several more spoke out on Twitter about the erasure of women’s spaces and the transitioning of children.
In having the courage to challenge Bath Spa University at great personal financial risk, revealing how the new Memorandum of Understanding was the behind-the-scenes work of trans activists and speaking to the press worldwide, psychotherapist James Caspian had the biggest impact in 2017 in drawing public attention to the silencing of free speech. Even the Guardian had to cover his story (here). Our thanks also to psychoanalyst Bob Withers for being willing to talk to the press, at great professional risk (here).
Mumsnet has bravely allowed parents to continue to use the platform for gender-critical debate despite accusations of transphobia and mothers from all walks of life have begun to organise. Lily Maynard joined the ranks of parent bloggers whose children identify (or did identify) as ‘trans’ and her excellent post about her own experience (here) was picked up and re-tweeted by Robert Webb, who was roundly attacked for sympathising with parents and expressing his view that we need to be cautious about the transition of children.
Gender Critical Dad continued to publish moving accounts of his day-to-day feelings and experiences as a parent (here) and a new global website for parents of teenagers with Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria was founded (here). Although this is a UK round-up we can’t not mention 4thWaveNow, a site which we are very glad to see has been validated this year as an important platform by heavyweights Ray Blanchard and Michael Bailey (here) as well as the mainstream Canadian press (here) amongst others. UK / US site Youth Trans Critical Professionals continues to publish insightful pieces such as this one. Above all, our thanks go to the parents who have steadily become a force to be reckoned with on Twitter, as well as those who have bravely agreed to be interviewed in the press so that other parents know they are not alone.
Platforms such as Reddit and Twitter have been used to protest, campaign and further the debate this year; there are too many wise (and sometimes funny) accounts to mention here but the consistent work of feminists, lesbians, detransitioners and parents has been especially valuable. There is also an increasing number of men (both gay and straight) joining the ranks of already-established male commentators and we must mention the contribution of ‘Marcus’ with this fantastic piece of writing. We set up a Transgender Trend Twitter account in order to reach more people (here).
This year has been very busy for us. We have spent a lot of time liaising with journalists and broadcasters, being interviewed and contributing to articles, some of which were published, some of which weren’t. We have written many letters, including to the World Health Organisation and all the health organisations involved with the new Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy, to organisations which use ‘gender’ in place of ‘sex’ as a protected characteristic and to commentators for contributing to the debate in the media etc. We contributed a submission to the NHS consultation on gender identity services and to the Mayor of London’s Diversity and Inclusion survey. We have spoken to and written to many parents who have contacted us through the website.
As well as Transgender Law Concerns, we spoke at the event What Is Gender? at the Grand Hotel in Brighton next door to the Labour Party Conference in September which was very well received by an enthusiastic audience.
We attended the NUT event ‘Is Your Brain Pink or Blue?’ in January, the conference ‘Hot Topics in Child Health‘ in June, the NHS Public Consultation in September, the Tavistock clinic AGM in October as well as attending various meetings throughout the year. We secured two meetings with the Equality & Human Rights Commission, one with Julia Long on the proposed GRA reforms and one with a group of parents and professionals on the government transgender guidance for schools, and a meeting with the Fawcett Society, together with Julia Long, in November. We continue to follow up on this work.
A major project this year has been the design and writing of comprehensive schools guidance which is now finished and ready to launch early in the New Year.
We took part in an international Skype interview with Dr Oren Amitay in December, together with Jungian analyst Lisa Marchiano, which can be viewed here in two parts:
We contributed a chapter to a very important book (here) which is the highlight of our year so we have left it till last. ‘Transgender Children and Young People: Born in Your Own Body’ was published by Cambridge Scholars in November and we think it is a groundbreaking contribution to the cause of critiquing the medical transition of children. Our taster of the chapter contents is here. We would like to thank all contributors for their excellent chapters, the editors Heather Brunskell-Evans and Michele Moore for their vision and all the work they have done to secure publication and Cambridge Scholars for their faith in the project.
The best news of the year and the biggest relief was the reappearance of Magdalen Burns who survived open cranium brain surgery in 2017. Magdalene’s hilarious youtube videos are the best antidote to snowflake culture and should be prescribed viewing in all secondary schools. Welcome back Magdalen.
We want to thank everyone mentioned in this post for their courage in speaking out and for all their work over the past year and we apologise to anyone we’ve inadvertently missed out. We thank those outside the UK whose work we don’t have the space to recognise here. We also want to thank all the people we haven’t mentioned who we know are working behind the scenes, often taking a risk in their personal and professional lives for speaking out at work, at the school gates, on Facebook and amongst their friends and families on a subject which may lead to them being branded as ‘bigots.’
Our thanks go to all those who have written to and had meetings with their MP’s, who responded to the NHS consultation, who have written to and challenged various organisations and who have attended events and added their support. Our gratitude also goes to the teachers we know of who are trying to combat this ideology in their schools and to those who have given us their time and expertise anonymously behind the scenes.
For us, this is not a party-political or religious issue, but one of reality versus ideology, an ideology which harms mostly women and girls and children. This is reflected in the fact that people from all walks of life and all political persuasions have been speaking out this year.
Very many people in 2017 contributed to making sure that the debate can no longer be silenced and we have seen that it is making a difference. Another report last week, from Caroline Wheeler and Nicholas Hellen in the Times, reveals that plans for self-declared gender recognition have been delayed, with education secretary Justine Greening admitting that they are ‘complex’ and ‘divisive.’
In 2017 very many people collectively helped to change the discourse on gender ideology and everyone’s voice has counted. One person speaking gives permission to others to speak out too and in 2018 we hope that voices of dissent will reach a critical mass. A Happy New Year to you all!