Trans Kids On The Today Programme

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday (May 13th) ran a feature on “trans kids” as part of their news item on President Obama’s letter instructing schools in the U.S. to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.

You can listen here (from about 02.10): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07b2lw5#play and the full transcript can be seen here.

In the following report, we don’t judge either of the children featured (who were both charming and very likeable), we use their interviews only to question the level of rigour in the reporting of these cases, as well as the ideology which underpins the assumptions made about appropriate ‘treatments’ for such children.

What’s striking about the coverage of this issue on the Today programme is the lack of incisive questioning of the kind you would expect for a serious news item; John Humphreys tried, but came across as out of his depth on an issue which demands serious challenge. Children’s bodies are being medically altered into a biologically intersex condition to fit a psychological identity: the ideology behind this practice is not one which needs to be treated with polite deference.

The adoption of the new language – “assigned the wrong gender at birth” for example – obfuscates the issue from the start, and subsequent inaccuracies in language further confuse things. Visiting the Tavistock clinic to chat to both patients and clinicians, the reporter for the Today programme, Sima Kotecha, tells us that 9 year-old Poppy:

“biologically remains the same, in all other aspects of life she has transitioned into a female.”

‘Female’ is a descriptor of a woman’s biological sex, so this statement makes no sense. If the listeners are going to understand the issues, the terms used at least need to be accurate and not misleading; this is a fundamental point we would expect the Today programme to get right. Just as the confusion in language is revealing of misunderstandings around the difference between sex and gender, the lack of any questioning of childish thinking reveals either an ignorance or a willful putting-aside of all we know about children in order to accommodate a new theory we are afraid to question. Poppy makes the statement:

“I wished I was a girl and that wish came true.”

Is it fair to foster a child’s magical thinking stage of perception in this way? – adults know the reality of adult transsexualism but for a 9 year-old it really is this simple: a boy can be a girl if they wish it. His perception that his preferences were indication that something within himself was ‘wrong’ is not questioned, and the bullying he clearly experienced for being too ‘feminine’ is not challenged but validated:

“Something felt wrong inside. I didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t feel right.

They made fun of me so I changed to a girl and they like me more now, they like me as I am.”

Are we really willing to so readily accept that a child is ‘wrong’ at this age, rather than address the bullying that tells him so?

Next to be interviewed was 16 year-old Colin who we are told “transitioned from female to male” after “discovering the world of gender” online. This rang no alarm bells even though Colin was previously happy as a girl:

“It wasn’t something that came up… It wasn’t something that was important to me… I was perfectly content.”

Although Colin does not plan to have surgery to alter her body, she now wears a chest binder which causes ‘a lot of back pain’ – “I’ve known people who have broken ribs from them” – and she flawlessly repeats the new transgender ideology we are used to hearing from activists, which denies the sexed body completely and replaces it with ‘internal’ gender:

“Gender is what’s between your ears not what’s between your legs. I feel like it’s something that’s really innate within you, your gender…it has no correlation to your body…like when I get periods it’s just something that happens to my body and it’s not like this is a woman thing, it’s just a thing.”

From being “perfectly content” Colin has moved to a life which is “not easy at all;” she has learned to hate the thought of living as a woman and has internalised the bleak transgender narrative of suicide and prejudice:

“It’s emotionally and physically painful. Not easy at all. Statistics about trans people having shorter life spans because of suicide or murder or so many different prejudices that I am kind of terrified about experiencing as an adult but I’d rather go through that than be living as a woman and hating it.”

This contrasts with the rosy picture painted by Bernadette Wren of the Tavistock clinic:

“It enables people to live fuller lives, I think that’s certainly our experience in the clinic. The majority of young people, whether or not they have suffered greatly, or more of Colin’s experience of being quite adaptable, if they make the transition and they make a go of it, their lives are fuller, richer and more rewarding, and they’re more productive people.”

Bernadette Wren’s comments on this programme were particularly troubling. There seems to be no awareness here that Colin is actually an example of a worrying trend of adolescent girls who don’t ‘fit in’ who discover trans forums on Reddit and Tumblr and are urged to transition. We don’t yet know what the effects will be on their psychological health from the effort to disconnect from their female bodies and see themselves as disembodied entities, together with the prolonged state of cognitive dissonance inherent in denying female biological functions such as menstruation.

A mind-body split used to be seen as a state of dis-ease and health practice has always been centred on mind-body integration, but in this case it seems that disconnection has been re-cast as a psychologically healthy state.

Bernadette Wren paints a picture of a Brave New World of freedom and personal choice. If this is the case, why do we need gender clinics to be involved at all? From providing treatment for cases of genuine and distressing sex dysphoria, are gender clinics moving into a role of supporting what is presented here as a new kind of positive and progressive lifestyle choice? If this is the case, then gender clinics are essentially the partners of transgender organisations who peddle an ideology which says that gender identity is material reality and biological sex an illusion. Adults are free to agree with the ideology and make this decision, but the Tavistock clinic is for children and adolescents for whom there is no ‘free choice’ in a bubble outside of cultural forces and social contagion which even adults find difficult to resist.

Bernadette Wren’s comments warrant serious challenge on several points, something which the Today programme failed to do adequately:

“I think Colin, if you don’t mind me saying, you’re typical of, in some respects, a new wave of young people who are coming to us who I think are partly responsible for the increase in numbers. I think when the opportunity to come out and speak frankly, to transition, even to have medical interventions, when that’s less known about you tend to get probably the group that you expected to hear about, so a core of people who are really, really struggling, really in pain, psychologically in pain, and are absolutely desperate as are their parents.

I think when the thing is opened up more, you yourself Colin said that when you began to find out more about [it], that actually you CAN have more freedom in a world that seems to be very settled with clear gender categories, male or female, actually there’s not a lot stopping you from challenging that a bit. I think that has been an opportunity for a wider range of young people to come forward and begin to ask, as, you know, as Colin is, whether the future lies in going down another gendered route. For some of them that really means living as, what we used to call, less so now, “the opposite sex.” For others it means exploring perhaps an in-between position or just saying they don’t really know at the moment but they’re not comfortable staying in the initial, quite clear, category of male or female.

And I think now, we are beginning, in a privileged society, we are beginning to allow people to exercise more freedom, people simply have more elbow room to think about how they want to live their lives. Now, yes people could, as people did in the past, just try to make the best of it and live their lives, but I don’t think that we feel that that’s necessarily appropriate now. If this is something that people can do for themselves, it doesn’t really harm other people.”

We know that gender clinicians are monitored very closely by transgender groups and are under extreme pressure from every angle, but that doesn’t excuse a lack of knowledge of the real harms caused to other people, both by the transition of family members and by the adoption of this new theory throughout society. These comments describe a world outside of any wider cultural context, a culture within which there is enormous pressure on children and young people to fit gender stereotypes; a youth culture which glamorises the trans ‘choice;’ and a relentless promotion of happy trans kids stories throughout the popular media.

Especially concerning is Bernadette Wren’s seeming lack of awareness of credible research within her own field, which points to the opposite conclusion about transgender people’s lives and advises against the social transition of pre-pubertal children.

The Today programme needs to balance their reporting by inviting on guests who will challenge the rosy positive picture promoted across the media. If you’d like to see that happen, send your suggestions to them at this email address: today@bbc.co.uk.

14 Comments

  • Rysmom Reply

    The “doesn’t really harm people” is really frightening. It promotes a very selfish, “all about me me me” attitude and completely ignores the pain this new trend has on family members. My younger daughter told me that if her older brother does decide to present himself as a woman, whether just socially or through medical means, she will not her future husband or children to meet him. She is embarrassed by this entire situation, does not want any of her peers to know about it because she fears she will be teased. I don’t want our new neighbors to get to know our family at all because they will know us as having 2 boys and 1 girl, but if my son goes through with any level of transition, how do I explain that now I have 1 son and 2 daughters? I refuse to let anyone get close to us now because I also fear judgement. And the entire bathroom/locker room thing has me questioning this: Do I want my daughter to have to shower or change next to an unaltered transgender girl, and see the male parts still there? She doesn’t want to see that and I don’t want her to either. You have male parts you use the male facilities, and vice versa. One more thought; I think the medical community is so lazy now that there are medical ways to alter one’s gender. Sure, it’s more difficult to help someone change their mindset, learn how to love and accept the body they were born with, but in the long run it’s better to realize neuroplasticity is a real thing, the brain can change, our thought processes can change. But the phrase “assigned at birth” suggests there is some being checking boxes off a list and made a mistake, one that medicine can fix. Sorry, no. You were not “assigned” a gender at birth. You were born that way.

    • Transgender Trend Reply

      Thank you for sharing your experience. Those reactions from all family members are obvious to anyone with any understanding of and compassion for human beings – the idea that family members could just accept a change of sex seems ludicrous, and callous. It seems that once you’re steeped in the ideology you forget normal human feelings and relationships – scary coming from a consultant at the Tavistock.

  • Sketcher Reply

    Thanks for this excellent article, I will be sending it to the Today Programme, if that’s OK. I really feel now that we have gone beyond discussion and what is needed is real, physical action. People picketing outside clinics, swimming pools and leisure centres which allow you to choose a sex-segretated changing/shower room based on an ‘I am what I say I am’ proof of identity. Transexual people normally carry a letter with them to show in sex segregated spaces if they are going through transition, but this is an extremely small percentage of people.

    It’s going to be really interesting at the next Olympics when males compete AS females after only needing hormone therapy for a year.

    The professionals who work with children need to stand firm and be courageous in speaking out against this travesty.

  • Una Hodgkins Reply

    There is currently a “blitz” of programmes and articles on GD. Dr Miriam Stoppard, a general medical author and TV presenter, wrote in the Mirror on 16th May: http://www.mirror.co.uk/science/doctors-need-improve-transgender-agenda-7983111. And Rosamund Urwin wrote in the Evening Standard on 11th May: http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/where-girl-meets-boy-why-are-child-referrals-to-londons-gender-identity-clinic-rising-so-sharply-a3245416.html.
    I have written comments under both of these and included snippets in my comments below.

    The points which I would like to make as objections to these superficial articles, and to the Today programme in particular are:
    (1) Inappropriate, invasive hormone treatments (“puberty blocker”) for children derail normal puberty. Puberty is a normal process in which the surge of sex hormones puts the child on the right biological track to adulthood as a sexual being and it is a process which he/she should be encouraged to embrace, not fear.
    (2) Children should not be encouraged to fight their own bodies (“rejecting” menstruation) – for their lifetime!
    (3) Great harm is done to the parents and siblings – they love the person they knew, not someone with a pathological psychology as a result of trying to change a biological reality which can never, ever be changed. For the family it is like watching the old person dying. It is traumatic.
    (4) The psychological outcomes (as well as the physical ones) are often unsatisfactory in the long-term. Post-operative GD sufferers often show little insight what they have done, especially into the effect of their actions on their families. They are callous, they lack empathy and they are less mature in their behaviour in general, contrary to the assertions by Dr Wren about a happier life (she doesn’t see the process through to the end as the child moves to adult mental health services). And GD sufferers often show a marked increase in narcissism, which may be an explanation for the mocking which they suffer. Excessive narcissism is a socially repellent character trait.
    The recent “broad concensus” in psychiatry has been enforced by threats of dismissal or professional malpractice suits against “dissenting” or even questioning psychiatrists [we’ll leave the role of crusading transactivists to one side!]. Psychiatrists are bound by a strict professional code for most areas of practice, including the current treatment of GD sufferers, and yet the history of this treatment is full of controversy – understandably.

    There is a need for fresh thinking in this field: new steroid hormone analogues and new psychotherapies. The current discussion in the media is perhaps a chance to stimulate further research into this disorder, which seems to be a body dysmorphia, more akin to anorexia nervosa, but will less immediate danger to the patient.

    • Sylvie Reply

      “And GD sufferers often show a marked increase in narcissism, which may be an explanation for the mocking which they suffer.”

      The narcissistic traits many present with definitely have a tendency to ‘rub people up the wrong way’. Forcing others to buy into ones delusions and expecting them to validate ones reality is something people seldom appreciate, especially when the mental gymnastics do not compute. Just about everything about the trans movement seems to exhibit some level of toxic behaviour/beliefs.

      I wonder if any of those treating GD recognise the narcissism as being a root cause, and it being supposedly untreatable in the majority of cases (and telling a narcissist they’re a narcissist apparently doesn’t work), they elect to support the transition in the hope it will result in a less narcissistic outcome.

  • Una Hodgkins Reply

    It’s exactly one week since the “Today” interview was aired. I heard this morning an ad for yet another discussion on Radio 4: on Monday 23rd May at 8.30pm “Beyond Binary” will be broadcast as an episode of the “Analysis” series. It seems to be about someone called Phil or Pippa Bunce who works in the City and pops on his padded bra, blonde wig and red dress some days when he wants to, and still is taken seriously. He is a biological man, he is straight (married for twenty years with two kids and staying that way). He has written an article in the FT (no paywall!) where he says he is “gender fluid”… I am beginning to get confused myself! His practice – although confusing – seems at least not to endanger his body at all.

    How do we want to respond to this flood of one-sided documentary programmes from the BBC and other media sources?

    Is this a temporary media storm? Or will the indoctrination continue? I don’t what to let them continue to peddle with challenge the restrictive doctrine worked out jointly by psychiatrists like Professor Kevan Wylie and Dr James Barratt and their patients, aided and abetted by vocal transactivists with a slick PR machine (for example, did you notice at Barclays cash points yesterday, Thursday 19th, that it was International Day against Homophobia, Tranphobia and Biphobia”? – the last is a new one to me).
    If we want to challenge the doctrine it would be helpful to have one of the “dissenting” psychiatrist professionals join us, the dissenting parents and dissenting spouses, to give a balancing expert opinion. Do we have enough objections and confidence in expressing them to offer to be interviewed? I have been solicited by journalists on line a few times and have ignored them, but going direct to the producers of, say “Analysis” to ask to be given a voice is a different matter. I have been interviewed on local radio several times years ago.

    I do want safety in numbers: I will protest as part of a group, but not alone.

    Can you please give me your thoughts? Thank you.

    • Transgender Trend Reply

      Yes, we are happy to be interviewed (see the Media Triumph for Brighton Mothers for eg.) and there are others willing and able to speak out (Rebecca Riley-Cooper, Sarah Ditum and Julia Long come to mind). The more people prepared to speak the better – it’s not easy, people are afraid of losing their jobs, but every person who speaks publicly makes it easier for someone else to do so. What we want to do here is encourage as many people as possible to write in to shows and demand that they invite on someone with an opposing viewpoint to balance the ‘debate.’ What’s your position – I think you had a family member who transitioned, is that right? – we can keep your name as a contact if we are contacted for comment and you’d be willing to be interviewed?

      • Una Hodgkins Reply

        I am the ex-wife of a MtF transsexual who had been married twice before, but no one knew why his marriages broke down. He was an architect in private practice, a reticent, “shy” man. This was my only marriage. When I met him, he was charming and apparently interested in the same things as myself including sailing and old houses. Before I, aged 37, married him I watched him for four years looking in vain for clues about why his marriages had broken down. He was very manipulative. He told me calmly with a look of perfect innocence one sentence: “My second wife threw plates at me”. The implication was, in context, that she was mad. After a few years of marriage to him and his progressively teasing and then taunting behaviour I understood perfectly why she had done this. Before marriage he also told me, again with perfect composure and a light laugh, that he was looking for a “rich wife”. I was not a fool: the medical director for mental health services for North West London (who happened to be the mother of one of my son’s school friends) said: “Paul was a very charming man”. He had laid a trap for me. He was a cuckoo in the nest who paid nothing for our joint living expenses, leaving me to provide the matrimonial home, and everything except one set of school fees for the eldest child. At the divorce hearing my solicitor tried to present to the judge a statement made by Paul/Elizabeth to the presenting psychiatrist in which s/he gave a self-serving and self-centered account of his/her life, including the following: “….she [P/E] realised that her gender identity would get in the way of a successful marriage” (the one to me). I felt that I had been knifed in the back and the front.

        He left us ten years ago, in 2006. I have spent these years recovering my self-respect, learning as much as I could about GD on the internet and in books, making sure that our children had no contact at all with this devious liar (except by carefully discussed e-mails composed by all three of us), and making sure that we received a modest income from him/her after his accomplished theft of our joint savings (a four bedroom house in West Sussex) and upending of my financial plans for the children and myself.

        I understand that P/E’s embarrassment about his confusion was such that he could never, ever discuss it with anyone. He wanted, I now know, to live alone “as a woman” in a house which he owned outright. He could not think of a way out of his dilemma except by marrying a woman who was richer than himself and then extracting from the marriage on divorce what he wanted: a house. He was motivated to marry me only for money. This was clearly fraudulent. He mistakenly lost sight of the distinction between his uncertainty about his “gender identity” on the one hand and outright dishonesty on the other. I say this because between 2008 and 2012 s/he also defrauded the DWP of £15,000 in a clever scam. Amazingly (or not?) they decided not to prosecute him/her.

        During our 14 year marriage P/E gradually changed character and became a “rebellious teenager” all day, every day of the year. He has continued to behave in this way ever since. He shows no insight into his continuing taunting behaviour towards me – but only towards me (of course he is a successful thief and he knows it!) He is immature towards our children: after 10 years he does not understand why he has not been able to manipulate them behind my back. And he is narcissistic: his “avatar” in his Google account shows him as a woman through a telescope the wrong way. These are impossible character traits. I would not want to talk in detail about my personal experience but it does inform my views.

        There is a unique fear and confusion about GD (or more correctly “sexual body dysmorphia”). The connection between LGB and Transsexuals is utterly mistaken: the LGB people have no need for drugs and surgery. GD sufferers have been given (1) a privileged legal status and (2) inadequate psychiatric after-care with which to evaluate the efficacy of sex hormone treatment and surgery. I think that newer sex hormones might offer new avenues for treatment. And I am horrified by the idea of treating “GD children” like GD adults.

        I have posted extensively under articles in the Mirror, the Guardian and the Independent on-line as well as Transgender Trend and 4th WaveNow. And in other places.

  • Una Hodgkins Reply

    Sorry. I wrote “I don’t what to let them continue to peddle with challenge the restrictive doctrine worked out jointly by psychiatrists…” I should have written: “I don’t want to let them continue to peddle without challenge the restrictive doctrine….”

  • Sylvie Reply

    I find it disturbing that a Clinical Psychologist (Bernadette Wren) – someone in a position of authority – is saying such things. And that the media – also regarded as an ‘authoritative source’ (snort) – is broadcasting/publishing her dribble without full and accurate representation of the realities that contradict her. It is utterly irresponsible.

    You can totally see where the mental health issues that are rife within the trans community stem from. These procedures are not the solution – reinforced by the persistent mental health issues and number of people who detransition (conveniently dismissed as “not really trans”).

    ‘“…like when I get periods it’s just something that happens to my body and it’s not like this is a woman thing, it’s just a thing.”’

    O_o Every time – without fail – there is something utterly Orwellian re the things these people say/believe. Why are these people not being counselled re the facts/realities of life? Are their egos that fragile? If yes, then that’s the issue that needs to be addressed.

    “It’s emotionally and physically painful. Not easy at all. Statistics about trans people having shorter life spans because of suicide or murder or so many different prejudices that I am kind of terrified about experiencing as an adult but I’d rather go through that than be living as a woman and hating it.”

    Fear of “living as a woman and hating it” is greater than the “emotionally and physically painful” procedures, mental health issues, etc etc. What kind of mental health professional would be OK with this? I can see why there is disquiet among psychiatrists and GP’s regarding the psychiatrists treating GD.

  • Una Hodgkins Reply

    Because GD sufferers take drugs to maintain their cross-sex bodies they are thus in a different category to LGBs who do not. “Trans” is not a “natural” state, they are not “born this way” – they need artifice and outside help to achieve and keep their new bodies. Without the drugs they would revert to the bodies dictated by their natural hormones (apart from surgical interventions). Perhaps this distinction of “artificiality” might result in their legal status under Equalities legislation being questioned in due course.
    Trans activists who screw up the minds of children – with the help of psychiatrists – and do not advocate the use of puberty blockers, can claim that the kids are not taking “drugs”. This helps the Trans community to justify the otherwise tenuous link between LGB and T.

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