This week we have had to cross out not one but two upcoming events in our diary, both concerning the transgender diagnosis and treatment of kids.
The first of these you may have heard about: the cancellation of the NSPCC’s “Dare to Debate” seminar “Is Society Letting Down Trans Children?” scheduled for October 25th. We were grateful to the NSPCC for setting up this crucial debate, to which we were invited, and we are very disappointed that it has been cancelled. We have emailed the NSPCC with our view here.
The cancellation was due to an outcry from trans activists on Twitter:
On 25 Oct we’re discussing if society is letting transgender children down. What do you think? We’ll put it to the panel #DareToDebate
— NSPCC (@NSPCC) October 11, 2016
The NSPCC issued a statement explaining their decision to cancel:
“However, the trans community have raised concerns and told us that they don’t support the NSPCC hosting this discussion. We have listened, and following the withdrawal of a keynote speaker, we are no longer hosting this event.”
Gay Star News chose to headline their report on the cancellation with: “NSPCC accused of anti-trans child abuse in the name of publicity.”
We can surmise from this that anyone daring to publicly present the case for caution in the diagnosis and treatment of non-conforming kids will automatically be labeled “transphobic.” In this case it was Sarah Ditum, respected feminist writer and author of “What Is Gender Anyway?” an important, balanced and well-researched piece on the development of the idea of “innate gender identity.” Ditum has been subject to unsubstantiated and libelous charges of supporting “conversion therapy” and child abuse. The charge of transphobia will also be leveled at any organisation who dares to host such an event. When an organisation as high-profile as the NSPCC cancels an event like this it can read as an admission of guilt and sends a clear message to everyone: challenging trans doctrine is not allowed.
This leaves kids seeking help with access to only one version of belief about gender; they are presented with no other understanding, or the fact that there even exist any other beliefs or ways of thinking about gender. The initial reason for this debate was the sharp increase in the number of kids contacting Childline with worries about their gender, so it is important that the NSPCC are fully informed in order to be able to help all children who think they may be transgender. As alternative views have been silenced, presumably the information currently available on the Childline information page will remain unchallenged. There are so many factual inaccuracies and unexamined statements on this page it looks as if it has been lifted straight from a trans organisation website without any thought about whether it makes sense. It is worth looking at a few statements from that page to show exactly what message children are receiving:
- When we’re born, people decide our gender for us. This means they decide whether we’re a boy or a girl.
No, when we are born a midwife or doctor accurately records our sex, whether we are male or female, not how masculine or feminine we are. Different expectations of behaviour, aptitudes, interests and appearance are then applied to us by parents and society, depending on whether we are male or female. This is what “gender” means.
- wishing you could change your body to look more like the way you feel inside.
What does it mean to change your body to “look like” how you feel? Is it necessary to change your body to match your personality and is this an idea we should be encouraging children to believe as an answer to their problems?
- Some trans people decide to change their appearance to look like the gender they feel inside. This could start with changing a hairstyle, dressing differently or wearing make-up.
This clarifies the superficial and regressive stereotypes we’re encouraging children to believe in. How can we say, for example, that growing your hair long and wearing dresses and make-up “matches” the girl you feel you are in your head when plenty of girls have short hair, always wear trousers and never wear make-up? These things don’t make you a girl. Saying “this could start with” suggests that medical intervention is the next inevitable step.
- Your gender identity is about whether you feel male, female, somewhere in between or neither.
- You might feel like you’re not a boy or a girl but somewhere in between. Or both. Or neither.
‘Gender’ means masculine or feminine, not male or female. If you are “somewhere in between” male and female (or boy and girl) you have a rare biological intersex condition. If these statements refer to personality and not biological sex, they fit all people who do not experience themselves as 100% gender stereotypes. Many girls reject “femininity.” This does not make them boys. Many boys reject “masculinity.” This does not make them girls.
- Not everyone who is trans wants to go from living as a girl to living as a boy (or the other way round).
What does it mean to “live as a girl” or “live as a boy”? In 2016, we should not be encouraging children to be confined by these strict sex roles, but supporting kids who want to break out of them.
- A trans person is not ‘dressing up’ as another gender or cross-dressing. They’re expressing their true gender
- Being trans is not the same as being a drag queen or someone who cross-dresses.
What does “true gender” mean? A child’s true sex cannot change; “true gender” suggests that there is an innate 100% masculine or feminine soul or brain, which is either a religious belief or incorrect science. All human beings have both “masculine” and “feminine” traits. According to the government and many transgender organisations cross-dressers do in fact fall under the “trans umbrella.”
- This is often known as being transgender. Or ‘trans’ for short. Lots of people feel like this
No, statistically very few people feel themselves to be transgender or transsexual. Many young people do, however, feel confused about their gender for many different reasons, but we can expect many more to identify themselves as transgender if this is the only option they are offered as a way of understanding themselves.
The conflation of biological sex (male, female) with gender is very confusing: male does not necessarily equate to masculine and female does not inevitably equate to feminine. To suggest that gender is inextricably linked to sex is to mislead the more “feminine” boys and more “masculine” girls into thinking that they need to change sex in order to be their authentic selves. They don’t.
The most worrying aspect of presenting vulnerable children and adolescents with this one-size-fits-all explanation for their feelings is that it will cover up and replace any underlying issues which may have led young people to a cross-sex identification, and these kids will not get the help they really need. One factor which the NSPCC should be especially concerned about is past trauma, incest and sexual abuse, which will remain hidden. Little boys who would grow up to be gay and lesbian teenage girls are especially at risk of mis-diagnosis as ‘trans’ in a society in which homophobic and lesbophobic attitudes are still rife, but where is the acknowledgment on the page that your feelings may mean that you’re lesbian or gay? Other kids at risk of mis-diagnosis are those on the autistic spectrum (or with similar brain disorders), teenage girls with body dysmorphia or fear of becoming women, kids from troubled backgrounds and those with underlying psychological issues: all are over-represented at gender clinics.
To give young people one fixed diagnosis of their feelings is wholly irresponsible, it misleads kids into thinking that there is no alternative to a treatment pathway which will sterilise them and put them on risky medication for life. It is not transphobic to acknowledge that there are other reasons behind cross-sex identification in children and adolescents; it is our duty of care to children to consider all options and not jump to one pre-determined diagnosis for all.
Childline needs to add “some people believe..” before the views they represent as facts on this page, and include information about other reasons a child or adolescent may feel uncomfortable or distressed about their “gender” in order to give children the full facts which they have a right to hear from trusted adults. At the moment, the page just confirms the diagnosis that many youngsters, especially adolescent girls, are being prescribed on online Tumblr and Reddit trans forums. We are leaving our most vulnerable kids totally in the hands of trans activists who have a political vested interest in “proving” that gender identity is innate.
Trans activists shut down the NSPCC debate through the use of silencing tactics, but that is not the only way they are able to stifle debate; some ways are more hidden. The second event we were due to attend, “New Perspectives on Healthcare Provision for Transgender Youth,” was a day event hosted by Mermaids on October 14. We received confirmation of registration and e-tickets on September 18, followed by details of the programme on October 9 and an email reminder on the morning of October 12, all through Eventbrite. On the afternoon of the 12th came an email from CEO of Mermaids, Susie Green, with this message:
Unfortunately due to oversubscription, your tickets have been cancelled for this event. You will not be able to gain admittance on the day, we apologise for any inconvenience,
This message was received by a total of seven “gender critical” people that we know of, including a prominent member of the transsexual community, suggesting that Mermaids had combed the list of registered ticket holders and banned those who hold opposing views on gender reassignment treatment for children. Not all members of the banned group are known names; perhaps Mermaids trawled through Facebook Friend lists or individual social media accounts to find out people’s views. Their stated hope for “lively discussion and debate about what the future should look like” was apparently only for those who already agree with each other.
This was an important event not least because the keynote speaker was Dr Norman Spack, Paediatric Endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, who started America’s first clinic to treat transgender children in 2007 and has been perhaps the most influential figure in the establishment of the treatment pathway for children ever since.
When the issue is a treatment for children which leaves them infertile, we would expect those promoting it to be transparent; this is not a debate which should go on behind closed doors. Both policy makers and the public should be fully informed on something which is a serious ethical issue, and the fact that the most prominent support organisation for transgender youth found a way to ensure that no debate was possible should worry everyone.
So in a week when one debate was cancelled and another held in secrecy, we think it’s time a high-profile organisation stood up and dared to debate an issue which will affect more and more kids if we fail to apply the normal standards of scrutiny we’d expect towards any new and untested idea about children. If the NSPCC won’t do it, who will?