Former Stonewall chief executive Ruth Hunt

Sorry is the hardest word

In the wake of the Cass Report, the hordes are now looking for a face-saving way to recant


This article is taken from the June 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Of the aphorisms attributed to the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, none is more famous than that you should build a golden bridge over which your enemies can retreat. If they are backed into a corner, the idea goes, their only way out will be through you. But if running away is easy and tempting, winning may not require wading through rivers of blood.

For some who profess the trans neo-religion, the Cass Report, published in April, looks like a golden bridge. Distinguished paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass said nothing in it that critics of gender clinics’ reckless experimentation haven’t been saying for years. But she said it in a government-commissioned report and demonstrated the near-total lack of an evidence base.

Just two of 103 academic papers that fit the criteria for inclusion in the literature review were judged to be high quality, and the rest were either worthless or inconclusive. An awful lot of people who spent years insisting not just that gender-confused kids should be chemically castrated with puberty blockers and speedily prescribed cross-sex hormones, but also that women can have penises and all the other trans articles of faith, are now looking for a face-saving way to recant.

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Amongst them is Keir Starmer. In 2021 the Labour leader said backbencher Rosie Duffield was wrong to say that only women have a cervix; post-Cass he admits that “biologically, she of course is right”. Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, who used to say “trans women are women, get over it”, now says the next Labour government will “work to implement the expert recommendations of the Cass review”.

Why did two clever men ever believe that men could become women? Or that little children could discern their innate gender identities before they could tie their shoelaces?

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary

Streeting, like so many gay men, was presumably misled by some gay campaign groups’ adoption of trans ideology despite its incompatibility with gay people’s rights. As for Sir Keir, he’s a lawyer, and lawyers are prone to believing that laws can overwrite reality.

His insistence pre-Cass that “99.9 per cent” of women don’t have penises makes sense if you think a government-issued piece of paper determines your sex (the 0.1 per cent are men with gender recognition certificates stating their “acquired gender” as female).

Funny how many people fell for this when they have no trouble understanding the concept of a “legal fiction” when the government declares Rwanda safe.

Streeting surely understands that the more that is done to end the scandal of sterilising gender-confused children before he picks up the health portfolio, the better for him. Sir Keir no doubt wants to avoid questions about women’s penises at every press conference he gives as prime minister. As John Maynard Keynes nearly said, when the incentives change, I change my mind.

The hope now is that many of the cowards who remained professionally deaf and blind to the downsides of pretending sex can change, join the rush for the exit. The self-proclaimed sceptics who used to be so scathing about homoeopathy but swallowed the ludicrous claim that it was possible to be “born in the wrong body”. The New Atheists who genuflected to a godless neo-religion. The civil servants supposed to uphold impartiality in public life, who put their pronouns in their email signatures.

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I don’t know how Sun Tzu imagined the retreating hordes comporting themselves. I like to think he pictured them sidling across the golden bridge whilst pretending to be somewhere else. I’m sure he’d have understood the concept of the “reverse ferret”, as Kelvin MacKenzie, then editor of the Sun, called his occasional change of heart after having set his journalists on some celebrity with the order to “stick a ferret up their trousers” — a reference to men competing to see who can cope longest with ferrets trapped near their nether regions.

The essence of the reverse ferret is brazenness: barefaced denial that you ever held a different position. Should retreating enemies be allowed to get away with it?

Sun Tzu would presumably say that what matters is that they leave the battlefield, and that continuing to harry them makes the prospect of following them less attractive to others. But for people who spoke out before Cass made it less risky, clemency can stick in the craw.

Take Duffield, ignored by Sir Keir whilst his party’s trans extremists tried to destroy her career. Is it realistic to expect her to be gracious about him changing his tune?

Or take journalist Julie Bindel, blacklisted by the Guardian 20 years ago for writing sympathetically about a Canadian rape crisis centre that refused to appoint a trans-identifying man as a rape crisis counsellor for women. In 2008 Streeting, then president of the National Union of Students, refused to support Bindel after she was no-platformed for “transphobia”. She has publicly invited him to apologise, so far without response.

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The premise of the golden bridge is predicated on most of your enemies being cowards, keen to leave the battlefield when the tides of war change. But what if some are fanatics who burnt their homes before taking up arms and have nowhere to retreat to? What about the cunning, who will retreat only to lick their wounds and wait for the right moment to pick up arms again?

Cass has received death threats, and police have warned her to avoid public transport

Trans activists have barracked conferences on evidence-based gender medicine and waved placards proclaiming that “Cass is social murder”. Cass has received death threats, and police have warned her to avoid public transport. That’s not because she’s at risk from middle-aged women campaigning to safeguard children. It’s because the trans rights brigade has a bovver wing that’s in it for the fight. No bridge, no matter how golden, will lure them away.

Established trans activist groups like Stonewall and Mermaids couched their criticisms of Cass in less heated terms, focusing on long waits at gender clinics and her report’s supposed lack of clarity. But if they are retreating, it is merely tactical. Their income depends on schools and employers paying for their advice to write trans ideology into their policies. For them, the only possibilities are victory or death.

The most tragic combatants are the children and parents who bought what the trans lobby sold. Post-Cass, the NHS is clamping down on hormonal interventions for young people — the right call, since they come with uncertain benefit and guaranteed harm.

That is little comfort for the children already treated and the parents who supported them. Rather than accept that they have been subjected to an irreversible wrong, some will deny the evidence, fight for more children to be damaged and continue to cheerlead for the people and organisations that led them astray.

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Which brings me to Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s former chief executive, who destroyed the charity by adding the T to the LGB and got a peerage from Theresa May for her efforts.

In a recent interview with The Times, Hunt attempted a reverse ferret for the ages. Her only mistake, she said, had been to trust the experts who misrepresented what was happening in child gender clinics. Stonewall hadn’t had a policy of “no debate”, she insisted, and certainly hadn’t sought to harm its critics.

Unfortunately for Hunt, Stonewall’s victims can cite chapter and verse. Barrister Allison Bailey is challenging Stonewall at the employment appeal tribunal for demanding she be sacked for saying transwomen weren’t literally women.

The charity has tried several times to persuade the international body that accredits national human-rights watchdogs to downgrade the Equality and Human Rights Commission in retaliation for its refusal to slavishly obey the trans lobby’s diktats. Journalists who sought in good faith to question Stonewall’s change of direction under Hunt were refused briefings and blocked on social media — I know; I was one of them.

Hunt now laughably describes herself as “someone who has always been working in the middle ground, trying to build consensus”. What needs to happen next, she says, is “lots of listening and some forgiveness and some understanding in order to help us move on”.

When it stopped looking obvious that her principles put her on the winning side, she chose others. Letting her get off scot-free would be foolish: what’s to say she won’t switch back if the tides of war turn again? As for the sanctimony! For that alone she deserves to be made an example of.

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