The sexist pseudoscience of ‘gender identity’
New Department for Education guidance helps to quell the fallacy of ‘transgender children’
I admit it, I admire Donald Trump: the sheer chutzpah of a man who delights in making incendiary claims only to accuse the media of bias when called-out is impressive.
Of course, it would be more entertaining were the consequences not so dire. Last week I watched as LGBT organisations in the UK adopted the Trumpian approach: the release of new guidance from the Department of Education (DfE) on 24 September forced a volte face from organisations that claim to support children who identify as transgender.
For years LGBT “education” groups have promoted the notion that trans-identified children are “born in the wrong body.” Overnight and en masse they are now denying this, with some now claiming to have been misrepresented by ideological opponents. Unlike Trump’s infamously questionable memory, the internet never forgets and “wrong body” receipts are strewn across social media.
Transgenderism only exists if one believes that there are appropriate characteristics for each sex
The clarification from DfE follows an acrimonious battle between grassroots campaigners and transgender lobby groups. The new guidance states: “teachers should not suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing.” It also advises schools to be very careful about using training from external providers, noting that these must be in line with the “school’s legal duties regarding political impartiality.” The idea of a mismatch in mind and body, or so-called “gender identity” and one’s sexed body, is the shaky concept on which transgender ideology exists.
Those who questioned the introduction of transgender teaching materials in schools over the past few years have been demonised. Stephanie Davies-Arai is founder and director of Transgender Trend, an organisation of parents, academics and childcare professionals who question the trans narrative. She told me:
We have always called for factual, evidenced-based resources for schools. Since publishing our own schools guide in February 2018 we have been subject to a sustained harassment and defamation campaign by transgender lobby groups. We are delighted that the new DfE guidance re-establishes a common-sense approach that centres safeguarding and protects children’s right to reject gender stereotypes without being labelled or pathologised. This is a very positive development that will reassure teachers and parents and put an end to unevidenced gender ideology in schools.
It is possible that this governmental change of tack was prompted by the departure of Jonathon Slater from the role of Permanent Secretary at the DfE. Slater, who last year received the Senior Champion of the Year award from LGBT lobby group Stonewall, resigned from the post on 1 September. In interviews Slater referred to how the experience of having a “trans daughter” had informed his approach to diversity, and it seems he was keen to spread Stonewall’s brand of somewhat exclusive “inclusion” throughout the civil service. Indeed, in 2018 when Slater was at the helm the DfE gave a grant of £233,673 to Stonewall.
Chief amongst the charities and lobby groups now taking the Trumpian “I never said that” line is Mermaids, a charity that advertises itself as supporting “gender-variant children, young people and their families”. Mermaids’ promotion of the “wrong body” narrative is impossible to scrub from hard drives: the charity have in fact long suggested that a preference for toys and clothes associated with the opposite sex are signs of a child being transgender.
The medicalised approach to children presenting with gender dysphoria is falling out of favour
Whilst Mermaids is currently engaged in ensuring their messaging is compliant with the new DfE guidance, the sexist pseudoscience of “gender identity” is still written into their literature. This is of course inevitable, because without “gendered stereotypes” there would be no markers by which to identify anyone as transgender. Whether one thinks of it as a utopian dream or dystopian nightmare, had the feminists of the 1970s and 1980s achieved their aims there would just be women and men with a variety of jobs, interests, clothes and hobbies. Transgenderism can only exist if one believes that there are appropriate personalities and behaviours for each sex – otherwise what would be left to “trans”? Were this sexist social lens to be removed, girls who wear trousers and enjoy scrapping and boys in pink who bake would be seen and valued as the children they are.
Mermaids CEO, former IT Consultant Susie Green, uses the story of her now adult child’s transition from “Jack” to “Jackie” to get tears (and funds) rolling. Green took Jackie to Thailand to have a seven-hour sex reassignment operation as a sixteenth birthday present, surgery which is now illegal for those under eighteen in Thailand. Prior to this Green had taken her child to America for so-called “puberty blocker” treatment: off-label hormones which left Jackie’s genitals undeveloped. In one interview Susie Green laughingly explains the surgeons were left with “little to work with.”
Mermaids claim that puberty blockers are “completely reversible” and simply offer confused children time to consider their options, but there is mounting evidence of serious side-effects. The NHS recently changed their guidance to reflect this stating: “It’s also not known whether hormone blockers affect the development of the teenage brain or children’s bones. Side effects may also include hot flushes, fatigue and mood alterations.”
In 2018 I contributed to an anthology of essays called Transgender Children and Young People: Born in Your Own Body, the central thesis of the book was the idea of “transgender children” is a fallacy. Obviously, some youngsters experience discomfort in their bodies, but this is not evidence of some fundamental mismatch between mind and body: suffering from body dysmorphia or gender dysphoria is not the same as being “transgender.” Naturally, the idea of “transgender children” is helpful to validate the identities of adults, particularly those who may wish to detract from their own autogynephilic tendencies.
In my chapter of the book I interviewed five lesbian adults, all of whom felt that they might have identified as boys had the education now embedded thanks to charities like Mermaids, been in place whilst they were at school. Indeed, research shows that adopting the stereotypes associated with the other sex is an early sign of developing same-sex attraction as an adult. Susie Green herself explains that she initially thought she “had a very sensitive, quite effeminate little boy who was probably gay” but instead argues Jackie’s preference for dolls and dresses was evidence of transgenderism.
Today, many children across the country who might have previously understood themselves to be gay or lesbian are identifying as the opposite sex or as “non-binary.” When the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) opened at London’s Tavistock Clinic in 1989, it received two referrals over the course of the year. In 2018-19 it received 2,590 referrals. 35 clinicians have resigned over recent years with some citing pressure from lobby groups to medicate children. To many who reject the concept of “trans children”, medical treatments are a mass experiment: the sterilisation of lesbian, gay and confused youth through risky treatments.
The future of GIDS is looking shaky; earlier this year ex-patient and detransitioner Keira Bell launched a legal case against them arguing she “was prescribed dangerous, experimental drugs and received a double mastectomy procedure” adding on her Crowd Funder page that she is now “fighting to stop this from happening to minors.” The future of this case is uncertain as the entire service is to be subject to an NHS review, it seems the medicalised approach to children presenting with gender dysphoria is falling out of favour.
The threat of suicide is used an emotional cudgel to beat parents and schools into compliance
The “born in the wrong body” idea was not just promoted by youth LGBT charities, it was also enthusiastically taken-up by bien pensant media luvvies. Over recent years the BBC have aired “educational” material for children based on this fallacy, including the BAFTA award-winning programme I am Leo which includes a scene where male and female shapes on a production line are sprayed with either pink or blue hormones to represent being transgender. This is clearly pseudoscientific nonsense presented as fact. Programmes for adults were spewed out too, including the fictionalised Radio 4 series Just a Girl which was described as a “powerful drama inspired by real-life experiences of people coping with a child born into the wrong body.” Particular thanks is offered by writer Mark Davies Markham to “Susie Green and the parents at Mermaids, a charity offering support to gender-variant children, teenagers and their families and the Tavistock Clinic.”
Not to be out-done, ITV were keen to get in on the “wrong body” action. The 2018 TV mini-series Butterfly was based on the experience of Susie Green, the first episode was reputed to have attracted 2.8 million viewers. Actress Anna Friel, who played the Max’s mother in Butterfly explained in an interview for The Independent: “when it comes to a point of self-harming and they’re saying, ‘I’m born in the wrong body’, you have to listen.”
Butterfly drew criticism when the central character, 11-year-old Max, was shown to be self-harming. This morbid outlook is not uncommon in the world of trans youth charities; “would you rather a dead son or a transgender daughter” is often quoted by those in favour of childhood transition. Indeed, Susie Green herself claims “I have my daughter, whole and alive, but if I had refused to listen then it’s very likely that I would have a dead son.” But this is not necessarily true.
The claim made by Mermaids, that 48 per cent of transgender youth are reported to have attempted suicide at some point in the past, was referenced last week by Nicola Richards MP in the House of Commons. A Freedom of Information request submitted by University of Oxford Professor Michael Biggs revealed that only one GIDS patient had committed suicide between 2016 to August 2018. That a young person lost their life in this way is dreadful, but it is also thankfully rare. Further investigation by Transgender Trend revealed that the figure of 48 per cent is from a study of 27 self-selected young trans people, 13 of whom reported having attempted suicide at some point in the past. The lead academic behind the research referenced by Mermaids, Nuno Nodin, explained that the findings had been “misinterpreted” and that this was common “when research is used by non-scientists in the context of their own agendas”. The threat of suicide is weaponised by groups like Mermaids, used an emotional cudgel to beat parents and schools into compliance.
The cultural roots of the “born in the wrong body” narrative are deep: sexologists at the beginning of the twentieth century used to believe homosexuals were people who had been infected with the “germs” of the opposite sex. The whole history of transgenderism is born of social unease around homosexuality and the early attempts at sex reassignment surgery were grisly attempts to surgically create heterosexuals. Whilst it is good to see the DfE force lobby groups to backtrack, how such regressive pseudoscience ever came to be promoted in schools in 2020 is a question that begs a governmental answer.
It’s easy for charities like Mermaids to now claim that they have never suggested children are “born in the wrong body”, but for many it is already too late. The impending lawsuits and judicial reviews might correct institutional failings, but for those who have been duped into medical procedures the harm will be written into their bodies for the rest of their lives.
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