Photo by Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Tough talk, no action on trans activist policy

While ministers wriggle out of responsibility, children are suffering

Artillery Row

Perhaps it’s a result of too much partying, but the government appears to be having some sort of breakdown when it comes to transgender identity politics. On the one hand, ministers are talking tough about exorcising the spirit of woke from government bodies; on the other, the departments they head are busily bending policies into pretzel shapes and spaffing public money on dodgy equalities initiatives.

Take Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who last month promised a review into the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs England’s only NHS child gender services (GIDS). Much to the delight of many worried parents and anguished detransitioners, he slammed GIDS as “bordering on ideological” and “failing children”. Javid promised an inquiry, though details have yet to be announced.

It is high time the service was investigated. Despite whistleblowers, court cases and devastating testimony from former patients, senior leaders at GIDS have escaped accountability for more than a decade. Clinicians on the ground have repeatedly reported that underlying issues, including homophobic bullying, sexual abuse and other traumas have been systematically overlooked. Trans lobby groups enjoyed cosy relationships with management while staff raising concerns have risked career-ending smears of transphobia.

The NHS will sterilise women to cure a mental health problem

But, less than one month after Javid’s announcement, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital advertised for a coordinator of a “gender affirming” service founded to offer “masculinising surgical treatment” to females over the age of 17. Despite the fuzzy language, the hard truth is that this NHS service will sterilise women to cure what is in essence a mental health problem. There is no evidence that such life-changing procedures lead to better outcomes, but nonetheless public money has been poured in. The hospital proudly explained: “This is a unique opportunity to deliver life-changing benefits to patients.” Undoubtedly some of the patients lining up for hysterectomies will have been treated at GIDS. The Department of Health confirmed that in 2020-21 the NHS budget for so-called “sex reassignment” surgeries rose by 38 per cent to £19 million. Javid has yet to comment on the matter.

Similarly, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi would benefit from a lesson about what’s being taught in today’s classrooms. Earlier this month he mouthed some platitudes about ensuring the rights of all children are protected, and promised to issue guidance drawn-up with “sensitivity and love”. But this has yet to materialise. In the meantime teachers and parents have been left trying to navigate the impact of a huge increase in children identifying as trans.

Not only has the Department for Education (DfE) been truant, they’ve charged schools with an impossible new task. In September 2020, statutory Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) was introduced. In response, panicked head teachers have outsourced the tricky topic to the types of organisations you wouldn’t trust with the care of a toaster. Over the past week an exposé in the Daily Mail revealed that a totally unregulated market of PHSE providers has emerged, with niche sexual practices explained to young children and contested theories about gender identity taught as fact. When questioned, a DfE spokesperson confirmed it was up to schools to vet RSHE content. “All schools have a responsibility to ensure that lessons and materials are age-appropriate and factually accurate, particularly when using resources that are produced by external organisations.”

Tanya Carter, spokeswoman for Safe Schools Alliance, said: “For a long time, we have been inundated with requests from distressed parents and teachers. They have nowhere to turn — their complaints to schools are dismissed and letters to MP’s are unheeded. It is way past time for Nadhim Zahawi to intervene and ensure a safeguarding first approach is used. Those who have embraced gender identity ideology are demonstrating their lack of understanding of both safeguarding and child development, and this must be urgently addressed.”

Ministers need to do more than talk

Zahawi has wriggled out of his responsibility, leaving attorney-general Suella Braverman to take on the task of producing schools’ guidance. Braverman has now made positive noises about the issue of clueless professionals bending to pressure from trans lobby groups, telling The Times:

“Medical professionals, teachers should be taking a much firmer line. They shouldn’t take an unquestioning approach, they shouldn’t just take what the child says.”

Nonetheless, for all Braverman’s righteous words (and Zahawi’s wet promises), the guidance has yet to be released. And the situation could yet get worse. The DfE has announced that a teacher training programme costing £184 million will be run in partnership with, amongst others, Oasis Community Learning (OCL). Last year OCL organised a “Gender Agenda” conference in collaboration with trans lobby groups Mermaids UK and Proud Trust. How this can be squared with the tough new approach announced by Braverman remains uncertain. 

It’s easy to poke fun at the woke, to score points from a seemingly chronically unelectable opposition who have anchored themselves to a sinking ideology. Government is a lumbering beast; sometimes it takes a while for the head to make limbs move. But in the meantime, children in schools across the country will continue to be routinely taught that some girls have penises and some boys have vaginas. In each of those schools there will be pupils set on a medical pathway that will lead to sterilisation, through an NHS service. Ministers need to do more than talk; they need to weed out trans lobby groups from public policy and take responsibility for the services they lead.

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover