In her bid to be prime minister, Penny Mordaunt has attempted to rewrite history on the issue of her views on gender. For those of us who have been campaigning for women’s voices to be to be heard in this debate since 2015 as I have, her recent claims ring very hollow. Aside from her assertion that she has never supported self-ID, it was this claim in particular that drew my attention:
During my tenure at @GEOgovuk I challenged the trans orthodoxy with real and genuine concern, especially the volume girls referred into trans services. I set up this Inquiry. pic.twitter.com/N70xTD2TDl
— Penny Mordaunt (@PennyMordaunt) July 9, 2022
It was an issue I had raised with the Government Equalities Office (GEO) as a matter of urgent concern, but had not felt that it was taken seriously or seen as a problem.
My experience of meetings with the GEO under successive Chairs of the Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) from 2015 onwards, was of an ideologically captured government department. A senior civil servant once tried to assure me that they took their impartial status very seriously, but that is not what I experienced. It was clear from the barely-disguised hostility, the language used, the looks exchanged and on one memorable occasion, the sniggering, that minds had already been made up.
So when I was told at one meeting that the GEO was to look into the issue of the unprecedented rise in the number of teenage girls being referred to the Tavistock Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) it felt more like an attempt to fob me off and stop me talking than any genuine concern about the phenomenon.
When it was announced that Penny Mordaunt was launching an inquiry, I therefore had cause to wonder if I had perhaps misjudged them. In September 2018 I wrote to the then Head of the GRA Consultation at the GEO:
I was pleased to see the announcement that Penny Mordaunt has ordered an inquiry into the unprecedented rise in the number of teenage girls being referred to the Tavistock clinic, as you had indicated at the meeting. I would be very happy to assist in the inquiry in any way I can and could outline the issues that in my view would be critical to include in the investigation if that would be useful. Please advise on the best way I can be involved.
I received this by reply:
Thanks for your email. I’m afraid the reporting of this has been rather misunderstood. The commitment in the LGBT Action Plan is not for an inquiry into the number of natal girls being referred to the Tavistock — a Government Inquiry in a formalised process with witnesses etc. Rather, the commitment is to undertake research into the issues faced by natal girls who transition in their teenage years. The wording in the action plan is:
We will improve our understanding of the impacts on children and adolescents of changing their gender. The Government Equalities Office will gather evidence on the issues faced by people assigned female at birth who transition in adolescence.
This will be research conducted likely by GEO analysts – we are currently looking at setting out the parameters of this research, and considering the timing of this work.
So not an independent inquiry, but part of the LGBT Action Plan — intended to gather evidence through research conducted by analysts within the GEO. I did not feel confident at the time that this evidence-gathering would be unbiased, or that the real issues would be addressed.
Given the position of the GEO at the time, I feared that the resulting survey would be, in the style of Stonewall, designed to capture the desired outcomes. Girls would report concerns about long waiting times for the GIDS, lack of trans awareness in schools, a hostile press, discrimination and “minority stress”. After all, this is the script all young people learn from social media and trans activist organisations, and a survey could easily be designed to elicit these responses.
“Research” is perhaps too grand a word
Not until July 2019 did we hear that research had begun — although “research” is perhaps too grand a word for a review of evidence from other countries which found similar referral rates in Finland, Canada and the Netherlands. This was information which could easily be found from a quick Google search.
This announcement informed us, “A tender for the next stage of research will be released in the coming weeks. This will include a comprehensive international evidence review and analysis of referral data. Alongside this clinicians and young service users will be interviewed.”
In fact the tender never went out. The proposed research was not even an item on the agenda at the LGBT Advisory Panel meeting on July 19th.
So, Penny Mordaunt’s claim that she set up an inquiry into the number of girls referred to gender identity services is, at very best, disingenuous and misleading. Not only had no inquiry been planned, but even the research promised in the LGBT Action Plan never materialised.
The list of recommendations from the original Transgender Equality Inquiry reads like a trans activist wishlist, including self-ID with no need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and lowering the age for obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate to 16. In their response the government rejected most of these recommendations, but no Chair of the WESC, including Penny Mordaunt, expressed any doubts about these explicitly stated aims of the committee.
In fact, Penny Mordaunt’s support for self-ID was apparent in her Ministerial Foreword to the GRA consultation. Her statement frames GRA reform as necessary to “strip away the barriers that hold people back, to create equal opportunities” because “trans people continue to face significant barriers to full participation in public life.”
Anyone familiar with Stonewall propaganda will recognise the following claims: “Reported hate crime is rising. Reported self-harm and suicide rates, particularly amongst young trans people, are extremely concerning. Trans people continue to face discrimination and stigma, in employment and in the provision of public services.”
This is a form of “anchoring bias”, in other words, respondents to the consultation are primed to agree with the need for reform. This Ministerial Foreword gives them the right answers. We are told, “This consultation seeks views on how the Government might make it easier for trans people to achieve legal recognition.” It is difficult to disagree with these aims, it’s all wrapped up.
Only then is lip service paid to “the need to engage with all perspectives…particularly women’s groups”, but concerns are summarily dismissed: “we are not proposing to amend the Equality Act 2010 and the protections contained within it.”
Penny Mordaunt was well aware
The Equality Act single sex exceptions were already not working. Penny Mordaunt was well aware that a GRC confers legal status, strengthening discrimination claims for exclusion from women’s spaces on the basis that a man in possession of a GRC would be legally female. Serious concerns frequently expressed by women were simply glossed over in the Ministerial Foreword.
Perhaps the greatest damage done under Penny Mordaunt’s watch has been the rapid spread of gender ideology taught in schools. As part of the LGBT Action Plan, Barnardo’s, Diversity Role Models, Equaliteach, National Children’s Bureau, Stonewall and The Diana Award were awarded a share of £1 million to teach gender identity ideology in schools under the banner of “anti-bullying”.
And in healthcare, NHS England began a “transformation of adult gender identity services” through the development of adult gender clinic pilot schemes which operate within an “affirmative” framework rather than a diagnostic one, and essentially provide a one-way ticket to medical transition after two appointments. Vulnerable 17 -25 year-olds attending these clinics enter a system even worse than that which has failed adolescents at the Tavistock GIDS, as detailed in the Cass interim report.
If Penny Mordaunt is elected leader of the Conservatives there is real concern that much of the careful work done over the last few years regarding the rights of women and girls, and scrutiny of gender services for children and young people would be, if not undone, then made more difficult. For strong leadership on these issues we need someone we can trust. It does not appear that Penny Mordaunt is that person.
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