“Are you concerned about child safeguarding, safety in prisons, securing the future of women’s sport, single-sex NHS wards, sexism- pay equality?” demanded the leaflet. Well, yes, I am indeed, two tickets please. I arranged to meet Lesley near the venue, dug out my ‘Adult Human Female’ notebook and pen and I was ready to go.
It’s getting colder in London, and darker earlier of course- sunset at 4pm FFS! By the time I headed out of the house, clad in a coat that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Antarctica, the sky was dark and the streets were illuminated with the premature glare of precocious Christmas lights.
the new venue
Happily munching on a Gregg’s vegan sausage roll and swigging from a flask of warm coffee, I arrived at the place where I thought the meeting was going to take place to find windows shuttered, doors locked and not a soul in sight.
Checked my messages- ah yes, two texts and an email telling me the venue had been changed at the last minute. I texted Lesley (who was stuck in traffic somewhere halfway round the M25) the new postcode, and turned around.
I had plenty of time to retrace my steps to the new venue, where organisers were already busy setting up chairs and recording equipment and covering the windows with newspaper in case any troublemakers turned up (they didn’t).
covering the windows
There was a small cafe at the back of the hall, so I put my bag and coat on two seats in the front row while I grabbed another cup of coffee and a piece of cake.
Each chair sported two leaflets, one from OBJECT and one from Hackney Resisters, the organisers of the event. I admired the artwork on the front of the Resisters leaflet, then turned it over to read the back.
The leaflet laid out the aims of the Resisters and named the night’s speakers: Allison Bailey, barrister and co-founder of the LGB Alliance, and Stephanie Davies-Arai, founder of Transgender Trend and author of ‘Communicating with Kids‘.
By the time the meeting was ready to start there were close to a hundred people in the room, mostly women, and Jan had to call for quiet several times before we fell silent.
I checked my phone quickly. Lesley was still stuck on the motorway.
The venue fills up as we grab coffee and seats before the first speaker.
Jan Williams (left) and Heidi
Jan Williams praised the centre for allowing us to meet there and introduced herself as the Chair of OBJECT ‘the first mainstream feminist organisation to come out on the trans issue’.
After introducing the ‘three wonderful speakers‘ Jan reminded us that question time was for actual questions, adding that she hoped there would be extra time at the end for discussing what sort of action we could be involved in.
“I’m sure there will be loads of questions and comments: please be brief.” She emphasised the importance of action as well as talk. “It’s very easy to sit here and say ‘this is awful’ but will be much more effective if we co-ordinate and act together for change.”
To much whooping and applause she handed the microphone to Allison Bailey.
Allison Bailey, barrister
Bailey is a barrister with almost twenty years experience. She came out as a lesbian at the age of 17 and ‘never imagined I would have to defend the right of women to speak about our rights‘.
The idea that a man should be able to self-identify as a woman is ‘absolute madness‘ and Bailey described Stonewall’s ‘acceptance without exception’ policy as ‘a big sign welcoming every predatory, unhinged man who hates women to come forward with impunity… an obscene violation of our hard-won rights’.
Women & girls need single sex spaces because of the danger that men present to them. De facto self ID is not just happening in prisons and hospitals: Allison also referred to the Canadian Rape Crisis Centre that lost its funding because it refused to accept ‘male-bodied people’.
The current state of the law in this country is being completely ignored and Bailey has lost count of the times she has seen organisations claiming gender identity is a protected characteristic under current legislation. The result of this is that not just these organisations, but now government departments, are acting as if self-ID is the law. It is not.
“None of our politicians seem to have the courage to speak up and say this is unacceptable.”
The current Labour manifesto has committed to two wholly incompatible aims. To keep single-sex provision but also support the self-declaration of sex. Bailey says she is left with no idea who to vote for: ‘this feels like a complete stitch up between the parties… there is no real choice being offered’.
Bailey asserts that the many ambitious barristers who made their names on human rights issues, yet have been silent on this issue, will eventually be called to task for their cowardice.
Male-bodied rapists are not receiving the ‘on your bike’ response one would expect when requesting to be placed in women’s prisons. Allison pointed out that a judge does not blindly accept the word of a violent man protesting his innocence, yet men in prison are demanding to be referred to as women- even placed in women’s prisons- on the basic of nothing more than their own say so. There are no provisions to ensure that sex offenders cannot identify as women and anyone pointing out the danger of this is called transphobic.
Bailey said that her concern was not around transwomen, stating firmly, “I absolutely support the fact that they must live free from discrimination with protection under the law. That isn’t the issue”.
Her concern is about the ‘wickedly devious’ predatory men who would abuse the system.
Allison emphasised the importance of how we are recording crime. A murmur of agreement ran round the room when she noted that if the recording of male crimes as female carries on, if the police allow self-ID at the point of arrest, we will lose the ability to measure the crime profile of men who transitioned.
“”We’ve now got a massive increase in women committing rape… In England and Wales, rape can only be committed by a penis-haver, yet here we have, reported in the press; reported by police forces in court; female rapists. It is the height of offence. We have the Crown Prosecution Service putting out guidance to say – this is the stuff of nightmares quite frankly – that a male rapist can rape on Monday and by Wednesday when he’s in the Crown Court identify as a woman and the guidance is that everyone must now refer to this person with feminine pronouns.”
Here she asserted that this is currently only guidance, and there can be no compelled speech of that kind at present, quoting Selina Todd: “politics driven by fear are completely at odds with democracy”.
In the course of setting up the LGB Alliance, Allison and others received abuse from some: “the usual stuff that comes along after they say TERF”. She noted that many of those who had seen this happen still insisted that she must ‘keep in a political alliance’ with those who give out that abuse – and that to try to break free from it is to risk losing her job.
She said she received support from people all over the world and that she felt the tide was turning, citing the current cases of Maya Forstater and Harry Miller.
She concluded that movements can enact change very quickly, citing the importance of putting pressure on our MPs and politicians, and urged those present at the meeting to come out as gender critical.
“You’re going to have to take a licking, but you know what? There’s an army of women that have your back.”
A woman from Haringey Resisters and the Labour Party asked how we can challenge self-identification generally, that people are self-identifying their race, if they’re disabled or autistic, and asked how this could be challenged.
Bailey responded that while her current focus was concerning self-identification of sex, “we have to have laws based on some sort of verifiable reality, otherwise we are lost,” adding, “if anything the GRA needs to be strengthened and not relaxed… because of the cantankerous and mischievous individuals who will abuse it.”
A woman with a legal background asked what steps could be overcome concerning mixed sex toilets in private institutions such as the workplace and Bailey responded that ‘we need to keep going to law’ and challenging policies, suggesting that one ‘well crafted letter’ can often cause an HR department to back down.
A woman expressed her concern that teachers were being encouraged to ‘look out for’ transgender children rather than dealing with the bullying that gender non-conforming children can face. There was speculation as to how the legal position concerning women’s rights, free speech and protected beliefs might move forwards.
I looked round the room and noticed that Lesley had arrived and slipped in at the back. Question time finished, to much applause, and Williams announced the next speaker.
Stephanie Davies-Arai, author
The Transgender Trend schools packs and three books to which Davies-Arai has contributed chapters.
“Most of you obviously know her already,” Jan responded to the applause, “but for those that don’t, Stephanie is the founder of Transgender Trend.”
Walker told us the exciting news that Transgender Trend is about to publish its first book for early years children, called ‘My Body is Me’.
Stephanie was going to talk about the particular harms to girls caused by self-ID, and her talk would be accompanied by slides.
Stephanie began by moving to the front of the speakers’ table so that she could use her slides, telling us that she was going to talk about gender identity teaching in schools, and how self-ID is being imposed on children with no question. Children, she said, are not developmentally capable of questioning an ideology that is being taught to them as fact. The graphs and graphics used in this report are taken from Davies-Arai’s slideshow.
Gender identity teaching harms girls in particular. Girls who are gender dysphoric and identify as boys comprise 75% of Tavistock referrals, showing that girls are more affected than boys. The erosion of single sex spaces, such as toilets, in schools also harms girls more than boys.
In 1966, 90% of adult transsexuals were male. Now in 2019 – 75% of referrals to the Tavistock GIDS are female , and we have no explanation for that.
Traditionally childhood onset gender dysphoria is a very rare condition that only affects boys. Around 2009 the figure began to rise and a few years later girls overtook boys. This is not the pattern of gender dysphoria we know because it is starting in early adolescence. In girls it was completely unheard of, and Davies-Arai is unimpressed by the explanation that ‘trans people are more visible’ and ‘now children know where to go’ which explains neither the increase in numbers nor the disparity in the sex ratio. The increase in figures for boys need investigation but are ‘completely overshadowed‘ by the increase in girls.
Looking at this pie chart we can see that children aged 13-16 comprise the biggest increase, and the thin, pale blue slice that is 17 year olds is so small because most 17 year olds are being seen by adult services.
“For me, one of the biggest issues is that the age group 17-25, which is when the brain finishes its development, is an age group that completely falls through the cracks because 17 year olds know they can go to an adult clinic and the clinic will do afirmation and informed consent.”
This self-diagnosis is unknown elsewhere within the NHS, Arai-Davies says.
Davies-Arai referred us to Lisa Littman’s study on parental reports of adolescent children coming out with ROGD and the startling statistics surrounding them. 82.8% children were female, with a mean age of 16.4 years. A huge 41% had expressed a non-heterosexual orientation before identifying as transgender and 62.5% were diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder or neurodevelopmental disability before experiencing ROGD.
Stephanie added that Tavistock figures show ROGD children are more likely to have significant psychopathology and broader identity confusion than identity issues alone. A study in Finland suggests autism spectrum problems are common. Another study showed 10% had experienced sexual abuse. These are ‘our most vulnerable cohort of children’.
In schools, it is now much cooler to be trans than to be a ‘boring old lesbian’ and trans-identified girls have often been previously bullied for being lesbian.
She paused for a moment and sighed. “This is really distressing, I know that.”
The spread of social media is a huge contributing factor and there are hundreds of videos on YouTube documenting the transition, testosterone and ‘top surgery’. Adults, she added, can underestimate the extent to which young people live in a virtual world and the boundaries between the ‘real’ world and the online world can become blurred.
“It has become a glamourised pathway and the myth is sold that it is transforming- you can become a different person.’
While traditionally around 80% of trans-identified children desist with ‘watchful waiting’, under the new pathway of ‘affirmation’ and social transition, 45% progress to medical transition.
It makes sense that if a child is affirmed, they will persist, and persistence leads to a medical pathway. It is claimed by some that social transition and affirmation are benign and not a medical treatment. Davies-Arai asserts that far from being a benign approach, these are actually extreme psychological treatments which frequently lead to future medical treatment. Even girls who do not go on to have an elective double mastectomy will be binding their breasts, and she asserts that the phrase ‘chest binding’ avoids the reality of what is happening.
Some of the potential side effects of breast binding.
The 2010-11 experiment at the Tavistock has raised many ethical concerns: blockers were intended for a very small cohort of children who had suffered extremely since early chidhood and persisted into adolescence. During the trial, the age of subjects was lowered, and before the trial was over it was declared a success.
Biggs study suggested that girls’ bone density did not increase on puberty blockers and that there was an increase in suicide ideation. Recent trials on sheep have suggested blockers can cause neurological effects, including affecting short term spatial memory.
“There is a window for neurological development and if it’s missed, you’ve missed it… we have tested puberty blockers at time of natural puberty on children before we have tested them on animals- that’s unprecedented.”
Detransitioners are beginning to speak out. Overwhelmingly young women, detransitioners’ bodies, voices and hair have often undergone irreversible changes.
The medical and teaching professions, and the government, are not asking enough questions about the results of the affirmation approach: on lesbians, on autistic children; on children who have been subject to sexual abuse, or present with previous and present mental health problems.
Stephanie referred to the extreme sex stereotypes in childhood marketing, porn culture, homophobia and misogyny and suggested that these things may make some lesbians feel it is safer to be read as men. Social media plays its part, and allows contagion to spread so much faster than it could historically.
“There has been a real targeting of children’s education… of children in schools, but also targeting of gender identity services… who have pressure put on them by groups like Mermaids and GIRES and Gendered Intelligence, for affirmation and for earlier and earlier medical transition. In adult society we are saying ‘yes you can identify as a woman, yes you’ve got a penis’, you don’t have to change your clothes even… yet the same activists are campaigning for earlier and earlier medicalisation of children. That’s a real anomaly to me.”
Stephanie urged parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, to order a free schools pack for their child’s school from Transgender Trend.
Much schools guidance is based on biological sex and current statutory guidance reflects that. Where schools fail to comply with this, parents can object.
Replacing ‘sex’ with ‘gender identity’ in school policies “results in confidentiality/secrecy issues, parental alienation and erosion of sexual boundaries”. The idea that you cannot ‘out’ a trans child means children are being expected to keep that a secret, and “secrets about sex put children at risk”.
Davies-Arai said she often heard of children being transitioned behind their parents backs and then the parents finding out about it. While schools have their own safeguarding policies, promising confidentiality to a child breaks the first rule of safeguarding. She adds that implementation of policies that take away single sex spaces for girls are in violation of girls’ boundaries, and parents should make objections known to schools.
The law states, “separate toilet and washing facilities must be provided for boys and girls aged 8 years and over pursuant to Regulation 4 of the School Premises (England) Regulations 2012, which falls within the exemption provided for in Schedule 22 of the Equality Act 2010”.
“Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges: For the purpose of this advice, when referring to sexual harassment we mean ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’ that can occur online and offline. When we reference sexual harassment, we do so in the context of child on child sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is likely to: violate a child’s dignity, and/or make them feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated and/or create a hostile, offensive or sexualised environment.”
Davies-Arai points out that by this definition a girl being forced to share intimate spaces with boys would constitute a form of sexual harassment. To object to sharing spaces with a boy who claims to be a girl sets a girl up as either a prude or a bigot at a time of life when peer approval is so very important, and to put a girl in that position “is emotional manipulation and coercive control.”
She recommended using existing statutory guidance to point out safeguarding issues to your child’s school, concluding, “This is safeguarding… and a school will fail OFSTED if it fails safeguarding. Parents, you have power.”
You can download or order a schools resource pack from Transgender Trend here.
Stephanie stepped down to great applause; Williams announced that we now were halfway through the meeting and we were going to take a short break. I scooted across the room to meet Lesley.
The break wasn’t really long enough to do much: the more committed fag-smokers popped outside for a puff and Lesley and I had a quick catch up and greeted a few familiar faces.
“Have you started organising your event yet?” somebody asked me.
Oh Twitter, how you consume my time…
Nor have I found a publisher, set up a YouTube channel or stitched the twenty foot long banner I’ve been talking about for months.
A bit less time on the Internet would go a long way. Let’s be honest, a bit less time on Twitter would go a long way.
The gender movement
The break was quickly over, we took our seats and the meeting resumed.
A woman told us how her daughter had burst into tears and told her, “you don’t understand, we’ve been taught to accept this.”
Sonia does some filming.
Stephanie observed that while the gender movement seems to have become a youth movement, it will pass and become dated. Once young people realise they’ve been conditioned to believe in it by the establishment, they’ll realise it’s not a real rebellion. She told how a friend of hers had been called a bigot by her nephews. A woman said there were not many young people at the meetings now. Someone agreed that it was fracturing relationships between parents and children and asked if schools had an obligation to teach children about grooming. Stephanie said they didn’t, but agreed that part of relationships and sex education should be about recognising manipulative tactics, and the strategies used to teach gender ideology were a prime example of these.
“This movement will go full circle,” predicted Stephanie, “and young people will start rebelling against it.”
Another woman wondered why so many TV shows were sexualising young people: and a discussion ensued about the promotion of transition and prostitution, and normalising of pornography in the music industry and media as a whole.
“Why are there more girls than boys?” asked someone else.
“Because girls are oppressed,” replied Stephanie. “Now that you’re a girl or boy based on your internal feelings, of course more girls are identifying as boys.”
When girls see themselves being treated as lesser than boys and want to be treated as fully rounded human beings, why would it not seem to make sense to think you were a boy?
“When I was a child I felt that I was a boy,” she told us. “Now I recognise that I just felt like a human being.”
A woman said it was an overwhelming “international, global, male sexual rights movement intent on exploiting children, girls and women” and that we all needed to start organising together against it.
Stephanie said she felt that radical action is happening now, in many different ways, with meetings, conversations, in courts, in women’s groups; in the Transgender Schools packs which go into schools around the country. Public awareness is on the up and a lot of progress has been made this year. Lisa Littman is doing another study but more research needs to be done.
At the NHS meeting on Gender Identity Services, Stephanie was told, ‘we don’t like the word detransitioners, we see it as just another step on the gender journey‘. This is serious, she warned, “the next bit of conditioning… and of course it lets the NHS off the hook.”
Question time drew to a close and Jan introduced the final speaker “Heidi the radfem pirate.”
Heidi (the RadFem Pirate)
Heidi described herself as a mother and grandmother who used to work as a senior domestic worker specialising in children escaping domestic violence.
She said she was speaking out for all the women and girls who had been forced out of spaces by men pretending to be women. “They’re not women in any way, they’re simply men.”
Most sexual assaults are carried out by men against women, and unisex spaces give men more chances to take advantage of vulnerability. It is gaslighting to expect women to use female pronuns when addressing a man.
Businesses and organisations, from high street clothing companies to the Girl Guides are allowing men into women’s spaces, while pretending they still offer single sex provisions.
She reminded us that women had fought for the right:
“to compete in sports, to vote, to go into bars, to have public toilets, to go to university, to play sports, to wear trousers, to exhibit our arts and crafts, to write books, to join the armed forces, the police, the fire service,” concluding, “our sex is the reason we need safeguards in place.”
This was met with applause.
When single sex facilities are abused, women are put at risk; whether for faith-based reasons or otherwise, women need single sex provisions to protect their safety, especially in places like hospital wards, toilets and refuges where women are most vulnerable. Politicians are supporting this.
“Women’s rights are not only being eliminated but the right to be a woman is also being extended to men. This Orwellian madness needs to stop. This is about the safety of women and girls not the feelings of men.”
“If you wouldn’t lie to your child and tell them they can become Yoda, why would you lie to a child and tell them they can change sex?”
Why, she asks, are men being allowed to claim they are expanding the bandwidth of what it means to be a woman rather than expanding the bandwidth of what it means to be male?
Her ten year old son, she said, was desperate to be Yoda for several years, and would have believed her if she had told him he could do so when he grew up. He would gladly have taken any pill if it had turned him into Yoda. To tell children they can change sex is a lie. How can an adult push a child down this path? Remove the stereotypes and what is there left to transition?
Women must refuse to accept the language men are forcing on us because if we cannot define woman, we cannot protect our sex-based rights.
Inspired by women like Posie Parker, Hannah Clarke, Venice Allan, Julia Long, Meghan Murphy and particularly Magdalen Berns, Heidi says she wears her ‘adult human female’ T shirt for a long list of reasons, concluding, “….I wear it for all the children being sold a horrifying lie, I wear it for women’s rights.. I wear it because I refuse to lie, I refuse to be silent, I refuse to be gaslit, and I wear it because it bloody well needs to be worn!”
She praised Posie Parker “a woman who wasn’t content to sit on her arse and look the other way, a woman who wouldn’t be silent, a woman who, along with many others has been banned permanantly from Twitter and Facebook simply for speaking the truth.”
She said she would finish with her favourite Magdalen Berns quote “Oh fuck off, you wanker!”
Message from Anne Ruzlyo
Georgia read out a message from Anne.
“Hello everyone. I’m so disappointed I can’t be with you tonight. I hope you all have a fabulous evening.
I was a prison officer at Holloway and Downview and have seen the bonds that women prisoners form with each other. Some build life-long friendships. They help each other through the hardest of times. They have shared experiences of secual abuse, drug addiction, prostitution etc. They are victims of circumstances that have been created by men. Therefore it is not acceptable to allow men – abusive, violent, narcissistic, fetishist, sex offending men into women’s prisons. Ever…
Women in prison deserve to be safe and secure, something the majority of them have never had or felt on the outside. These men are manipulating the system and I am disgusted by the prison service for allowing the safety of these women to be compromised… there now appears to be no duty of care to these women… finally, I support the prisoner who has taken a legal case against Downview Prison and I would urge you to donate to her crowdfunder if you can.”
“I’ll take that round of applause for being for all our wonderful speakers.” concluded Jan. Please also show your appreciation for the wonderful local resisters. Head out of here, turn right to the pub, so our volunteers can clear up quickly. We’re very grateful to the venue for housing us.”
When the applause died down, we headed for the door.
“That was quite a trek for you,” I said to Lesley. “Bet you’re looking forward to chilling in the pub for a bit.”
“Argh, no,” she replied. “I’ve got a job to finish for the morning. I have to drive home again.”
And she disappeared out into the chilly London darkness, to face that drive all the way back up the motorway. That’s what I call commitment. Or madness. I’m not quite sure which.
Me? I walked to the pub with Stephanie, where the lovely Jan bought me a pint of delicious lime soda. Thanks Jan. That was a great meeting. I lost you in the hurlyburly of the bar, but next time the drinks are on me.
On October 27th 2019, I attended the one-day conference ‘Inventing the Transgender Child – A new Sex Education?‘ in central London.
Tickets went on sale through Eventbrite and that link to the event, with the original details of speakers and timetable, is still available here. Unfortunately, Michele Moore was unable to attend due to illness.
All photos by Lily Maynard.
Inventing the Transgender Child – a new sex education?
Arriving in central London for 8.45am on a Sunday morning is not something I achieve- or aim to achieve- on a regular basis. My ideal Sunday morning awakening time would have been about two hours into the conference, but this one was worth getting up for. Armed with a flask of espresso, an apple and two packets of sweet chilli crisps, I headed for the underground.
The day had begun early for me, but Lesley had cheerfully undertaken a three hour drive to get to town. I’d hoped to go for coffee at Speedy’s Café, as frequented by Holmes & Sherlock in the TV series, but alas, it’s closed on a Sunday so it was a quick trip to the more omnipresent Starbucks while Lesley parked her car.
The conference was organised by the Women’s Human Rights Campaign (WHRC) who have produced a website, and a booklet containing a summary of their Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights. There is a direct link to the Declaration below.
Although we arrived early, plenty of others were there before us, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed despite the early hour. We registered at the front desk, hung up our coats and took a copy of the programme and a summary of the Declaration on Women’s Sex Based Rights. The hall was already filling up, coats and bags reserving chairs; attendees milling around and drinking the surprisingly palatable coffee provided. For those so inclined there was also chilled still or sparkling water, and a rainbow of tea bag options.
The organisers had sensibly allowed an hour of networking time at the start of the conference. Lesley and I munched the crisps, I topped the coffee up with my flask of espresso and we perused our documents, pausing to say hi to familiar faces.
Soon it was time to take our seats: the conference started promptly at 10am, with assurances that there was a tight schedule which needed to be adhered to.
The audience as the talks begin
Maureen O’Hara of WHRC introduced herself and reminded us that a summary of the Declaration of Sex Based Rights was available on the registration table and that the full Declaration could be seen and signed on the WHRC website.
She thanked Julie Burchill for helping to fund the conference, which was met with applause, and informed us that speaker Michele Moore was ill and unable to attend, which was met with much disappointment.
O’Hara reminded us that women’s rights in human rights law everywhere are based on our experience as a sex, not based on gender identity. She read aloud a section from Article 9 of the Declaration, which reaffirms the need to protect the rights of the child:
“States should recognize that medical interventions aimed at the ‘gender reassignment’ of children by the use as puberty supressing drugs, cross-sex hormones and surgery do not serve the best interests of children. Children are not developmentally competent to give full, free and informed consent to such medical interventions, which carry a high risk of long-term adverse consequences to the physical and psychological health of the child, and which may result in permanent adverse consequences, such as sterility. States should prohibit the use of such medical interventions upon children.”
So far the Declaration had been signed by over six thousand people from 97 countries and is supported by 106 organisations, despite only having been launched in March.
“I’d like to introduce Heather Brunskell-Evans,” concluded O’Hara, ” an academic, philosopher and social theorist with particular interest in the politics of medicine, the sexed body and the cultural construction of gender.”
‘Gender Identity Development Services and the invention of ’The Transgender Child’
‘Gender identity medicine and transgender lobby groups inform each other in the construction of the ‘truth’ of children’s ‘transgender identity’. This politicised ‘truth’ bears no relationship to biological fact or progressive values yet forms a central pillar of the new Sex and Relationship Education.’
“The school is now being asked to conspire in the invention of the transgender child, with appalling consequences for children.”
Heather rose, saying she wanted to explain the importance of the shift from sex to gender identity in Sex and Relationship Education. New guidance for both primary and secondary schools comes into place in September 2020. Primary schools will be encouraged to teach LGBT issues and as a part of this and it will be compulsory for secondary schools. The assertion that gender is more ‘valid’ than sex means this teaching focuses not on acceptance of same sex relationships, but rather on the idea of the essence of gender identity.
The Department of Education (DOE) Guide states that it isn’t considered necessary for a child to be taking medicine to ‘change gender’ because its considered to be ‘a personal process not a medical one‘ as long as the child is taking steps to ‘live as the opposite gender or be proposing to do so’.
Brunskell-Evans spoke of the idea of ‘assigned birth sex‘ which suggests that gender identity is something that we are born with. DOE guidelines suggest that it is the child who decides whether they are a boy or a girl. This means, for example, that a boy who declares himself a girl should be allowed to attend a single sex class for girls.
2019 DOE guidance on the new curricula claims the new subjects “represent a huge opportunity to help our children and young people develop … personal attributes including kindness, integrity, generosity, and honesty”.
“These are laudable values.” observes Brunskell-Evans. “However, I argue that the assertion that the new curricula move children forward to a more equal, healthy, and tolerant society is a chimera.
“… the new language of sex and gender which has been developed by lobby groups and which is evolving while we speak… this language justifies that a trans woman is real. Not that he is a male human being who has the right – in my view- to ‘identify’ as female, but that he really IS a woman and has been since birth, ie he was born female… he is a woman, a fact for which he is not responsible and which is transphobic to even question…
… this positively requires the invention of the existential transgender child.”
“The invention of the transgender child results in the abuse of children who, as a result of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, have their rights to physical health and bodily integrity breached. They face the near certainty of lifelong medical problems, including the reduction of adult sexual pleasure, often replaced by pain, and of course, the really serious issue of sterility… Gender confused children are deprived of their right to adult care.”
How does this state of affairs play out in the new language of gender medicine?
Dr James Barratt, Lead Clinician at the NHS Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) for adults argues that binary sex in the human mammal is ‘less than common sense’.
“The empirical examples he gives to justify his claim are shameful,” declares Brunskell-Evans, “coming out of the mouth of someone who describes himself as a ‘practitioner scientist’.”
Barratt’s examples are the reproductive variations in plants, molluscs, some insects and amphibians, reptiles and fish.
Heather asserts that idea that sex is socially constructed but gender identity is inherent contributes to the abuse of the rights of all young people: the right to factual knowledge of human biology, to social conditions compatible with mental health, including freedom from the current confusion arising from the adult obsession with ‘gender identity’. The invention of the ‘transgender child’ does not free children from gender stereotypes but binds them ever closer to traditional ideas of what it is to be a girl or a boy.
Teachers and policy makers are not simply being expected to nurture and protect all children and to teach tolerance, they are being induced to join medics and trans lobby groups in the co-creation of the ‘transgender child’.
In her book, co-edited with Michele Moore, Brunskell-Evans explores the role of the Tavistock and NHS GIDS close links with lobby groups and their role in inventing the transgender child. The Tavistock promotes not only the idea that a boy can be born with a ‘pink’ brain but that some children, those who are ‘pan’ can have a multiple essential genders. Brunskell-Evans asserts that the adult obsession with transgender identity is not helping the health of children and young adults and damages all children, gender confused or otherwise.
You can purchase a copy of ‘Inventing Transgender Children and Young People‘ here or here. Brunskell-Evans and Moore’s first book, ‘Transgender Children and Young People’ can be purchased here.
Your local library may hold either or both books and if not you can request that they purchase a copy.
You can read the full text of Heather’s notes for the talk here.
Some time was put aside for questions and discussion. It was raised that the Tavistock had wished to pre-approve the book before publication and had made legal threats which had held up the publication of the book. Party politics reared its head. The Memorandum of Understanding was called “a gagging clause” which stood “against curiosity and examination“. A woman suggested that the works of Piaget and Winnicot were worth revisiting and the ideas of developmental competence needed more exploration. Heather offered that in many areas society doesn’t see children as competent, but in the gender arena exploration is not allowed, exploring other routes and ideas is seen as transphobia and forbidden, if not by the law then by how we conceptualise the idea.
Sue Evans spoke of the test court case being brought against GIDS that hopes to establish that children cannot give their informed consent to radical experimental medical treatment that includes loss of sexual function and sterility.
‘Can doctors really believe this stuff?‘ asked one audience member.
Brunskell-Evans said that doctors have expressed concerns, but that ‘they are as afraid as anybody else‘ to speak out. She said she felt optimistic that as more and more people speak up about concerns it will become easier for others, ‘like dominoes falling down’.
‘Gender Ideology and Erosion of Child Safeguarding Principles’
Schools and other children’s services increasingly prioritise ‘gender identity’ over biological sex, and sex-based rights. Maureen will explore the ways in which the influence of gender ideology is leading professionals working with children to abandon child safeguarding principles, both in relation to children labelled ‘transgender’, and to other children.
Heather introduced Maureen as a feminist, activist, a legal academic who has worked in child safeguarding and as a solicitor. O’Hara’s research focuses on the sex trade.
“More recently she has been researching the ways in which law and policy relating to gender identity are affecting the sex-based rights of women and girls, which led to her drafting, with myself and Sheila Jeffreys, the Declaration of Women’s Sex-Based Rights.”
Maureen began by telling us she was going to talk about gender ideology and the erosion of child safeguarding principles. Gender ideology she said, was becoming a dangerous orthodoxy, hard to challenge and equally hard to escape. In International Human Rights Law there has always been a clear distinction between gender and sex: sex is based on Biology.
Gender, according to IHRL and the WHO, is ‘the roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society, at a given time, considers appropriate for men and women.‘ Thus gender is defined as socially constructed and not innate. Sex is not assigned and cannot be changed.
A group of doctors criticised treatment of trans-identified children in a letter to the Lancet last year, saying ‘sex has a biological basis whereas gender is fundamentally a social expression‘.
“Gender ideology,” said O’Hara, showing us slides based on the ideas of the Yogyakarta Principles,“turns that on its head”.
These principles have nothing to do with sexual orientation, but this connection is often made in lobbying strategies. They also have no status within law, but are often said to demonstrate best practice despite undermining female sex-based rights.
The plus 10 principle makes it clear that the ultimate aim is the eradication of all social and legal markers which denote sex. The Women and Equalities Committee carried out an enquiry into law and policy making around gender identity. They were told that the Yogyakarta principles were best international practise, and recommended self-declaration.
“Which makes me think,” O’Hara added wryly, “that they hadn’t read them, but recommended them anyway.”
The Ministry of Justice statistics (2018), as explored on BBC Reality Check, concerning this are quite astonishing: of 125 long term prisoners who claimed to be transwomen, 60 were sex-offenders and of those 60, 29 had convictions for sex offences against children.
The World Health Organisation describes violence against women as ‘global health problem of epic proportions’ and the statistics above are likely to be underestimates due to the under reporting of such offences. 2013 WHO research suggests that 33% of women globally have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a man, and that 20% of girls and 8% of boys have been sexually abused.
Sex of perpetrators
Of 8,806 defendants in sexual offences against children cases, 98% were male.
Police recorded child sexual exploitation profiles published in 2017-18: of 6,107 offenders, 93% were male.
There also appear to be increasing incidents of sexual violence perpetrated by boys against girls, including a shocking 600 rapes over a three year period. Girls are often expected to continue their education in classrooms with the boys who have raped or assaulted them.
This research makes it clear that sexual assault against girls in schools is not ‘just banter’.
Yet schools are now being encouraged to allow boys to self-identify as girls, giving them access to girls toilets, changing rooms and sleeping facilities on school trips. Self-declaration is not enshrined in law, but has now been introduced by stealth in many organisations: schools, hospitals, refuges, rape crisis centres, even the Girl Guides are all affected. This is achieved through a process of Policy Capture and has a detrimental affect on child safeguarding. This is seen in action when lobby groups such as Mermaids & Stonewall give inaccurate information about the Equality Act.
“In the last five years, universities in the UK have spent £1,000,000 on consultation from Stonewall.”
O’Hara spoke of the 2016 case where a young boy was having a female ‘gender identity’ imposed upon him. He had become isolated and was no longer allowed to mix with children his own age. Social workers had failed to take action. The judge suggested that the social workers “did not wish to appear to be challenging an emerging orthodoxy in such a high profile issue.”
People are scared of being labelled as transphobes. People have lost their jobs for saying men can’t be women and that fear is interfering with professional practice.
O’Hara compared the leaked draft Equality & Human Right Commission document in relation to Scotland and the Allsorts Trans Inclusion Toolkit. Both agree that a child who has been labelled trans should have full access to the facilities that correspond to their gender identity. These policies contravene the Equality Act.
In conclusion, O’Hara referred to the ever-growing-in-popularity of Drag Queen Story Time (DQST).
The LGBT Consortium in the UK says, “the aim is to capture the imagination and fun of the gender fluidity of childhood while giving children a glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role.” By queer, they don’t mean lesbian or gay, but are referring to Queer Theory. O’Hara asserts that this is in direct contrast to the claim that there is no intention to encourage children down the path of adopting new gender identities.
A discussion ensued about DQST; one woman said she was astonished that teachers took pre-school children along without parental permission. Drag is a highly sexualised caricature of a female sexual stereotype, replied O’Hara. The history of pantomime drag was raised and it was suggested that this is one reason UK parents are inclined to accept DQST. It was raised that many of the men involved in DQST work or have worked in the sex industry. Someone pointed out that at least two drag queens in the USA had turned out to be sex offenders. A teacher said that many schools in her area had adopted versions of the Allsorts Toolkit, and many had not made impact assessments before doing so.
A short break took place before the next talk.
Sadly, I had run out of crisps.
Tracy Shaw: Safe Schools Alliance
Equality and Diversity Policy red Flags in Schools (and what to do about them).
SSAUK is a national group of parents, teachers, governors and professionals dedicated to putting safeguarding at the heart of its activism. SSAUK will talk about how it is focused on working with schools and educators to ensure school policies meet the safeguarding needs of all students while taking into account the protected characteristics of the Equality Act.
Tracy introduced herself as having been ‘radicalised on mumsnet’ and said that being a mother to two girls was the reason she became involved, challenging both her child’s school and the British Gymnastics trans policies. SSA is currently challenging Oxfordshire County Council’s policy. The group started with about 100 women in Oxford but grew to be a national organisation. SSA was involved with challenging the NSPCC over the Munroe Bergdorf scandal, and was (of course) immediately accused of being right wing. It is currently involved with challenging the NHRC guidelines, which schools are currently awaiting. SSA is also involved with campaigns concerning the acceptance of pornography and hope to be able to provide resources for people to challenge their schools when policies do not centre safeguarding.
“Everything we put out is credible, evidence based and puts the child at the heart of it… safeguarding first is our motto.”
Shaw emphasised the importance of asking schools if they have done an equality impact assessment on any policies which they have adopted – it’s the school’s responsibility to do an assessment, although many think the council has to do it. A policy must not impact anyone within the protected characteristics and policies must be compatible with each other: for example a confidentiality policy should be compatible with the safeguarding policy. Most schools will not have done an impact assessment.
Schools, she believes, are usually happy to discuss these issues with parents, although they tend to believe translobby guidance- for example Stonewall’s statistics on suicide- until they are explained to them.
SSA is concerned that teachers are encouraged to look out for gender non-conforming behaviour, and even ‘flag’ the behaviour of five year olds which is ‘deeply, deeply sexist‘.
Shaw recently read a guidance policy which suggested that schools should recommend that girls might want to bind their breasts to alleviate dysphoria. How, she asked, can that pass safeguarding policies?
Find out what your school’s policies are. Talk to other parents. Writing letters is important, Tracy concluded, keep letters short and to the point and ask questions to which they have to give answers. If you don’t get those answers, pursue a formal complaint. Persevere.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Someone asked if letters were better than emails and Shaw suggested writing letters and following them up with emails. One woman pointed out that the high percentage of autistic girls wanting to transition should be of great concern. Her autistic daughter, who was having problems with puberty, came home and asked, “Can’t I just take those blockers? Everyone knows about them.” It was observed by a parent, doctor and school governor that a diagnosis of gender dysphoria was being made by teachers, who then made decisions about how the child should be treated before the child had even visited a doctor. The fact that high numbers of trans-identified girls had suffered sexual abuse was also raised. One woman said that, after she spoke to them, her child’s school had agreed to do work on the difference between sexuality and identity before introducing trans issues. Another said that her child’s school refused to share the reading list for RSE classes. It was recommended that before a meeting with your child’s school you put your issues in an email in advance so thy know the questions you wish to have answered. Someone expressed how disappointed she was in Stonewall when there was still so much homophobia among parents.
‘The Transgender Child: The Creation of an Emblem for a Political Movement’
The organisations who are influencing clinical practice and dictating guidance for schools are not neutral child support groups. Rather, they are political lobby groups who campaign to change society to fit an ideological agenda to replace sex with ‘gender identity’ as the distinction between men and women.
“Stephanie is a communication schools expert, teacher trainer, parent, coach and author of the highly regarded book, Communicating with Kids.” Maureen told us in her introduction. “She is an experienced speaker on parenting, feminism and transgender children and has made regular contributions to the House of Commons. She founded the organisation Transgender Trend in 2015 and has produced comprehensive guidance for supporting gender-variant and trans identified children in schools, for which she was shortlisted for the Ford Maddox prize.”
Stephanie set up Transgender Trend after realising that there was no voice of challenge in the media. Transgender Trend took off very quickly. Concerned that parents who looked online were only accessing guidance and propaganda form organisations like Mermaids and Stonewall, who would tell them ‘your daughter is now your son’. She felt that parents needed access to information based on facts and research.
“This is why I call it a trend.”
“I’ve been critcised for calling the organisation Transgender Trend,” apprised Davies-Arai, “but this is party why I call it a trend. Trend is a neutral word and it shows what we see happening globally with referrals to gender identity clinics.”
It was also the search term that parents told her they were putting into Google when looking for information on transgender kids. She developed the guide for schools because other organisations were producing theirs and she wanted something that parents could take into schools as an alternative and say, ‘have a look at this, this is different and I think this is better.”
Transgender Trend have also produced a document on safeguarding concerns within the toolkits produced by trans organisations across the country and promoted by the DOE.
Davies-Arai can’t speak about the national schools guidance of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission National Schools Guidance, because she is a stakeholder. She can, however, discuss the leaked Scottish guidance.
The Transgender Trend schools pack was published in February 2018 and Stephanie said she wanted to thank Stonewall for promoting the Schools Pack to all the local authorities – by telling them not to use it.
Davies-Arai notes that we have changed the language we use when speaking about children with gender dysphoria. The term ‘transgender’, she observes ‘establishes conformity as the rule’ and teaches children that “if you transgress the gender rules for your sex you must go over to the other side and identify yourself as the opposite sex.” A child whose transgression is not that extreme is expected to identify as non-binary. This regressive, misogynistic philosophy is being promoted by schools and local authorities at the behest of political organisations who provide training for the police, home office and numerous other organisations. These groups promote affirmation and transition as the only pathway for children with gender dysphoria, and want to see the definition of man and woman changed in law.
In a tongue-in-cheek heads-up to those who said she was unqualified to speak on the subject of trans kids, “as if trans kids were some magical beings that are different to every other child“, Davies-Arai completed the GIRES e-learning ‘Gender-Variant Children and Trans-Adolescents‘ course, noting that she now had the same qualification to talk about trans-kids as GP Doctor Helen Webberley. This announcement was met with laughter and much applause as Stephanie added, “Of course, in order to pass this course, I had to answer every question wrong.”
GIRES claims that male and female describe sex, but man and woman describe ‘psycho-social and cultural factors’ and hence gender identity, not sex. This is the denial of biological sex.
The Allsorts School toolkit, promoted by Mermaids, GIDS and the NEU gives this advice to sex education teachers: “In labelling the genitals make it clear that most boys, rather than all boys, have a penis and testicles”.
The innate gender identity model
The GIRES theory is that there are ‘pink’ brains and ‘blue’ brains and that these can end up in the wrong body. Being transgender is being your true, authentic self. Schools are not just being asked to-very rightly- include trans pupils and ensure there is no discrimination, they are being instructed to take part in the model of affirmation and transition. Teachers are told that trans pupils must be referred to, and treated as, members of the opposite sex under all circumstances, including situations involving toilets, changing rooms and sports.
Yet, Davies-Arai asserts, schools do not have an obligation to teach gender identity, which is not a protected characteristic. Sex is the distinction between boys and girls and distinction between sex and gender should be adhered to.
This policy of inclusion erases sexual boundaries, teaching teenage girls that if they express discomfort at changing in front of a male classmate, they are either a prude or a bigot. Girls know that they will risk social exclusion if they express this objection. This is coercive control, a serious safeguarding issue and removes the principle of consent, making the breaching of sexual boundaries a school policy.
Groups such as GIRES and Mermaids push for the ever younger transition of children, and ever younger access to puberty blockers, promoting the idea that young people will self-harm without them.
“Medical intervention is very important, especially for teenagers who are already in puberty. It’s absolutely vital.” Susie Green, The Guardian 2015
Recent studies in a Dutch clinic current showed that social transition was the biggest predictor of persistence of gender dysphoria, and that it can make it harder for a child to transition back. The same clinic recognises that whilst blockers are meant to offer thinking time, many adolescents experience them as the essential first medical step in their transition.
“You need to take puberty blockers so that essentially as an adult you will ‘pass’ better as the opposite sex. This is transgender doctrine and these decisions are made on the basis that cosmetic appearance is more important than biological function. So children stand to lose their fertility and their sexual function, but as long as they look good, that’s all that matters.”
Trials had not been done on puberty blockers to find out if they were safe to take at the time of natural puberty and current trials on sheep are indicating they may have irreversible effects on the brain.
“Schools need to know,” concluded Stephanie, “that there is no robust evidence base to support the affirmation and transition of children in schools or the subsequent treatment with puberty blockers.”
Questions and discussion
A representative from the Lesbian Rights Alliance said they’d been contacted by a number of parents of young lesbians who had been sucked into trans ideology. Bullying, misogyny and sexual abuse can all play a part and teachers need to recognise this. A woman from Sweden, from a network of parents, professionals and detrasitioners said Sweden was struggling with the same issues and we needed to reach out and do this together. Helen Joyce suggested we stop ‘playing nice’ and start taking strategic legal actions and that lawyers will be needed to back this up. Marcus Evans said GIDS is the only service that takes no interest in follow ups and plays by different rules than the rest of the Trust.
It was noted that we were running over time. Stephanie reiterated that everything to do with transgender seems to fall outside of the normal rules. She said it was fantastic that the LGB Alliance had sprung up and that could make a difference for young lesbians. She wished she had had more time to look at the scandal of transitioning autistic children, and had more time to talk about the transition of boys.
Matthews began by telling us the true story of two small boys, ‘Arthur’ born in the early 90s and ‘Billy’ born 25 years later. Matthews tells us that whilst she knows both these children, she might as well have invented them as they are such perfect examples of what she wants to talk about today.
Arthur was 4 in 1995. He’s the youngest of three children, with two rather flamboyant older sisters. By the age of 4 it’s striking that Arthur loves dressing up – especially wearing his older sister’s pink tutu and sparkly shoes. No one makes a big deal about this. He is not taken to the doctor or a gender specialist in fact no one has heard about gender specialists for little boys who like tutus in the 1990s. (They exist but mostly they sit in an empty office and see just a handful of children a year). There is some discussion about whether Arthur should go to nursery in a tutu. In the end the mother simply chooses him androgynous clothes in the brightest pinkest most flowery colours she can find. And they go on like this very happily until one day, when Arthur is 11, his mother comes home with a flowery sweatshirt and Arthur says; ‘I don’t want this. I want a navy blue one.’
We know how Arthur has turned out. Aged 18, he is a markedly feminine boy. He is happy exploring his identity and his sexuality. He may well be gay – but that’s his business.
Billy, who was 4 last year is a child of the 21st century. He loves pink shiny backpacks and wears a rainbow skirt and lycra leggings. His mother knows that she has a trans kid and has educated granny and the nursery about the need to affirm his identity as a girl. She has bought him every trans kid book available. And there are lots. She particularly likes ‘Who Are You? The kid’s guide to gender identity’ by Brook Pessin-Whedbee. This is ‘an introduction to gender for ages 3+’, published by Jessica Kingsley (London and Philadelphia). A product of a distinctively US affirmative model of gender, this is the kind of bright attractive book a parent might select. It contains simple affirmations like:
‘The important thing to remember is that you are the one who knows you best.’
The book helps Billy to distinguish between sex ‘assigned at birth’ and gender which is defined as ‘your personal expression – what you like, how you dress and act.’
(Arthur managed this one without a book.)
Billy, aged 4, learns that ‘People say there are only two genders. But there are really many genders.’
He has learned that the word ‘cisgender’ means when ‘someone’s identity matches their sex assigned at birth’. This phrase trips easily off Billy’s tongue at nursery. He has also learned the names of some of the genders he can choose:
‘trans, genderqueer, non-binary, gender-fluid, transgender, gender neutral, a gender, neutrons, bigender, third gender, two-spirit’.
Billy’s granny has been educated in gender. She’s a bit worried that the mother is already discussing possible later medical intervention but she’s talked to a therapist friend who explained that puberty blockers may well help when Billy is older. She knows that blockers provide a ‘breathing space’ and a ‘pause button’ that help a child to decide whether to go ahead with cross sex hormones when the time comes.
Matthews concludes her story and turns to the audience.
“There’s no doubt that there has been a change in how we respond to kids who display cross gender identification and who are gender nonconforming in the last twenty years.”
This has resulted in a culture obsessed with gender, that actively teaches gender ideology, online and in printed form.
The book mentioned above talks of ‘gender assigned at birth’ and contains such inspirational lines such as “babies can’t talk so grown ups make a guess by looking at their bodies.”
Advice includes: ‘Leave around a few books with transgender characters.. if they seem like they want to come out, but are too shy, it’s time to initiate the conversation… Remind them of one of the transgender books, and ask if they have ever felt that way…’
If that doesn’t work, a more direct approach is suggested: ‘I’ve noticed that you like long hair and feminine things. Have you ever felt like you are actually a girl instead of a boy?”
This was met with groans from the audience.
“Every time you think you’ve heard it all,” muttered a woman behind me.
There are lots of these books, Matthews asserts. It is almost as if publishers have decided they need a book about a trans child. These books claim to give the child the language they need to express themselves, but it seems that the child needs to speak specifically with the language that they are given, and are only listened to when they say what the adult wants them to say. This she describes as “the imposition of adult categories on the child’s experience.”
She notes the endless repetition of the word ‘gender’ in these books. The Gender Quest Workbook for teens and young adults begins by asking: “What is gender anyway?” going on to tell young people “Gender can be challenging to wrap your head around because many of us don’t have all the information about what gender really is (or isn’t), or we have information which isn’t completely correct.”
“You remember we were going to listen to the child?” quips Matthews. “I don’t think so, no. This book pays lip service to the idea that the child knows best, whilst at the same time imposing a gender catechism to be learned by rote.”
“Gender is your deep-down feeling that you’re a boy, a girl, neither, both, or something else.” the book tells seven year olds, excitedly. “That’s right! Not just a boy OR a girl – some people know themselves to be BOTH boy and girl or NEITHER boy nor girl or SOMETHING ELSE altogether. There are so many genders, and the expert on your gender is YOU!”
Capitalisation and exclamation marks, points out Susan, reveal the authoritarian tone, deployed paradoxically to insist that the child is the expert.
I thought of my old gran, who always insisted that anyone who wrote in capitals was bonkers.
The book for teens ‘Can I tell you about Gender Diversity: a guide for friends, family and professionals‘ is characterised by the same kind of crude didacticism. In it a 12 year old girl called Kit, had doctors who ‘assigned her female‘ at birth, therefore her parents raised her as a girl.
‘I didn’t like playing with dolls, or wearing dresses, and I hated having long hair‘, Kit tells the reader.
Kit goes on blockers which ‘stop my body developing in ways that make me unhappy’. She applies for a new passport and tells the reader that when she’s 18 HRT will ‘ mean that I’ll start to develop facial hair, and my body will go through boy puberty’.
This of course is a dangerous lie. Kit’s body will not ‘go through boy puberty’.
Matthews notes the ‘mind-numbingly repetitive nature of gender ideology’ and how ‘poor Kit appears to live in a 60s time warp’. She is struck by the fact that while the book is supposed to be the voice of a 12 year old child it is actually the voice of a 28 year old ‘non-binary’ adult.
“These books are as crudely didactic as the worst of 18th and 19th century children’s literature.”
Matthews moves on to discuss the ‘really lovely, very classy, beautiful‘ book ‘Julian is a Mermaid‘ which tells the story of a boy named Julian who loves swimming and mermaids. Travelling on the subway with his Nana he sees three women dressed as mermaids. When he gets home he improvises a mermaid costume with ferns and flowers for a headdress and a curtain for a skirt or tail. His Nana takes him to see the Mermaid procession. This is a story about a boy whose desire to dress up is cherished by his Nana.
Nowhere in the book does Julian say he is trans, or a girl, or that he wants to transition when he grows up.
The ‘Common Sense Media’ review calls it ‘a story about a boy who wants to be a mermaid that will resonate with all kids who have secret dreams’. It also tells parents that the Mermaid Parade is a real event in New York City. The review emphasises culture and community, imagination and fantasy. It reads Julian like Arthur in the stories at the start of Matthew’s talk.
Is Julian like Arthur, questions Susan, “who loves dresses and may turn out to be gay (or not) or is he like Billy, the trans kid who is already destined, age four, for puberty blockers?”
Pink News has a very different take.
“You can see how the cultural obsession with the figure of the trans child makes that journalist unable to read the book, he simply can’t see what’s in front of him.”
The Guardian calls the book a ‘rebuke to bigotry‘ and the Telegraph claims, ‘‘Love’s win falls in a week when an academic (yes, it was Susan!) has claimed that children are being put at risk by transgender books in UK primary schools.’
Whilst Matthews admires the book, she notes that ‘meanings are created by culture, not by individuals.. and in the current climate it is hard for Julian to remain free of the categories that Pink News and the Guardian want to impose on him’.
Where a child might just see the scene in which Julian turns a curtain into a mermaid costume as imaginative play, an ‘informed’ adult may see Julian as trans.
It is this adult agenda that makes the use of these books in schools of concern to Matthews, who adds “the concerns that we express are not a ‘moral panic’. A gender nonconforming girl such as Kit is overwhelmingly likely to grow up to be a lesbian if she avoids medical intervention which will distort her sexuality and hinder her fertility.”
“My story,” concludes Matthews,“is a story about the closing down of culture and the limitation of meaning.”
Someone asked if Susan would write a story about a gender non-conforming child who wasn’t transgender. Susan agreed that one was needed. The CBeebies and Radio 4 dramas affirming trans ideology were mentioned and it was agreed that there was a need for modern stories about children like Pipi Longstocking. Stephanie of Transgender Trend spoke up and said that they were working on an early years book called ‘My Body is Me‘ which should be out in December.
Another ‘comfort break’ was scheduled. I dashed off to grab a coffee from the bar upstairs, passing through a hall filled with excited conversation. When I returned it was time for the final speaker.
Charlie Evans is the founder of the Detransition Advocacy Network, the first charity launched to help and support detransitioners. DAN will be officially launching in Manchester at the end of November and can be followed on Twitter @DetransAdNet.
“I’m not a philosopher or a gender expert, or a psychologist but I speak from first hand experience,” started Charlie. She spoke of the system that, instead of celebrating gender non-conforming women and girls, has pushed them into boxes and diagnosed them with a condition treated with hormones and surgery. Girls whose “personality and clothes and hobbies are seen as a symptom that they were born in the wrong body.” Stonewall, Mermaids and the NHS have sold this lie to girls who have undergone medical treatments, and then when they desisted were told they were ‘never really trans’, just misdiagnosed.
When Charlie began speaking out about her experience she was contacted by hundreds of young women, many whose bodies had been “altered by the scalpel in an attempt to make them fit.” These are human rights violations even if they are presented as progressive and liberal. Detransitioned girls are not weak, asserted Evans, but indoctrinated, often from the moment they started school. ‘If you do not feel like a woman, you are not a woman’ seems to be the most commonly held view in feminism.
“Imagine a girl, taught to perform femininity at every turn but always hating it… being catcalled by men and groped in nightclubs seems the norm… she’s allowed to box but she’s laughed at for punching like a girl.. she wants to be handsome… she wants girls to look at her the way they look at boys. She starts to say and at some level believe, that she’s a boy. In a healthy society this girl would be encouraged to stick her middle finger up at the boys and embrace her body as it is… but today a child like her is recognised as transgender… She continues to say she is a boy and she is continually affirmed. She knows she’s a boy because she doesn’t act like a girl… by now she knows she’s a boy because she meets the diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria.”
Evans believes that transition is a gamble and that there is no real evidence that transition eases dysphoria better than therapy for self-hatred and sexual trauma (where necessary) combined with support from family and friends. A girl forced to conform with feminine gender norms will of course feel unhappy. Would transition make her more happy than the freedom to be herself and embrace her hobbies?
“It’s criminal that there has been such a lack of research into ways to treat gender dysphoria. Surely when faced with changing the bodies of the gender non-conforming to fit society or changing society to fit the gender non-conforming, we should be fighting for the latter.”
Surgery is the true conversion therapy of the 21st century, suggests Evans, asking why there are no studies and no research into other options to medication and surgery, when that treatment and its results are so extreme. Gay conversion, she says, is still thriving today.
The final discussion
One woman said she’d never seen such sustained attacks for speaking out as those against Charlie Evans. Evans said that the attacks on her as a desister were planned to silence more vulnerable detransitioners, adding that she knew a 21 year old girl who had full surgery on the same day.
“When everything is to be treated as a commodity,” mused David Bell (ex governor of the Tavistock Foundation), “the only measure of it is whether you want it or not. Press a button, like, don’t like… the child is being encouraged to treat their body not as a complex thing but as something that they ‘like’- press the button- or ‘don’t like’… what the consumer wants is what must be true… somehow gender has got caught up in this violent movement which hates, more than anything, with paranoid intensity, the idea of thoughtfulness.”
Evans said that gender ideology had even reached the ‘experts’; that she herself had two degrees in Biology. It took the right person to say the right thing to make her question gender ideology . She was asked by Helen Joyce if there was one thing that she felt could be said to someone trans-identifed to make them question gender ideology. She replied there probably was no one thing, although the fact that her parents let her dress as she liked and didn’t force ‘girl’ behaviour on her probably helped, giving her less to kick back against.
Bob Withers emphasised the importance of detransitioners speaking with people who were planning transition, and the influence this could have on those considering transition themselves. Evans agreed this was important, calling it a ‘sugar coated movement’ referring to how double mastectomies were rebranded as ‘top surgery’. How did Evans plan to protect herself psychologically against the attacks against her?
“Gin,” she replied, laughing, bravely making light of the death threat she has received, adding, “I live with supportive people; I’ve got a very, very good therapist; I drink a lot of gin.”
A woman spoke of the large numbers of autistic girls caught up in the gender movement and said it was important for those who could to speak up to do so and offer an alternative view. Evans said that she didn’t think transition was wrong for everyone, or that there was any one way to help a child. Another spoke of hearing a program on Radio 4 which did not consider other options as to why a child might be confused about gender; she said she had written to express her feelings about this and would encourage others to do so.
The next reply is from a young detransitioner, in answer to the question ‘what can friends and parents do?’
“As a detransitioned person myself, the question what can you say, what can you do as a parent- it’s definitely super-complicated… the thing that started to make me critical of the three years of identifiying, and starting hormone treatment, it was a meeting with a person who had been transitioning for a while. This person said things I’d never heard before and because it came from that person I knew there was no secret agenda behind it, so that definitely had an impact. I also wanted to add when I was in that mindset… I knew it was not logic in some way.. I’ve studied science, I know biology.. what it came down to when I was feeling so bad and so desperate was I don’t care about their theories and how things work, I only want to feel better. I only want to feel better. I don’t care if this is not logic to the people around me. If there is anything someone as a parent or a good friend that someone can question… it’s not, to start with, gender theory, it’s more if you can have a discussion about the evidence. ‘Where does it come from that all the transitioners are happy?’ Because that’s what I thought. ‘Where does it come from that they live healthy long lives?’ I think that’s where you actually can start. We need to debunk this romanticised picture as to how well this all works. Then you can talk more about stereotypes, but start by understanding, this won’t make me feel better.”
“I still have gender dysphoria,” added Charlie, shortly afterwards. Charlie’s doctors had offered her medical transition when social transitioned hadn’t helped her. She feels that it’s important that more funding should be put into looking at gender dysphoria and more research should be done.
“People who’ve transitioned and people who detransition should be closer together. I don’t ‘misgender’; I do my best to respect everyone; if we had the same in return I think we could offer each other a lot.”
Maureen wrapped the meeting up by asking if there were any more questions for the speakers, and then suggested we should take some time to discuss ideas moving forward. She reminded us to look at the Declaration; sign it if we agreed with it and share it with our networks.
Heather suggested that after the final few questions we should all go and have a drink in the bar and this idea was met with much approval.
It was suggested that the phrase sex dysphoria makes a lot more sense than the phrase gender dysphoria.
A request was put out on behalf of Fair Cop for screenshots of any evidence of training given to the police by trans lobby groups. Fair Cop is campaigning for the College of Policing to change its Hate Crime Guidance.
Someone asked how to contribute to Charlie’s charity and she said that she’d recently lost 14 clients out of 15 and now had no job. Heather clarified that any assistance to help Charlie through until January would be much appreciated. Evans doesn’t charge for giving talks and promised not to spend any donations on gin 🙂 .
A woman from Scotland spoke about LGBT Scotland who provided guidelines for schools, and informed us that some Scottish women were campaigning to get those guidelines changed. There was some discussion about the meaning of ‘case by case’ but I’m afraid I got a bit lost.
The importance of helping children disconnect from technology was mentioned, and veganism was touched on. The inherent agesim in misogyny was discussed, and how liberal feminism markets ageism to young women. Later, a woman spoke of the difficulty of applying for funding for projects for young lesbians when funding is not given to projects that are lesbian only.
“This movement is being sold as a youth movement but it is not: it came from the academy, it came from old transactivists and it’s been systematically taught to children.” pointed out Stephanie. “I think children have been explicitly, directly targeted because children are needed… the efforts that they’ve made with children are bigger than any other movement I’ve seen. The guidelines for schools, the working behind the scenes… it’s not a youth movement, but young people think it’s a youth movement because that’s part of the propaganda that’s been sold to youth… but young people themselves are not stupid. At some point they will realise: ‘this movement, that we rebels are taking forward, is actually being taught to us by our teachers’.”
“We aren’t taught anything in school about feminism beyond the suffragettes,” agreed a young woman. “We’re taught feminism includes men and it includes whoever feels like a woman and that that’s progressive.”
“In the 1980s and early 1990s,” said Brunskell-Evans, “culture became pornified and sexualised and feminists were repackaged as repressed, bigoted people. Actually, we WERE the sexual revolution. We started it! There’s something awful about this, that young women are being set against older women.”
Another woman disagreed. She said her lesbian group had a number of younger women in it, some of whom had said meeting older women had stopped them contemplating transition. She said she didn’t feel that they despised older women. Another pointed out that her daughter’s university feminist society was for ‘feminists of all genders’ and that this now seemed to be the norm. Later, a woman pointed out that young women at at least one university had managed to establish a woman-only feminist society, although it had been a lengthy fight. She added that she found hope in the fact that among people who haven’t been to university, gender ideology is not accepted: “we need to have faith in the ordinary people who know that it’s bollocks”.
Marcus Evans asked what the position for men was in this movement. He recognised the indoctrination of children and the massive attack on feminism but said the attack was not just on women. “Some of us would like to be involved in some way and play a helpful role.”
The importance of educating children about the realities of gender ideology was emphasised. It was suggested that it would be more helpful if the Tavistock explained that there were two different perspectives on gender, one that it was a feeling inside and another idea that it’s an external influence.
“I sent Polly Carmichael an email,” offered Stephanie “explaining exactly what the hierarchy of oppression is, but she didn’t reply to that.”
Sheila Jeffreys spoke of attending a meeting of the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association where ‘a man pretending to be a woman called Ruth’ claimed that WPUK was ‘funneling hatred from the extreme right into the women’s movement‘.
The slogan on Sheila’s friend’s T shirt: ‘made by a Nazi’.
The title of the conference was ‘Feminist Dilemmas, Feminist Hope?’ and at question time, Sheila’s friend had raised the subject of the war on women by men pretending to be women. A ‘most extraordinary disruption‘ ensued, said Sheila, her friend was asked to leave and when she refused everyone else walked out. Ruth shouted in her friend’s face, “You are wearing a T shirt made by a Nazi!”
A chant of “Shame, shame on you!” was set up by ‘the new generation of young women’s studies researchers and teachers in university’.
“I just thought I should tell you how far this has gone,” concluded Sheila. “The only possibility for young women is to revolt, and some of them are.”
“This is the perfect push back against women,” added one woman, “by redefining what women actually are. It’s a perfect storm, driven by capitalism and neo-liberalism.”
A woman, whose daughter had come out as trans at 15, described herself as an ROGD parent. She said at the time she’d had nowhere to go and was let down by the NHS, but had found groups that given her support and an alternative view. She and others had started a group called Our Duty. “My daughter isn’t out of the woods,” she added, “but she needs radical feminism, not testosterone!”
Finally, it was observed that conference attendees were a diverse group of people. This struggle includes different groups of people, parents, grandparents, young people, gay, straight etc… and it is vitally important that we stay together on this, try to avoid infighting, and learn from each other.
Maureen O’Hara thanked the speakers and attendees, reminding people that they could be put in contact with each other if they wished to be, and emphasising the importance of a broad-based network .
We retired to the bar.
I wished I’d brought more crisps with me.
New Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education (England) Regulations will come into force in schools in September 2020.