QotD: “Activists thwart work on gender law reforms”
Academics working in the field of gender identity have warned that hostility and threats from student activists are affecting their ability to research the possible effects of proposed reforms to the law.
Rosa Freedman, a law professor at Reading University, revealed last week that one student had called her “a transphobic Nazi who should get raped” because of her work on the legal implications of reforms that would make it easier for people to change their gender.
Selina Todd, a history professor at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, said yesterday that she feared a “witch-hunt” would target anyone who dared to challenge proposals to open female-only spaces — such as changing rooms and refuges — to men who identify as women.
Other leading lecturers have called on universities to defend their freedom after protests against academics who signed an open letter two weeks ago complaining they were being “harassed over research into transgender issues”.
Activists have tried to block an event that Freedman is organising on her campus tomorrow on the “legal implications of reforming the Gender Recognition Act” at which the feminist Julie Bindel is scheduled to speak. Bindel has been no-platformed by some student unions.
A Reading University spokesman insisted the event would go ahead and said the university would try to ensure “healthy and respectful debate”.
He added: “We respect the right of our trans staff and students to self-identify their gender and we have a track record of support for LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] staff and students.”
Todd has faced demands that she should not be considered for future membership of women’s committees because of her views on preserving women-only spaces. “First of all I was taken aback — now I feel angry,” she said.
“This feels to me like an attack on women’s rights and their right to speak. It feels like the beginning of a witch-hunt. I would like universities to strengthen academic freedom in the face of a few activists trying to stir up trouble.”
A fellow don at Oxford, Michael Biggs, another signatory of the open letter, said he had been “threatened with a formal complaint for transphobia”.
Students at University College London (UCL) complained about Julia Jordan, an English lecturer who also signed the harassment letter, describing her views as “alarming and disappointing”. They warned that their faculty could become a “hostile space” for trans students.
UCL said: “We would like to see respectful and constructive dialogue on the issues raised in relation to the Gender Recognition Act consultation.”
QotD: “This is not acceptance … In fact, this is rejection”
The final part of ITV drama Butterfly airs [this evening], marking not so much the conclusion of a TV show but the climax of a social justice event, at least if you believe the show’s makers and the largely rapturous notices. Starring Anna Friel as the mother of Max, an 11-year-old who’s born male but identifies as a girl, and broadcast in the last weeks of the government consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act, it’s clearly been conceived as an intervention on the side of the angels. Or rather Mermaids: Susie Green, CEO of the charity for families of trans children, was a consultant on the programme.
Butterfly, though, is storytelling. It’s emotionally appealing. It’s accessible. It’s simple. In fact, it’s very simple indeed, which is why it’s quite boring, and also why it’s dangerous.
That’s a strong word to use of a primetime drama, but consider what Butterfly is telling its audience. It offers a starkly segregated version of childhood: boys do active, sporty things and girls are decorative and pretty. Max’s parents first of all try to “fix” him into having the appropriate interests – his dad with corporal punishment, his mum by treating the “girly” things as a shameful secret to be kept to the bedroom – and, when that fails, they solve the problem instead by recategorising him as a girl. The possibility that Max, like 60-90% of children with gender dysphoria, might simply turn out to be a boy who likes pink, isn’t given house room here.
Then there’s that jaunt to America for treatment. In the show, it’s a high-stakes decision for Max’s mother to make, but one that we’re never supposed to doubt is in Max’s best interests. The Ferrybank, with their advocacy of “watchful waiting” rather than filling out a shopping list of prescriptions, act as the story’s primary antagonists. After all, viewers have already been told unequivocally that Max really is “a girl in a boy’s body”. In the context of the show, any resistance to that isn’t sensible clinical caution, it’s just cruel. The lesson for distressed children and their anxious parents watching the show is: don’t trust the experts who won’t give you what you want.
In the real world, though, things aren’t so easy to call. Gender dysphoria has complex, multiple causes, and in children that usually involves the family dynamic. NHS clinicians, trying to address these delicate cases, increasingly find that anything they want to explore has been pre-empted by the pressure on parents to “affirm gender”: parents have often socially transitioned their child long before they reach the consulting room. Sometimes, parents have even started the medical course privately, via clinicians such as Helen Webberley – convicted this month of running an unregistered clinic, but still linked to by the Mermaids website.
The argument for rushing to treatment, as put forward by Mermaids and repeated by Max’s mum in Butterfly, is “better a happy daughter than a dead son”. In other words, children with gender identity issues are supposedly so prone to suicide that the only option is to stall puberty immediately, starting cross-sex hormones as early as possible. (This maximises the child’s chances of eventually passing as the chosen sex; it also costs them their adult fertility and sexual function.) In the first episode of Butterfly, Max follows this script by making a graphically portrayed suicide attempt.
But the script is false. The startling figures offered by Mermaids for suicidality in trans children are taken from self-selecting surveys that don’t control for comorbidity of mental health conditions. The NHS gender identity development service reports that less than 1% of its patients have attempted suicide; meanwhile, Swedish research has found that transitioning doesn’t remove trans people higher risk for suicide. In other words, the Mermaids version overstates the risk and then demands a cure that doesn’t work.
This isn’t just inaccurate. It’s damaging. In Max’s story, a child questioning their gender will see that suicide gets results: not just medical treatment, but ultimately the reconciliation of Max’s parents (the final scene of the last episode sees Max getting the longed-for blocker injection as his parents hold hands in the foreground, everything as it should be in the straightest of all possible worlds, the violent man back in the family fold). This presentation of suicide goes directly against the Samaritans guidelines for preventing the spread of suicide. Reckless politicising of self-harm is what endangers young people’s lives, not delaying irreversible medical treatments.
As one gender identity specialist who watched the programme points out, Max is told persistently, insistently and consistently by his parents that he’s “wrong” as a boy. “This is not acceptance,” she says. “In fact, this is rejection.” Under the lipstick smile, Butterfly is a charter for something very regressive, and very cruel: the credo that children who can’t perform the “correct” sex stereotypes must change their bodies, or die.
QotD: “Trans Activists’ Campaign Against ‘TERFs’ has Become an Attack on Science”
In a recent article for Forbes, “The Vaccination Debacle,” I discussed the frightening rise in the number of European measles cases. The reason for the spike is simple: Fed a daily online diet of nonsense and ideologically motivated activism, many people have come to reject mainstream medical science—including the science behind vaccinations. You’d think that “get vaccinated” would be a relatively straightforward message. But in the days following the article’s publication, I received a good dozen emails from doctors thanking me for writing the piece, and describing how difficult it has become to convince some patients that their local paediatrician isn’t part of an international conspiracy.
But at least the effort to push back against anti-vaccination conspiracy theories is seen as a respectable form of discourse. In other spheres, it’s not so easy to speak common sense.
Consider, for instance, last year’s saga involving Rebecca Tuvel—who was hounded by trans activists and scholars after applying a theoretical application of transgender ideology to the idea of “trans-racialism.” Scandalously, the article in question was edited post facto so as to remove the name “Bruce Jenner”—in response to the claim that these two words served to “dead-name” the person now known as Caitlyn Jenner (despite the fact that Caitlyn Jenner herself repeatedly refers to “Bruce” in interviews). To cite the historically verifiable fact that someone named Bruce Jenner once existed is now seen as a sort of religious heresy. And like all heresies, it must be ritualistically expunged—not because it is factually wrong, but because it is seen as morally wrong.
In August, Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island was criticized for removing a news release about a peer-reviewed study published in PLoS One by one of its academics—Lisa Littman, a physician and researcher at Brown’s School of Public Health. Littman’s article, titled “Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: A study of parental reports,“ discusses the phenomenon by which social media and peer pressure seem to have fuelled the recently observed trend by which young teenagers (typically girls) suddenly declare themselves transgender. The paper infuriated transgender activists, who claim that the entire notion of rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD) is a transphobic invention. Both Brown and PLoS One also were attacked as Brown’s enablers.
While no one could offer any evidence that Littman’s results were wrong, PLoS One issued a statement acknowledging the complaints about the study, and promising “further expert assessment on the study’s content and methodology.” Meanwhile, the dean of the School of Public Health, Bess H. Marcus, claimed that concerns over methodology had incited the university to remove the news article from the university’s web site. She added that members of the university community members had “express[ed] concerns that the conclusions of the study could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community.” In other words, Marcus is worried that facts might be used to undermine ideologically hallowed “perspectives”—also known as “opinions.”
As former Harvard Medical School dean Jeffrey Flier noted in Quillette, the whole spectacle raises important issues of academic freedom at Brown. But it also symbolizes how severely transgender activism has undermined the efforts of clinicians and researchers who have sought to investigate the issue of gender dysphoria. There is perhaps no other area of human behaviour where ideologically motivated actors have been so successful in creating what are in effect no-go zones for academics, and even for facts themselves.
Another case study may be found in Kenneth Zucker’s work on desistance among children afflicted with gender dysphoria at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Following a lengthy misinformation campaign against Zucker, the transgender lobby was successful in having him fired in 2015, notwithstanding his status as a leading researcher in the field. In that same year, bioethicist and Northwestern University historian Alice Dreger published her book Galileo’s Middle Finger, which analysed the case of Michael Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender Bending and Transsexualism (2003). Bailey’s thoughtcrimes were contained in his review of the work of Canadian-born sexologist Ray Blanchard, who has argued that there are two types of male-to-female transsexualism: one being a deflected form of homosexuality and the other being an expression of a paraphilia known as autogynephilia. In Galileo’s Middle Finger, Dreger concluded that a small group of activists has endeavoured to bury such theories by attacking Bailey. For her troubles, Dreger endured a series of attacks by trans activists (including personal threats), and the filing of ethics charges with her university.
In the UK, there have been similar attempts to shoot the messenger. James Caspian, a psychotherapist specialising in the field of transgender mental health, proposed research on “de-transitioning” as part of his Master’s degree in counselling and psychotherapy at Bath Spa University last year. Initially, Bath Spa had approved Caspian’s proposed course of study, but later rejected it, citing fears of a “backlash” by transgender activists. (Caspian was told that he was “engaging in a potentially politically incorrect piece of research, [which] carries a risk to the university.”)
Another British researcher, cited by The Telegraph, abandoned a Russell Group university for Italy because, as he sees it, British schools are “covering their own arses” by allowing ethics committees to exert control over politically charged research. Last Fall Heather Brunskell-Evans, a Research Fellow at King’s College London, was asked by medical students to give a talk to her school’s Reproductive and Sexual Health Society on the subject of pornography and the sexualisation of young women. Things changed, however, after she appeared on Radio 4’s “Moral Maze,” where she elaborated on heterodox ideas contained in a book she’d co-edited with Michele Moore, Transgender Children and Young People. Brunskell-Evan’s talk was cancelled. She also sustained a campaign of harassment, and was accused of “promoting prejudice” by members of her own Women’s Equality Party (WEP), for which she served as Spokesperson for the Policy on Violence Against Women and Girls. (After a lengthy investigation, Brunskell-Evans resigned from the party.)
Students are getting the message. Aside from the well-publicised case of Lindsay Shepherd—who was bullied by a supervisor for the crime of suggesting that pronoun usage was a matter of legitimate debate—there is the more recent case of Angelos Sofocleous, a philosophy MA student at the University of Durham who was fired as Assistant Editor from a journal for re-tweeting: “RT if women don’t have penises.” Sofocleous also faced a social media backlash, and eventually resigned as President-elect of the Humanist Students club. Indeed, trans extremists aren’t even trying to hide their witch-hunt tactics anymore. Goldsmiths researcher Natacha Kennedy, working under the name of Mark Hellen, was discovered to have orchestrated a smear campaign targeting female academics in the UK who refuse to conform to transgender ideology. (Kennedy encouraged members on a private Facebook group to draw up a list where “members plotted to accuse non-compliant professors of hate crime to try to have them ousted from their jobs.”)
Lisa Littman knew what to expect, in other words. But she also knew that her critics wouldn’t have a scientific leg to stand on. Her research passed peer and editorial reviews, and was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. And while critics focused on Littman’s methodology, which focused on testimonials from parents instead of children, such methods are quite commonplace in studies dealing with minors. (It also has been pointed out that nobody in the trans community spoke out in protest when a study using these exact same methods concluded that children thrived after transitioning.)
QotD: “Suicides should never be a political weapon”
Last weekend the trans activist Helen Belcher resigned as a judge of a journalism prize because, against her wishes, I reached the shortlist. She announced that: “Since The Times started printing such [transphobic] pieces, starting with one by Turner in September 2017, I have heard of more trans suicides than at any point since 2012. These have mainly been of trans teenagers.”
When probed on Twitter she said: “I have heard reports of four trans suicides in the past few months, two in the past month. The media reporting was referenced in three of them.” Later, trans activist Paris Lees added that she held “individual journalists who stigmatise trans people personally responsible for the suicides of young trans people in this country”. No further detail was given.
That my work has caused the deaths of children is the most upsetting accusation I’ve faced in 30 years. It provokes many serious questions. Most importantly, is it true?
But first consider The Samaritans’ guidelines for reporting suicide which warn it is dangerous to attribute a death to a single cause: “speculation about the ‘trigger’ . . . should be avoided” as “young people are especially vulnerable to negative suicide coverage”. Yet some trans activists casually breach this code. This week Professor Stephen Whittle of Press for Change, a transgender lobby group, said that any delay to changing the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) would “lead to a flurry of suicides”. Retaining a 14-year-old law to permit further debate, he believes, will literally kill people.
Suicide is a dark trope in the trans movement. Parents who hesitate over medical intervention are told by some activists: “Better a living daughter than a dead son.” The ITV drama Butterfly, an infomercial for the trans support group Mermaids, is based upon the story of its CEO Susie Green, who took her child to Thailand for genital surgery at 16 (which was illegal in Britain and is now illegal in Thailand) and features a graphic suicide attempt. Mermaids cites high suicide rates in trans youth to push for faster, younger access to hormones and surgery. Ms Green told MPs that Gids (the NHS’s youth gender identity development service) has a suicide attempt rate of 48 per cent. This was based upon a self-selecting sample of 27 trans people aged under 26 analysed by the LGBT charity Pace.
The sane, compassionate response is more research. Let’s pull out the serious case reviews of every teen suicide to examine all possible causes, including newspaper reporting. Surely Mermaids would welcome proper, independent, methodologically-sound scientific inquiry. In the meantime, the most reliable source is Gids which says of 5,000 young patients referred between 2016 and August this year, there were three suicides and four attempts. Each death is the deepest tragedy, yet this makes a suicide rate of less than 1 per cent. Moreover, Gids director Dr Polly Carmichael has warned that suicidal discourse is “quite unhelpful”, creating a narrative around gender-diverse children “imbued with negativity and lack of resilience.”
Undoubtedly the suicide rate in Gids children is higher than average: many also suffer from anxiety and self-harm; a third of girls are on the autistic spectrum, others have suffered sexual abuse. This is a very troubled, vulnerable cohort. A 2011 Swedish study published in PLOS One found a high suicide risk prevails even after transition. So is it responsible for activists to insist that suicidal feelings are intrinsic to the trans experience, perhaps even a sign of being “true” trans?
A friend who was hospitalised with anorexia for three years as a teenager lost three fellow patients to suicide. She notes that although anorexia has the highest morbidity of any mental illness, clinicians do not let suicidal threats hamper treatment. “No one ever told my parents ‘Do exactly what she wants or she will kill herself.’ Because that would have been disgraceful.” Yet this is what is said to parents and clinicians who support “watchful waiting” of gender-questioning kids. Nor is discussion of anorexia framed by, say, ordering fashion designers to use bigger models “because you are literally killing girls”.
This past year, since Maria Miller’s women and equalities committee report, must have been gruelling for many trans people. I feel huge compassion for those stuck in the crossfire of a vicious debate. But Mrs Miller is to gender what David Cameron was to Brexit. She created a toxic, divisive mess then left others to clear up. In ignoring concerns from women’s groups, listening only to trans lobbyists, she recommended far-reaching legal changes including self-identification and an end to single-sex spaces, thus rewriting the definitions of “man” and “woman”.
Trans campaigners cannot demand legislation without scrutiny. My Times column from September 2017, which supposedly precipitated a suicide epidemic, described a feminist meeting where a trans activist punched a 60-year-old woman in the face. Everything I have written since has been intended to shed light. Why is there a 4,000 per cent rise in girls believing they are in the “wrong body”: why is a male sex offender’s gender identity more important than the safety of women prisoners, resulting in the case of Karen White; can a compromise be reached which meets both trans and women’s rights?
I asked questions because many women (including trans women) risk their livelihoods for airing dissent, and could not. Even 54 per cent of MPs, according to a ComRes poll, are scared to raise this subject. In the middle of a government consultation! No wonder, when suicide is shamefully wielded as a political weapon, when anyone who strays from dogma is accused of having children’s blood on their hands.
Petition the UK government: Review rules that allow male prisoners who identify as female in women’s prisons
This is a petition run via the UK government, if it gets 10,000 signatures they have to acknowledge it and respond to it.
Fair Play For Women is calling for MPs to ensure the relevant prison rules are urgently reviewed, in full consultation with women’s organisations. Prison guidance PSI-17/2016 allows male prisoners who identity as female to be moved to a female prison at the discretion of a Transgender Case Board.
No women’s organisations were consulted when the prison rules were updated in 2016. The effect on female prisoners has not been adequately assessed. Current rules are not fit for purpose and must be urgently reviewed.
QotD: “Tories rebel over trans law change”
54% of Tory MPs oppose transgender women having the same legal rights as those born female, a poll has foundHayoung Jeon/EPA
New rules allowing people to change gender without consulting a doctor are facing a barrage of backbench opposition, according to a poll of MPs that suggests ministers will have to rethink the plans.
A public consultation ends [this] week on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act that would allow people to legally self-declare as the opposite gender without needing to live in the role for two years and seek a doctor’s backing.
But the poll shows that Penny Mordaunt, the minister for equalities charged with introducing the changes, will have a tough time getting them approved by parliament and risks a bitter showdown with Conservative MPs, whose support she needs in a future Tory leadership contest.
The poll — one of a regular survey of MPs on topical issues by ComRes — found that only 9% of Tories back self-declaration without a doctor, with 69% opposed. And 54% of Tories oppose transgender women getting all the same legal rights as those born female. Eight out of 10 say they are worried by the number of children wanting to change their gender and 56% are opposed to puberty-blocking drugs being administered. The poll found 63% of Tories fearful of speaking out after examples of campaigners branding those who question the plans “transphobic”.
The issue became heated after a transgender prisoner, Karen White, who retained her male genitalia and was accused of raping two women, was put in a women’s jail where she sexually assaulted four of the inmates. White was jailed for life last week.
The ComRes poll shows that 67% of MPs of all stripes are fearful of the effect the planned changes will have on women’s changing rooms and refuges. Half have been contacted by members of the public concerned at the proposals.
Mordaunt spoke strongly in favour of the reform when she introduced the proposals in cabinet in late June, according to another minister present.
The minister told The Sunday Times: “She said it was the defining moral and cultural issue of our time and that we must get this right now because we have failed to be on the right side of previous controversies. She said this was the equivalent of establishing gay rights in the 1980s. Nobody round the table made a fuss.”
Mordaunt also told a Stonewall fringe event at this month’s Tory conference that “we need to make [the] reform and more a reality”, according to a tweet from the group.
Nicola Williams, of the feminist group Fair Play for Women, which opposes the reform, accused Mordaunt of “pre-empting” the result of the consultation.
Mordaunt appears to be retreating. She is now expected to shorten the time period for changing gender and keep the doctor involvement. Other ministers, including Liz Truss, Victoria Atkins and Sarah Newton, are said to be concerned by the plans to remove doctors from the process.
A Panelbase poll for The Sunday Times showed that plans by the Scottish government to allow children as young as 12 to alter the gender on their birth certificates are also unpopular. Only 6% of voters back the change.
QotD: “These levels of physical and sexual violence are bordering on and including behaviour that would meet the criminal code definition of torture”
A concerning new trend tracked by welfare workers at the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence reveals clients who have been raped had been subjected to increasing violence.
Centre director Di McLeod in an address yesterday to more than 50 community stakeholders detailed the shocking violence which included women being subjected to group sex along with strangulation and choking.
Much of the violence had occurred after women were forced to have nonconsenting sex and their injuries required them to obtain treatment at the emergency departments at Gold Coast Hospitals.
“These levels of physical and sexual violence are bordering on and including behaviour that would meet the criminal code definition of torture,” Ms McLeod told the Problem with Porn conference at the Sharks Event Centre at Southport.
“What used to be an uncommon story is now very much an everyday story involving women of varied ages and diverse backgrounds.”
In the past five years the Coast centre had experienced a 56 per cent increase in referrals from emergency departments of local public hospitals, the forum was told.
“Sometimes the sexual violence is committed by a just-met partner, but in cases where the woman has knowledge of the offender’s habits she has often identified that the offender is a regular consumer of pornography,” Ms McLeod said.
The forum was told it was clear not everyone who viewed pornography would commit sexual and domestic violence “because some men who use pornography don’t rape”.
“But what research is finding and what we are seeing at our centre is that pornography is clearly influencing sexual expectations and practices between intimate partners, so that the correlation between pornography, rape and domestic violence can no longer be ignored,” Ms McLeod said.
The key finding by welfare workers was violent men using pornography could not see the difference between fantasy and reality and believed “women are up for it 24-7”.
The increased reporting figures were due to the extent of the injuries and view that many women felt less shame about admitting what had happened.
QotD: “If sex is a service rape is just unpaid labor”
If sex is a service rape is just unpaid labor.
If sex is a service it can be provided to family members, morally.
If sex is a service it can be a small child’s career aspiration, and it should be supported as such.
If sex is a service then pornographic content can also be displayed to children, as they should be given examples of their work possibilities.
If sex is a service, and sex work is an existent opportunity to you, you can’t complain about being unemployed.
If sex is a service csa is just some form of child labour.
If sex is a service it is bigoted and against the costumer rights to denny service on the basis of anything, including sex, regardless of the workers orientation they should provide service to the costumer.
Things get really creepy when you mix things with inherent different natures like sex and labour, I know.
If sex work is work, then incest is no different than working in the yard or shed with mom and dad. It’s just practice for working in the real world.
Children being raped to death is just an occupational hazard
Government consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act – Fair Play for Women’s ready-made response
The UK government’s consultation on the Gender Recognition Act finishes on the 19th October.
Fair Play for Women has a ready-made response you can send via their website here.
QotD: “Butterfly: Teen transgender drama ‘inflates suicide risk’”
Trans activists must stop terrorising vulnerable young people and their families by telling them they ‘will’ commit suicide if they don’t follow a specific path. Suicide is becoming a badge of authenticity among trans activists; suicide contagion is a real risk, and reporting on this issue by some mainstream media outlets surely contravenes guidelines from organisations like the Samaritans.
Here are several useful articles about suicide statistics and the trans population:
The 41% trans suicide attempt rate: A tale of flawed data and lazy journalists
Mermaid’s lies and the trans youth suicide myth
A Scientist Reviews Transgender Suicide Stats
Suicide Facts and Myths
Also, here is a link to an LGBT organisation, warning about the normalisaion of suicide.
Also (because who knows how someone might come to be reading this post), here is a link to the Samaritans in the UK, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US, and a list of International Suicide Hotlines here.