We all know the mantra by now – ‘trans women are women, and trans men are men’. Deep down we may know it to be nonsense, but unless we pay it lip service we risk being labelled as bigots or worse – despicable people who “question the very humanity” of trans people, to use the language of the New York Times.
Victims of this ideology include women, whose boundaries and spaces are being violated by male people who claim to feel like women, and trans women like me who had been getting on with our lives. Nobody consulted with me before social justice warriors made us their cause célèbre. Depicted falsely as one of the most vulnerable groups on the planet, many of us are relatively privileged, only transitioning after our male bodies helped us secure our places in society.
But the biggest casualties – in my view – are children. Confused young people, perhaps struggling with identity and nascent sexuality, are being told that if they are unhappy with their sex, then they can change it, with potentially disastrous consequences on their bodies. Nevertheless, this has become a major industry. The US Human Rights Campaign lists no fewer than 57 clinical care programs for “gender-expansive children and adolescents” in the United States and Canada alone. Puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and referrals for surgery are the go-to treatments.
Last week, Republican Senator Rand Paul decided he needed answers when Rachel Levine appeared before him. Levine is President Biden’s nominee for assistant secretary of health and, like me, transitioned in mid-life after fathering children. One would expect, therefore, that Levine would be aware of the issues and dangers facing transgender-identifying children. Even so, Paul’s question could not be clearer:
“Dr. Levine, do you believe that minors are capable of making such a life changing decision as changing one’s sex?”
Levine’s attempt at obfuscation appeared to rely on a prepared text, “Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field, with robust research and standards of care that have been developed.” After Paul explained his question, the exchange descended into farce when Levine again refused to answer and repeated word-for-word, “Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field…” Paul was unimpressed at Levine’s reticence and noted, “the witness refused to answer the question.”
The video clip of the exchange encapsulates the dire state of what should be a serious political debate about the medicalisation of children:
Equally remarkable was Senator Patty Murray’s response to the episode. Murray praised Levine’s “thoughtful and medically informed” responses, and even appeared to suggest that Levine had not been treated with respect.
In his questioning, Paul cited the case of Keira Bell, a British woman who had been prescribed hormone therapy as a teenager. Now aged 23, she regrets it. Recently, she brought a case to the High Court of England and Wales against her erstwhile clinic. She claimed that she had been too young to give consent. I am relieved that the court agreed with her. Throughout childhood, I struggled with gender dysphoria and – had “gender affirming treatment” been available to children in the 1980s – I would have clamoured for it. But at best it is a palliative solution; had I taken it in my teens, I would never have had children of my own.
Following the Bell judgment, public health clinics in England and Wales can no longer prescribe puberty blocking drugs to children without the permission of a court, to protect young people from the folly of their own immaturity. But even so, children are not safe. Where there is money to be made, unscrupulous practitioners will look for openings.
On Saturday, we learned that Gender GP – an online clinic working with children in the UK – was prepared to use a legal loophole to supply testosterone, a class 3 controlled drug, to someone they thought was a 15-year-old girl. She was actually an undercover reporter at the Daily Telegraph. But Gender GP did not know that, having never actually met their patient, let alone examined them, and had never spoken to her parents.
Campaigning group forwomen.scot described it as a “shocking dereliction of medical care.”
Pictured in the featured image is Marianne Oakes, the lead counsellor at Gender GP, and a transwoman. Personal testimony on the Gender GP website suggests that Oakes transitioned recently, having first been referred for treatment in September 2015, three months after qualifying as a therapeutic counsellor, “with a view to realising my dream of working as a female therapist.”
Oakes told the 15-year-old girl/Telegraph reporter that they did not require her parents’ permission. Staff accepted at face value the reporter’s stated belief that she was really male, telling her “we’re not worried about your truth because there’s no debate about that.”
The Telegraph went on to report that,
“[The Prescription] was signed by a doctor in Romania, who the Telegraph has identified as a geriatrician also trained in administering Botox. GenderGP does not offer patients the chance of an appointment with her, even though she authorises the medication. Instead, they are directed to a doctor in Egypt, who told the reporter that it was ‘excellent’ that, aged 15, she knew she never wanted to have children.”
Appallingly, British children continue to access cross sex hormones, despite the Keira Bell judgment that they cannot even consent to puberty blockers.
Vulnerable children are being put at risk. The adults involved need to be called to account, transgender adults included. We may have first-hand experience of gender dysphoria, but we have no more idea than anyone else what it might feel like to be a member of the opposite sex. Nor can adult transitioners like Levine, Oakes – or me, indeed – ever really empathise with children who are being forced into life changing decisions about their future fertility before they know what it means to be an adult.
I never thought I would agree with a right-winger like Rand Paul. I started out as a socialist and I think I am still a socialist, but however wide the political gulf between us, it is transcended by something far more important – the safeguarding of children.
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