It Pays to Hold Your Nerve in the Transgender Debate

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It pays to hold your nerve.

Always.

With the latest news out of the UK that a young woman is calling out the National Health Service’s gender clinic for not challenging her strongly enough when she was 16 and wanting to transition to male, it feels like the ground is shifting back to sanity.

Keira Bell, who went through a regime of puberty blockers and then surgery to remove her breasts, says that she ‘should have been challenged over my transition.’

And if you’ve been holding your nerve and saying, “Wait a minute—some of what we are doing in the name of the Sexular Age is deeply dangerous, and elevates ideology over science,” then maybe you might actually be on the right side of history. Fancy that!

So a young woman, Keira Bell, who went through a regime of puberty blockers and then surgery to remove her breasts, says that she “should have been challenged over my transition.”  

No Challenge

Clearly she wasn’t. And clearly a judge thinks there is a case for the NHS and Tavistock to answer, as a full hearing has been given the go-ahead.

The centre is, of course, denying any fault, and claims to have made strong scientific-based decisions, rather than ideological ones. And, for a while, it seemed like the whole world was going along with this.

We stood watching, mouths agape, as seemingly every political and judicial leader in the West rushed headlong towards championing gender-transition for every young person experiencing gender dysphoria:

  • despite the lack of long term studies of the effects of the drugs involved;
  • despite the sense that social contagion is at least part of what is spiking the numbers;
  • despite the knowledge that many gender-confused young people grow out of their confusion over time;
  • despite the fact that many same-sex-attracted young people are being told they are transgender, when clearly they’re simply same-sex-attracted.

And that’s leaving aside the whole matter of women’s rights—and what it even means to be a woman when that term is so emptied of meaning that a man can become a woman simply by declaring that he feels he is one.

No Admission

Of course, it’s hard to convince those who have serious skin in the game. As the BBC reports:

Gender identity charity Mermaids said that people face a long wait for access to such services, that they can save lives and that very few people regret their decision.

Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? Let’s put that to the test in a scientific setting in which the organisation controlling the date and testing the sample isn’t named after a mythical underwater creature. Meanwhile, parents concerned about their child’s move in this direction have been accusing Mermaids of undermining them and virtually escorting children to the clinic: sitting outside, guarding them against any parental involvement.

To her credit, clinical psychologist at Tavistock, Dr Polly Carmichael, admitted to the BCC that things were complex:

This is a heated debate at the moment. And I think taking a step back – and having an external considered review of the evidence and people’s feelings about the most appropriate way to support young people—can be nothing but beneficial at this point.

Yet it takes an outcry for that to happen. Is it only because the debate has gotten heated that Tavistock is slowing things down?

And only “beneficial at this point“?  Surely at all points! It sounds like a serious backtrack compared to what has been going on. The cat has been belled. This has always been a complex problem. Yet the speed at which centres like Tavistock have gone about issuing serious drugs to young people—drugs with irreversible side effects—flies in the face of what Dr Carmichael now asserts.

Cursory Concern

The BBC reports about Keira, who started her transgender self-discovery tour on-line, that:

She was referred to the Tavistock GIDS clinic at the age of age 16. She said after three one-hour-long appointments she was prescribed puberty blockers.

Three one-hour-long appointments. The clinical psychologists I know speak of the great complexities they face around their clients who suffer from gender dysphoria. They explain how the causes are long-term, deep-seated and rooted in variety of experiences from childhood to young adulthood. Three one-hour-long sessions would be just about scratching the surface for any self-respecting psychologist.

But not Tavistock, apparently. And especially not when you’re driven by ideology.  It’s telling that over a dozen staff resigned from the centre recently, concerned about the ideological approach to this issue.

It’s telling that over a dozen staff resigned from the centre recently, concerned about the ideological approach to this issue.

The BBC reports that Keira describes her family life as “difficult” and that she believes if she had felt more accepted by society as she was then, she might not have wanted to change her gender.

Listen to her words:

I feel I could say anything to my 16-year-old self and I might not necessarily listen at that time. And that’s the point of this case, when you are that young you don’t really want to listen.

So I think it’s up to these institutions, like the Tavistock, to step in and make children reconsider what they are saying, because it is a life-altering path.

This is not a one off. At the same time in that most progressive of Western countries, Sweden, people are starting to ask serious medical and ethical questions, refusing any longer to be silenced or bullied out of the debate on Twitter by activists.

Even The Guardian, not renowned for pushing back on such matters, is starting to report on the concerns. You can read their story here of how the oft-repeated claim that gender reassignment prevents suicide is not backed up by what is actually happening. As The Guardian reports from Sweden:

In the autumn of 2018, the Social Democrat-led government, under pressure from the gay, lesbian and transgender group RFSL, proposed a new law which would reduce the minimum age for sex reassignment medical care from 18 to 15, remove all need for parental consent, and allow children as young as 12 to change their legal gender.

Then in March last year, the backlash started. Christopher Gillberg, a psychiatrist at Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy, wrote an article in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper warning that hormone treatment and surgery on children was “a big experiment” which risked becoming one of the country’s worst medical scandals.

Cold Feet

Sounds like many a progressive government across the planet is getting cold feet (not that mermaids would understand that). After all, no one wants to be known as the government that sanctioned the new thalidomide.

As Douglas Murray observes in his book The Madness of Crowds,we’re making long term decisions about people’s sexual and mental health based on untested ideas that have been around for the past twenty minutes.  And now people are starting to take a reality check.

As Douglas Murray observeswe’re making long-term decisions about people’s sexual and mental health based on untested ideas that have been around for the past twenty minutes.  And now people are starting to take a reality check.

As my wife, among other clinicians have observed, somewhere in the next two decades there is going to be a huge legal backlash against the ideological experimentation going on today.  Huge financial damages are going to have to be forked out on what is basically an untested social experiment grounded in a deep commitment to sex and gender being our primary identity marker (which it isn’t).

A Coming Fight

Yet this is not going to happen without a fight. The Australian Psychological Society has already published articles in its monthly journal which call for those of its members who are not “gender-affirming” to be reported to authorities, in the hope that they will be struck off the register.

I imagine, when the full scale of the damage is exposed, ideologically-driven groups like the APS will be shredding their publications in order to hide the evidence. Thank goodness for the internet. It never forgets.  And nor should we.

In the meantime—in a familiar display of a day late and a dollar short—many theological and ecclesiological institutions have joined the madness—ever eager to adapt to whichever way the culture sways.

Now that it is showing signs of swaying back, I wonder if those in the church who have uncritically embraced the transgender movement, will swing back too. After all, that’s all they know what to do. They certainly won’t lead the culture out of it, because they’re neither brave, nor noble enough, to do so.

I wonder if those in the church who have uncritically embraced the transgender movement, will swing back too. They certainly won’t lead the culture out of it, because they’re neither brave, nor noble enough, to do so.

None of this is to say that the struggle for truth in this area is over. It’s not. Ideologues abound. And where there is Twitter you can always troll anyone who challenges your push-back. Yet the signs are people are sick of being silenced.

Keira Bell’s test case could be the first buds of spring. It could be proof after all, that not everyone in the crowd is mad, and that it might just take one test-case to expose the naked emperor. The whole facade could simply come crashing down.

Ideological Pawns

And when that happens, then I hope those who do suffer gender dysphoria and all its complexities will be given time and space to figure out what the heck is actually going on with them, and that they’ll no longer be expendable pawns in an ideological warfare that is only too happy to break few eggs to make its omelette.

And that’s a timely reminder that no one should utilise other people’s pain and suffering for their own ideological or theological ends. And, of course, if you’re convinced that humans are made in the image of God, and have value, dignity and worth on that basis, you won’t, will you?

But it pays to hold your nerve. It pays to hold your nerve when the rest of the culture is losing theirs. Not just for your own sake. But for the sake of those who risk becoming a byword for the (hopefully) brief period of madness that overlook a declining Western culture at the start of the 21st century.


First published at stephenmcalpine

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