Cass: Why did the grown-ups leave the room?

Apr 15


6 Responses


Helen Whitten

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Cass: Why did the grown-ups leave the room?

About a year ago I was listening to a programme on BBC Radio 4 where a teacher was being interviewed about discussing transgender with school pupils.  “We must be led by the pupils,” she said, and I thought hang on, that turns education on its head.  Surely it is usually teachers who lead pupils not vice versa, so why were the grown ups abdicating that role in this particular issue?

And now looking at what has been taught in schools and the whole “gender-affirming” policy that seems to have had little or no research behind it, this approach is all the more troubling.  Why were/are adults so loathe to have these conversations with children to explain that it is very few people indeed who feel they want to change sex – which has only been possible anyway in recent decades – and that even if they did go ahead and decide to do so they would risk becoming infertile and have to undertake painful surgery that could also render them unable to have an orgasm.  Indeed, that such a decision would likely be irreversible in any practical way.

Instead, countless adults, politicians, institutions, schools, universities and the NHS went headlong into affirming any child who was unsure about their gender, as if that child knew what it was talking about.  But of course a child doesn’t know anything much at all about sex, sexual attraction, or what relationships are like as they grow into adulthood.  It’s up to adults to help them to wait, to mature.  As Hadley Freeman wrote eloquently in The Sunday Times yesterday, 14 April, “teen life is scary” and young girls in particular have to deal with many physical and emotional changes and challenges.  The fact that girls seeking to transition ended up outnumbering boys by six to one should surely have waved many red flags for those responsible for supporting them? And now countless schoolchildren have been exposed to ideas that they could be the “wrong sex” and how will that impact them as they grow up?

And how is a child supposed to listen to the concept of “I was born in the wrong body” and make sense of it?  Why, indeed, has this concept become normalised?  When I was growing up there was no idea that your sex was a decision. You were born male or female, full stop. People are not, it seems, saying they feel they were born in the wrong skin colour, or if they do have issues around appearance or identity then in the main a therapist’s role is to help them accept that we are all different and all unique and valuable in different ways.

But importantly, where are the philosophical questions around this concept “I was born in the wrong body”?  Where are the religious leaders to analyse and discuss what is a mental model rather than a physical reality? Where are the conversations about soul and whether someone has a male or female soul or whether the idea is quite simply a psychological perception that someone might grow out of?  After all, the priests wade in when there is a conversation about abortion, suicide or assisted dying, raising spiritual points for people to consider. Unless I missed something, I believe they have been pretty silent on something that seems to me to impact mind, body and spirit. But most certainly life and how it is lived.

Where were the checks and balances?  Obviously sorely missing from the medical profession, the NHS and biological research.  Within seconds everyone was changing the language, deleting the word woman, mother, breastfeeding from medical literature that specifically related to women. Trans women were transferred to female prisons, where some women were assaulted. Rapists were called “she” when the act of rape requires a penis. And in business HR and DEI departments insisted that people use pronouns even when the majority of people thought it a nonsense as they had no questions about their identity. All to placate a small minority, who deserve to be protected but not at the expense of other’s rights and freedoms.

Any women who legitimately questioned this trend were immediately silenced with insults such as TERF, gender-critical, fascist, far right, as if this has anything to do with politics.  People lost their jobs, their mortgages, their friends, their reputations for “mis-speaking” in the terms of the trans-lobbyists.  Words, such as those by J K Rowling, were taken out of context. Others, like Milli Hill, fighting bravely to maintain the word woman and mother within maternity care rather than ovary-owners or some other nonsensical label, were cancelled with no recompense. So the real bullies were those who silenced others, who refused to have a proper debate.

It has been a kind of madness, has it not? Where children were given puberty-blockers or had healthy breasts or penises removed because of an idea that had not been properly researched? Where was the risk assessment that these young people deserved?  As adults, parents, teachers we know that children, especially teenagers, get confused about life, about sex and about maturing into adulthood.  They needed to be heard, yes, and of course the young will always have some new ideas from which we can all benefit, but in the main we adults are there to help them work out the risks, to converse and help them see different angles of a situation before they decide on something life-changing.

We have all become jibbering idiots within this conversation, terrified of saying the wrong thing, using the wrong pronoun. We have been the victims of ideological capture where people felt they could not even advise a child that it might be better to wait a few years before taking radical and mutilating options. Of course there will be a small number of children and adults who really do feel uncomfortable and it is imperative that they are supported but their mental health needs to be explored before blockers or surgery, surely. Not just deciding that because a girl likes Thomas the Tank Engine or climbing trees that they are probably a boy.  The examples given have been horrifyingly antiquated and stereotypical.  But I fear the lobbyists may want more children and adults to trans to make themselves feel better, to normalise the situation but this is cruel to those children, teenagers or young adults who may just be going through an unhappy or confused stage of their lives. Or are captured by a trend.

As J K Rowling wrote: “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?” Or, I would add, inflict irreversible surgery and hormones on a vulnerable young person? No, surely not.

Let’s ensure that the Cass Report opens up the debate at last so that people can speak openly about a problem that is impacting countless people’s lives and freedom of speech. Let’s make sure that the medical profession does not again steam headlong into action before proper research has been carried out and let’s make sure that any person, young or old, who is questioning their gender is given all the information available before they go ahead.

Let’s wake up from this groupthink and make this a turning point where the adults, experts, doctors, teachers, HR professionals and politicians walk right back into the room and start protecting young people by speaking factually and honestly.


6 Responses

  1. Amen Helen!!
    One of my friends even said they are now allowing them to identify as a ‘thing’ – and this person has chosen to be a ‘cat’!
    HELP!! Where do we all go with this?

    Loving your book, half way through,
    Joyous spring celebrations,
    Vanda xxxx

  2. Very well put. It’s hard, even impossible, for any sane individual to disagree with anything you say. We should all challenge the doctors and other professionals we come across to justify what they are doing and, as you say, walk back into reality. Will they do so? Probably only slowly and quietly, hoping that no one noticed their inanities in the first place.

  3. This is a sensitive subject and has been with us for centuries. Discussion recently has not been helped by the aggressive and delusional nature of the Trans lobby which is new. It has not been helped by the curricular module espoused in “Personal, Social, Health and Economics” lessons which is taught in schools. There is a real and actual danger that some of this material is put over in a didactic rigid manner rather than in an atmosphere of free discussion. At least that was the experience of one of my grandchildren.

  4. Spot on Helen as usual. I believe a little light and common sense is creeping into the most recent conversation.
    J. K. Rowling speaks so much sense and I suspect many agree with her but are wary of saying too much. In a country that prides itself on allowing freedom to discuss various matters that is so sad.
    I enjoyed climbing trees as a child. The view was wonderful and I happily built dens in the woods. My daughter loved to wear dungarees like her brother and played with cars sometimes, but we never doubted we were female. But nobody put odd ideas into our heads.

  5. Phew, Helen… well said, and absolutely: nuance; time to be listened to; time to reflect; the value of helping a young person to understand that there may be no clear one answer – most things are complex; the value of exploring slowly with a young person and not making quick decisions; the value of adults not being scared to hold up and on to wisdom gained from living through teenage years and beyond, for standing up for what they have learned. Let’s hope, as Tony Herbert says, that the medical and other professions, the man, woman, transgender person or anyone else in the street can walk safely back into a kinder, generous, more understanding reality.

  6. Very well said Helen. I think at last common sense is making a comeback in dealing with all this nonsense.
    It only takes a few courageous individuals to speak out for others to follow.

    Let’s follow !

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