Responding to Trans Questions
At a pastors’ breakfast this morning the hot topic issue of transgender came up in conversation. This wasn’t a subject that would have been raised a few years ago but is now something we are all having to think about and deal with. Trans is a difficult subject: it is such a complicated mix of biology, psychology, culture and politics. There are so many potential landmines to stand on – who wants to be subject to a social media firestorm for stepping on the wrong side of the politically correct line? Or to say something to a trans person that might cause hurt? Or to face penalties in the workplace (or courts) for using the ‘wrong’ pronouns?
Yet at the same time it is essential that those who have questions about the current narrative (and I think most people have questions) don’t just clam up and refuse to engage for fear of what that might mean. Thankfully there is an ever growing number of helpful resources and information on trans which can help us raise the right questions and engage in a positive way.
Here’s a quick summary:
From a clinical perspective
The Pediatric and Adolescent Gender Dysphoria Working Group is ‘an international group of psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, researchers, and psychoanalysts that have a special interest in the treatment of GD in children, adolescents, and young people.’ Their website carries in-depth, evidence based, articles on current trends and research. It is well worth looking at.
On the issue of whether sex is binary and essential or fluid and assigned there is very a helpful overview available from Psychology Today. And this post from NHS psychiatrist Dave Curtis is authoritative. Curtis says this,
For all useful intents and purposes sex can be regarded as binary. Scientists understand that the term “spectrum” refers to something which changes quantitatively and smoothly in one dimension so that any value on the range is equally possible. With sex, there are only two categories, male and female, and even if we want to take account of disorders of sexual development we cannot say that this produces anything like a spectrum. It would be a bit like saying that because some people can have nine fingers and others eleven, the number of fingers is a spectrum. Except that at least with number of fingers we are talking about a quantitative measure whereas with sex we are talking about two different categories.
From a child welfare perspective
The incredible increase in the numbers of young people being referred for treatment at the Gender Identity Development Services (GIDS) at the Tavistock Clinic is raising many concerns. Susan Evans, who previously worked at the Tavistock, has been pursuing a legal case ‘to protect children from experimental medical treatment.’ Details of this can be found here. Evans’ concern is that children are being given treatments that will have lifechanging impact at an age when they are incapable of understanding the implications and consequences. As reported in the media this week, Evans’ place in this case has now been taken by Keira Bell. Bell transitioned as a teenager but now regrets this, saying,
‘I do not believe that children and young people can consent to the use of powerful and experimental hormone drugs like I did.’ Labelling the current system ‘inadequate’, she continued: ‘Hormone-changing drugs and surgery does not work for everyone and it certainly should not be offered to someone under 18 when they are emotionally and mentally vulnerable. The treatment urgently needs to change so that it does not put young people, like me, on a torturous and unnecessary path that is permanent and life-changing.’
A very practical issue that many parents will be dealing with is the trend for schools to remove single-sex toilets, replacing them with ‘gender neutral’ ones. This can have a distressing impact on pupils, especially girls. Transgender Trend (‘an organisation of parents, professionals and academics based in the UK who are concerned about the current trend to diagnose children as transgender’) have put together a fascinating survey of newspaper reports from the past six years ‘to see how this change has gone down with pupils and parents in schools where it has been implemented across the country.’ Their conclusion is clear: ‘gender neutral toilets aren’t working in schools.’
From a political perspective
The Scottish government recently announced plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act. The proposed changes would codify self-declaration of ‘gender identity’ as the legal basis for a person’s sex. Transgender Trend comments on this,
Codifying this ideological belief into law would undermine freedom of thought and speech for all people who do not believe that being a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, is defined by subjective inner feelings and not the objective reality of biological sex. This is already happening. A UK employment tribunal judge this week ruled that the belief that biological sex is immutable is “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”… Essentially the law would validate the ‘affirmation’ approach towards children and young people: a teenager would be able to gain legal affirmation as the opposite sex. The law would consolidate an adolescent’s belief that their gender identity is their true sex, an idea which teenagers are learning online and through teaching materials in the classroom produced or promoted by transgender lobby groups.
If this change goes ahead in Scotland it becomes more likely the rest of the UK will follow suit, so it is an important issue to engage MPs on.
This moving and informative response to the Scottish Government proposal by a Scottish detransitioner presents a strong case as to why the proposals are ill-founded and need to be reconsidered.
It is worth pointing out that I am not aware of any of the individuals referenced above having Christian faith, and the groups quoted are clearly non-religious. There are very significant theological questions surrounding trans – questions with which we need to wrestle – but you don’t have to have Christian faith to question the trajectory we are currently on. Concerned parents, teachers and clinicians are all rightly questioning what is happening. Those questions need to be aired more and more loudly.