Those people with only a superficial knowledge of the transgendering of children may think it is progressive. After all, so the story goes, some children are ‘born in the wrong body’ e.g. a boy can be born with the brain of a girl. He therefore has a deeply felt internal experience of being a girl, which does not correspond with the male sex ‘assigned’ him at birth. Children ‘born in the wrong body’ naturally desire the expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms of the other sex. According to this narrative, the sign of a civilized society is one where the transgender child is finally given ‘the right’ to be who they ‘really are’.
In Leeds, where I give this presentation, training courses which deliver this information as biological fact for the National Health Services, Prison Service and Ambulance Service are provided by TransLeeds. Those people worried about the inaccuracy of such information, or who are concerned about the practice of transgendering children, are labelled as no more than transphobic bigots.
I will sketch out how this narrative has arisen with regard to children, how detrimental the concept of internal ‘gender identity’ has been for children’s human rights, in particular the rights of girls, and what we can do about it.
Children’s Human Rights
A milestone in the history of children’s human rights was The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child which came into force in 1990. The Convention set out, for the first time, the fundamental rights of children to be universally protected without any distinction such as that of race, colour, sex, language, religion, nationality and so on. The Convention underscored childhood as a period in the human life-course entitled to special care and assistance, and for those States who have signed up to the Declaration, it has provided the context for domestic law. I note here that in 1990 the Convention does not define ‘gender identity’ as a characteristic of the child.
The Convention stipulates that States shall protect and defend children through some of the following:
- In all actions … the best interests of the child should be the primary consideration.
- Institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children should conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety and health
- Parents should be supported to carry out their own rights, responsibilities and duties so that they can provide, appropriate direction and guidance for children
- The right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health
- The right of the child to education on the basis of equal opportunity
I shall return to these rights and obligations shortly to examine whether the UK fully protects children’s rights without any discrimination on the grounds of sex now that gender re-assignment has been added as a protected characteristic.
First, we need to look at a brief history of how the concept of ‘gender identity’ came about and what its implications are.
The 1990s witnessed the development of ideas about sex and gender which are the underpinning tenets of transgender ideology, namely that binary sex — being female or male — is socially ‘assigned’, not a biological fact; in contrast gender — an individual’s inner feeling of ‘femininity’ or ‘masculinity’ — is inherent and indisputable.
In 1995, an International Bill of Gender Rights (IBGR) was formulated in the USA which enunciated 10 rights of which four are pertinent for children:
- The right for transgender people to define their own gender identities, without regard to chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role.
- The right for transgender people to control their bodies, which includes the right to change their bodies cosmetically, chemically, or surgically, so as to express a self-defined gender identity.
- The right to competent medical or other professional health care.
- The right not to be subject to involuntary psychiatric diagnosis or treatment.
The next significant moment came in 2007 when a self-appointed group of scholars/transactivists/human rights experts produced a civil society document delineating a set of legal principles, known as the Yogyakarta Principles, for the application of international law to human rights violations based on each person’s deeply felt internal and individual ‘gender identity’.
Transgender rights are defined by the Principles as politically progressive and intersectional with the rights of other oppressed or marginalized groups and that all human rights are universal, interdependent, indivisible and interrelated. With regard to the rights of children, States have an obligation to allow children and adolescents to determine their own ‘gender identity’ since this is integral to the child’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for discrimination or abuse.
It would be wrong to suggest that legislation has been created throughout the western world based on the IBGR or the Yogyakarta principles. The IBGR is not a human rights instrument, is not ratified by any States, and its legal status is no higher than a wish-list. Nevertheless, it signified a sea change in conceptualising ‘gender identity’ as a fundamental human right to be protected by law and for individuals who identify as transgender to be entitled to medical care. The Principles which came later, though not legally binding, have been understood as an authoritative interpretation of international law and provide a definitional point for bills, resolutions and other documents.
This has provided the fertile ground out of which Equality and Human Rights legislation in the UK and other European and non-European countries incorporate ‘gender identity’ as a component part of legal personhood. The presumption is that self-defined ‘gender identity’ encompasses all aspects of anti-discrimination law with regard to sex and gender.
During the same period, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and the European Professional Association for Transgender Health were created to provide unequivocally trans affirmative clinical guidance and continuing professional development courses for health professionals working with transgender people. The main UK specialised national health service clinic for gender dysphoric children and young people, the Gender Identity Development Service, originally opened in 1989. It is based within the Tavistock and Portman Hospital NHS Trust, London, and now has a satellite clinic here in Leeds.
The clinic prides itself on steering a middle-course of ‘watchful-waiting’ to evaluate whether a child will persist or desist with identifying as transgender. It is founded on the belief that ‘gender identity’ can be an inherent phenomenon and that it is progressive to recognize this, and in some cases to medically treat the child or adolescent through puberty blockers and cross sex hormones.
Freedom of information requests illustrate that continuing professional development courses for staff are provided by the trans affirmative organizations described above. A quick look at the Tavistock’s website reveals that adolescents are referred to Gendered Intelligence for emotional support and solidarity. Gendered Intelligence delivers youth programmes, professional development and trans awareness training for all sectors, as well as educational workshops for schools, colleges, Universities and other educational settings. Gendered Intelligence advises adolescents:
“How you look, how you speak, how you have sex are all aspects of you, but your identity is paramount. A woman is still a woman, even if she enjoys getting blow jobs. A man is still a man even if he likes getting penetrated vaginally”.
The Tavistock does not advise parents to seek support from the organization Mermaids, a pressure group that demands fast-track, transgender affirmative transition. However, a whistle-blower clinician states that Mermaids is deeply influential within the clinic:
“Mermaids, Gendered Intelligence. . . they all act as if it were their service. They are able to call up executive members and influence them”.
Gendered Intelligence and Mermaids have no clinical expertise or child psychology background
The alleged ‘middle-course’ of the Tavistock is deeply politically positioned and ethically compromised — a phenomenon the clinic disavows when challenged by whistle blowers. In effect it is driven by a single theoretical construct: it has at its core the issue of ‘gender identity’ defined by transgender theory and lobbying. As an endocrinologist said last week at The House of Lords:
“Physicians need to start examining Gender Affirming Therapy through the objective eye of the scientist-clinician rather than the ideological lens of the social activist”.
Reclaiming Children’s Human Rights
I return to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child and point out that since the introduction of ‘gender identity’ as an inherent characteristic “the best interests of the child” – not only those confused by gender but ALL children – have not been the primary consideration of their adult caretakers.
Firstly, with regard to the child’s “right to the enjoyment of health”, the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children have NOT conformed with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety and health and for the following reasons:
Gender medicine is the only branch of medicine which makes healthy people medical patients for life. It offers physically healthy children and young people dangerous, off-label drug treatment with life-long deleterious consequences on the basis of a child’s subjective feeling, for which there is no scientific test. There is no neuroscientific evidence for pink brains and blue brains; there are no established diagnostic criteria, laboratory imaging or other objective tests to diagnose a ‘true transgender child’.
Almost all children on puberty blockers progress to cross-sex hormones, and blockers plus cross-sex hormones inevitably lead to sterility and — the increasingly common trend — mastectomy for young women. Even short-term hormone treatment leaves irreversible effects on the bodies of young people who want to ‘transition back’.
The model of alleged ‘informed consent’ to hormone therapy is woefully inadequate since children are not developmentally competent to give full, free and informed consent to such medical interventions or to comprehend, despite the transgender narrative that feeds youthful fantasies, that when they are adults they can be transformed to the opposite sex. So called ‘gender affirmation surgery’ can only simulate sex organs, for example by excising the penis and testicles to construct an internal, insensate cavity into the male body, or by creating a prosthetic penis fashioned from flesh taken from elsewhere on the female body. The consequence of this is not only sterility, but the reduction or even complete elimination of sexual, genital sensation. The tragedy is that the vast majority of children will resolve gender dysphoria naturally during adolescence.
Gender questioning and feeling trans are influenced by a complex mix of personal pre-disposition (e.g. related to trauma in the child’s background and autism) and the larger culture of sexualization and sexual objectification of girls. Nearly 70% of referrals to the Tavistock gender clinic last year were girls. We should stop encouraging young people to believe they are trans. The children and adolescents who are allegedly ‘consenting’ have been taught about ‘gender identity’ by organizations such as Gendered Intelligence, Mermaids and Stonewall, and are influenced by the glamorisation of transgenderism on the internet and social media.
Secondly, with regard to “the rights, responsibilities and duties of parents” to safe-guard their children, ironically, parents who do not believe their child has been ‘born in the wrong body’ and immediately affirm they are transgender are often regarded by agencies as failing to safeguard their children. But adult caretaking requires — no, obliges — parents to guide their children through the psychological, maturational stages of childhood and adolescence necessary to achieve adulthood, before allowing them to take any deep, irreversible decisions about their bodies.
Thirdly, with regard to “the right of the child to education on the basis of equal opportunity”, the Department of Education promotes pressure groups like Stonewall, Mermaids and Gendered Intelligence to advise schools on best practice with regard to sex education, and ‘diversity and inclusion’ training. These organisations develop school curricula and resources that are materially inaccurate about human biology and reproduction, and which do not the challenge sex-stereo-types and in fact encourage homophobia. For example, young girls who are same sex attracted are taught they may be a boy in a girl’s body. All children are now being taught that they and their brothers, sisters and friends may have been ‘born in the wrong body’.
The rights of girls to sex segregated spaces within schools and other organisations such as Girl Guides, and rights of girls to define their own boundaries, is being set back by decades. Mermaids says that if a girl, for example, objects to a boy in her changing room it is she who has to be removed:
“So, toilets, changing rooms, sports, residential, the Equality act is unambiguous, its crystal clear… You can’t prevent anyone from using the facilities of the gender with which they identify. If someone complains, you provide an alternative for the person complaining”.
In conclusion, the transgendering of children on the basis of inherent ‘gender identity’ is an abuse of the child, not an extension of his or her rights. Inherent ‘gender identity’ has no human scientific basis and overrides simple facts. What has been of primary consideration in this alleged extension of children’s rights has not been the rights of the child but the rights of adults, but the rights attributed to men who identify as women on the basis they ARE women. The concept of being ‘born in the wrong body’ naturalises ‘gender identity’ and removes it from any stigma or psychological and sociological context. So called gender affirmative therapy is not progressive and humane but, on the contrary, binds children to traditional gender stereotypes, and medically harms them through life-changing irreversible procedures. Far from upholding boys’ and girls’ human rights to freedom of expression, to physical and psychological health, to adolescent same-sex attraction, to equality of education, and to responsible adult care and oversight, as things stand the State is overseeing an egregious breach of children’s rights as these were set out in the Convention of the Rights of The Child.
Lobby groups have fought long and hard to influence the concept of human rights for children by constructing ‘the transgender child’. We need to fight back before it is too late and the landscape of children’s rights has changed irrevocably.
Please sign the declaration and use it in any way that helps us fight against the pernicious intrusion of ‘gender identity’ and the erosion of ours and children’s sex-based rights.
 Laidlaw, M.K. (2019) First Do No Harm: The ethics of transgender healthcare. The House of Lords, May 2019. Organised by Standing for Women