Social Theorist and Philosopher

How the Tavistock came tumbling down

Photograph by Mike Peel (

Here’s to the parents, whistleblowers and detransitioners who led the charge against this dangerous clinic

The conditions that have led to the closure of the Tavistock and its Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) in the UK were created in large part by a preceding grassroots movement. The movement is comprised of dissenting parents, detransitioners, academics, medical professionals, Tavistock whistleblowers and gender-critical feminists. Their warnings culminated in the interim report by paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass, which found that the Tavistock’s model of care was ‘not safe’ for children. Staff at the clinic were found to be ‘under pressure to adopt an unquestioning affirmative approach’ to children’s expressions of transgender identity, leading them to prescribe young children with potentially dangerous puberty-blocking drugs and teens with cross-sex hormones, often after very few consultations. At the beginning, many people were terrified of speaking out publicly against the tyranny of trans ideology, but over the years more and more people have found courage in numbers.

In 2018, a group of parents presented Paul Jenkins, the chief executive of the Tavistock, with a document detailing their concerns about ideologically captured staff, social contagion and the involvement in the clinic of the trans charity Mermaids. Their hopes for change were dashed. It was easy for the Tavistock at that time – only four years ago, although it feels like a lifetime – to treat concerned parents as reactionary bigots, or as dinosaurs unaware of the latest ideas in postmodern social justice. The parents have carried on fighting the good fight nevertheless, even though for some of them it is too late for their own offspring to be rescued from the gender cult – and, in some cases, from the surgeon’s knife.

By 2020, a judicial review of the GIDS was brought by ex-GIDS psychiatric nurse Susan Evans and detransitioner Keira Bell. The review delivered the first substantive blow to the ideological walls of the citadel. Now Cass has delivered the fatal blow – first with her interim report in February, and then last week with her letter outlining a new approach to gender-identity services, which became the prompt for the NHS to shut the Tavistock down.

Although it was later overturned by the Court of Appeal on a legal technicality, the judicial review brought by Bell and Evans exposed the arrogant self-confidence of an NHS service that had over-reached. It showed that, in the GIDS’s view, a child as young as 10 can be capable of giving meaningful consent to undergo experimental treatment that has long-term consequences, including a likely future of infertility and the lack of adult sexual pleasure.

Although Mermaids has often been considered the most malign influence on the GIDS, an equally important lobby group is Gendered Intelligence. Gendered Intelligence is wedded to queer theory and has been at the heart of the GIDS’s ‘affirmative’ model for some years. Its director, Jay Stewart, who claims to have been ‘assigned female at birth’ but lives as a man, is particularly partial to the rantings of Judith Butler. Stewart was specifically invited in 2018 by the Journal of Child Psychotherapy to advise clinicians on best psychotherapeutic practices, despite having no psychological expertise. Medical transition, Stewart assures us, is no more life-changing than, say, having a baby and it is nothing less than a transphobic breach of children’s human rights to impede the expression of their ‘true’ transgender selves. Stewart insists that a trans identity is not a psychological or psychiatric condition and must be affirmed as inherent, inborn and given by nature.

The GIDS’s policy of affirming children’s self-declared gender identity, and its delusion that children can comprehend the future ramifications of medical intervention, was gradually drawn out into the daylight. In 2014, Bernadette Wren, the then head of psychology at the GIDS, argued that postmodern theory was an integral part of the GIDS’s therapeutic practice. Just before she retired in 2020, Wren offered a strident defence of the postmodern approach, insisting that the social-justice values of queer are integral to children’s care, seemingly overriding clinical psychology as it is conventionally understood.

Cass has said the Tavistock model is ‘not a safe or viable long-term option’ for treating gender-confused children. She advises that reformed services for children should be regionally dispersed and integrated with child and adolescent mental-health services. In doing so, she has struck a blow at the very heart of gender-identity philosophy.

Pink News, Gendered Intelligence and Mermaids have declared Cass’s recommendations a personal victory, since they address issues they had flagged up, such as long waiting lists. The directors of these groups are dissembling. In propagating the fiction of the child born in the wrong body, these lobby groups are arguably partly responsible for the burgeoning waiting lists they now decry. Children with complex personal histories, including abuse, autism and / or feeling trapped by the straitjacket of heterosexist stereotypes, have queued up at the GIDS in ever-increasing numbers, hoodwinked by the lie that changing sex is possible, and gripped by the fantasy that changing their sex will resolve their anguish and set them free.

The Cass intervention is a victory for our children, grandchildren and for future generations, as well as for parents previously helpless in the face of gender-identity insanity. The day after the GIDS citadel fell one of the parents messaged me: ‘I feel stunned this morning. It really is stunning news. Our dear children have been through so much.’ Amen to that. The Tavistock and the approach it pioneered have been detonated before our very eyes. I am left pondering whether anyone will now be held accountable for all the damage that they have done. Watch this space.

This article first appeared in Spiked Online

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