An unquestioning attitude to gender identity risks harming our most vulnerable children
‘Guidance for children and young people’s services on the inclusion of transgender including non-binary young people’ has been published by the Care Inspectorate, the body responsible for overseeing and implementing standards for care services in Scotland.
The harms and risks to children of being “looked after” by one of Scotland’s local authorities are not hard to find. Not just abuse in care but outcomes of homelessness, a lifetime of poor mental and physical health, lack of education, unemployment, early parenthood and involvement with the criminal justice system purely as a consequence of being in care are all well-established facts.
This new guidance promises yet further serious failure of children in care, abandoning protection from harm and the right to safe care in favour of an unproven and dangerous ideology.
“Best practice” is claimed to be automatic affirmation of gender identity and the “transitioning” of children of any age to live as the opposite sex, without question, or diagnosis, or any evidence of benefit.
This “best practice” is recommended despite considerable and growing evidence to the contrary, none of which is considered. Most notably, the evidence base includes the interim report of the Cass Review of NHS treatment of children with gender dysphoria. Astonishingly the guidance completely fails to refer to or consider this report which has led to the planned closure of the Tavistock gender identity clinic in London and a complete rethink of how children who are gender-questioning or dysphoric should be supported. But the Care Inspectorate seems completely oblivious or careless of evidence and has chosen to punt ideologically driven ideas instead.
The contribution of LGBT Youth Scotland, the only organisation whose involvement in the development of the guidance is acknowledged, is unmistakable. That organisation, along with Stonewall Scotland, were behind the guidance for schools on supporting transgender young people. It is their unevidenced claims about “best practice” which informs the guidance for care.
The recommended “best practices” include: encouraging all children in care to believe they have a gender identity, staff are encouraged to declare their pronouns, and to deck children’s homes with LGBT literature and iconography in order to encourage children to “come out” as the opposite sex. It also encourages staff to engage children in fundraising for LGBT Youth Scotland.
The guidance also describes single-sex bedrooms and toilets for children and young people as a “social convention” with no legal basis, and recommends that children who identify as “transgender” should be able to choose to share a bedroom based on their gender identity rather than their sex so long as other children’s rights are also taken into account. Children who object should be offered single-sex accommodation.
The guidance urges that the exceptions to the Sex Discrimination Act which allow for single-sex care and education should not be applied by care services in order to allow the inclusion of children who identify as the opposite sex.
As in the Guidance for Schools, children are referred to throughout the guidance as “young people”, which implies that the protections of childhood as a special state are unnecessary and that children are mini-adults who can make their own choices and decisions without adult protection.
In this respect the guidance wrongly claims that children in Scotland are considered to have capacity to consent to medical treatment from the age of 12. This is a misrepresentation of the law which is that a medical practitioner must make that judgement.
Children of any age cannot understand the consequences for them as adults of possible infertility, loss of sexual function, and a medical pathway to mastectomies and other life changing surgery.
Children in the care of the state are children whose choices and decisions in life are routinely denied because they are presumed not to have capacity to protect themselves from harm. They can and are routinely subject to conditions of care which do not allow them to go home, or even to have any contact with their parents or other family members, no matter whether they want to or not. They are subject to physical restraint to compel them to accept staff’s directions. They are often left without full-time education and left to spend their days aimlessly.
Self-harm is common, without medical treatment being sought or provided. Waiting lists for adolescent mental health services are years-long if they are even on them. They are routinely not brought to or told of their right to attend their own hearings. Like other children under-18, they cannot legally chose to smoke or drink or to have a tattoo.
But these children in state care may also be subject to conditions on care orders which take all choice away from them about where and with whom they live or have contact with.
Yet the Care Inspectorate is asking us to support their right to choose to consent to a major change in their identity and to embark on a risky and irreversible social, sexual and medical pathway without any evidence of benefit.
The Care Inspectorate seems to be unaware or carelessly arrogant about the well-publicised serious professional and public concerns about this issue.
By choosing to promote untested ideology over evidence without even considering the concerns, the Care Inspectorate are enforcing a dangerous culture of silencing and bad practice which will harm children in care.
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