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It's time we stopped allowing lobby groups to drive the debate on gender

Women take part in a rally outside the Scottish Parliament | Credit: Alamy

It's time we stopped allowing lobby groups to drive the debate on gender

One day, hopefully soon, we may be able to step back and rationally explain the wide-eyed capture of so many institutions including the health service, government departments, the judiciary, and unbelievably, institutions of learning where critical analysis has been put to one side in favour of a fantasy and a well-meaning desire to be kind, only to be replaced by an ideology that trumped biological reality and helped foster such harm.

One day, we may reasonably question why charities, engulfed by a regressive gender ideology, were allowed to twist any questioning of their strategy into a fallacious argument that it was an attack on marginalised people by bigots.

One day, we may reflect on the wilful stance of politicians and policymakers to engage in any form of reasonable debate for fear of their partiality and ignorance being exposed, and their superficial understanding of the law and science revealed.

One day, we may reasonably ask why MPs and MSPs, with a mandate to serve all, were persuaded by powerful lobbyists to eschew their responsibility for the many and only speak to and for the few.

One day, we might call out the naivety of political leaders who, consumed by their own cowardice, could talk seriously about women with penises, and lesbians who are men, and when confronted with pure logic, blame the prejudice they believed baked-in to the questions of those who challenge their views.

One day, we might understand how any responsible adult could eschew the description of a paedophile and all the revulsion that should bring for the much more sanitised, Minor-Attracted Persons, or ask why ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ surgery became so glibly applied to the major surgery involved in removing or reshaping a young person’s genitals or breasts. 

One day, we might interrogate the real reasons behind such a spike in young girls, many with autism or another type of neurodiversity, along with an over-representation of children already in the care of the state, seeking help to change their sex, without it being dismissed as being narrow-minded.

One day, we may be granted leave to wonder how such a strength of uncritical opinion and group speak was so solidly recruited around a confection of nonsense. 

And one day, we may hang our heads in shame that adults facilitated children caught up in a contagion putting them on a lifelong journey of drugs and medical interventions in the name of a feeling, when what we should have done was care for them.

We may even, one day, be able to discuss all of this without fear of abuse. And we might be able to ask how on earth two groups of discriminated individuals – women and trans gender people – were pitted against each other in a culture war in which only one of those groups was being forced to give up existing rights, redefine who they were, based on another’s definition of their identity, and have their concerns about the consequences of that redefinition dismissed as ‘hateful’.

One day, we may be able to do all these things. But that day is not now.

And how cruel. How ridiculously ironic, that despite all the accusations levelled at women who raised issues about the possible harms of weakening any safeguards already in place to protect women and children against the abuses of predatory men, that the straw that finally broke the camel’s back in this toxic debate was the one thing that should never have happened.

The Scottish Government could find itself on the wrong side of history as the gender ideology that has so perfectly entranced politicians and celebrities alike comes up wanting when tested against the law, health provision and fact

That in plain sight, someone who had publicly expressed damaging views about the sexual attraction of adults to a child, should become a trustee of a major children’s charity purporting to be all about the safeguarding of vulnerable children whose anxieties about their gender and/or sexuality had led them there in the first place.

That is as unforgivable as it is unjustifiable.

Mermaids, the leading charity supporting trans children and their families, is now under investigation by the Charities Commission. But unfortunately, despite all its celebrity backing, lucrative commercial endorsement and corporate sponsorship, Mermaids has a history of discounting the safety of children.

It has been a cheerleader of the now discredited Tavistock gender identity clinic. It has always argued, despite clear scientific evidence to the contrary, that puberty-blocking drugs are perfectly harmless and entirely reversible.

And it has been hugely successful in persuading gullible politicians to repeatedly promulgate this myth from within the hallowed chambers of the House of Commons, as if that gives the lie veritas.

It has taught young children controversial lessons in gender identity at the behest of the Department for Education. And is under investigation for sending damaging breast binders to 13-year-old girls without their parents’ consent. 

And while this may all seem far removed from the hundreds of women that gathered outside the Scottish Parliament this week, in protest at the Scottish Government’s proposals to make changes to the laws around gender recognition, all of it matters because later this month, MSPs in the Scottish Parliament will debate Stage One of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill – which has already gone through a committee stage and which was basically an exercise in confirmation bias.

And while the Scottish Government will argue that the changes it proposes – which, most notably, would allow for a much wider cohort of people to self-identify as being of another sex by removing the necessity for any medical gatekeeping, and by reducing the age at which they can do that to 16 – are simply an exercise in administrative spring cleaning, that is wrong.

Laws do not operate in a vacuum. That is why the Equality and Human Rights Commission has again raised a red flag about how this legislation could butt up against the UK Equality Act to ill effect for women. 

But wider than that, while the Scottish Government strives, with good intention, to be a beacon of progressive policies that embraces the most discriminated against and envelopes the most marginalised to give them voice, it could find itself on the wrong side of history as the gender ideology that has so perfectly entranced politicians and celebrities alike comes up wanting when tested against the law, health provision and fact.

And critically, when it comes to the safeguarding of children – for which we should all be concerned.

Mermaids, like Stonewall, has had unprecedented influence across the UK in terms of driving the debate around gender ideology. Now is the time for that to stop.

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