First, a definition: the word ‘stonewall’ as a verb means to delay or obstruct someone or something by refusing to answer questions or by being evasive.
Second, a very brief history lesson: the Stonewall riots were a series of violent confrontations in 1969 between the police and patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York. As a result of this and subsequent campaigns, homosexual relations between consenting adults in private were decriminalised, among other necessary reforms, for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and so-called trans people (LGBT). Stonewall, officially called Stonewall Equality Limited, is now a large and vocal LGBT rights organisation.
I shall come back to these matters shortly.
In the meantime, let us turn to a clinic in London run by the National Health Service (NHS) called the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS). Implied in this name is the notion that the sense of whether one is male or female is something that undergoes development and that some people suffer from a disturbance in this process for which they may need treatment.
GIDS has produced a sixty-one page document, last revised in December 2019, to explain the terms of their NHS Standard Contract for Gender Identity Development Service for Children and Adolescents. It tells us on page 1 that:
This specification sets out the deliverables [sic] for a highly specialised service for Gender Identity Development (GID) for children and adolescents up to their 18th birthday and is for individuals who need support around their gender identity.
So far, so good – or is it? We learn further that the purpose of this service for their clients, as they call them, is:
To help reduce the distressing feelings of a mismatch between their natal (assigned) sex and their gender identity.
Then it gets a bit complicated, not to say repetitive:
The service will recognise a wide diversity in sexual and gender identities. It will be delivered through a highly specialist multidisciplinary team with contributions from specialist social workers, family therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, paediatric and adolescent endocrinologists, and clinical nurse practitioners. (Note the plurals.)
Next, we are helpfully given some definitions:
Gender identity refers to an individual’s subjective sense of being male, female, both, neither, or something else.
Gender dysphoria describes the distress that is caused by a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and that person’s sex classified at birth…Assigned sex is classified at birth based on the appearance of the genitals. (Emphasis added.)
The term transgender is used where a person’s gender identity is different to their sex assigned at birth.
It’s understandable, just about, to talk of a person’s sex classified (as male or female) at birth but it’s over-egging the pudding to say ‘assigned sex classified at birth’. Do they think sex is assigned or is it classified? In either case, the sex of a person at birth is not based on the appearance of the genitals; it’s defined by the appearance of the genitals because in the vast majority this corresponds to the biological sex. In other words, we should say the sex of a baby is recognised as male of female – not that it’s classified, assigned, allocated, labelled, etc., which is merely confusing.
By quibbling over the definition of what it means biologically to be male or female the likes of GIDS and Stonewall are seeking to create an artificial and pointless distinction. Their purpose, however, seems to be to promote a political agenda to demand acceptance of a fantasy: that your gender is what you say it is. This is now getting quite out of hand. For example, in a guideline paper on routine antenatal care in The British Medical Journal (6 November 2021), it says: ‘We use the terms “woman” or “mother” throughout, but the guidance should be taken to include people who do not identify as women but who are pregnant.’
They then go on to say:
Some children experience anxiety and other forms of distress associated with the difference or incongruence between their assigned sex classified at birth and the gender characteristics and behaviours they identify with. In addition, some may strongly dislike the physical sex characteristics of their biological sex.
Let’s rewrite this in plain English: Some boys and girls are unhappy because they are not girls or boys, respectively; and some boys and girls dislike their genitals and the absence or presence of breasts, respectively.
Then we have the following statement of the obvious:
Many adolescents may experience some disorientation and embarrassment with the physical changes of the body during puberty.
What are they referring to? Pimples, wet dreams, menstruation?
If someone were to believe he is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and there are not a few who do, who suffered distressing feelings resulting from a mismatch between his real identity as Joe Bloggs and his fantasy of being Jesus, we would regard that as a neurosis, delusion, or psychiatric disturbance. He would be offered treatment with psychotherapy, antipsychotic drugs, or even be admitted to a mental hospital.
What he would not be offered is surgical intervention to create the appearance of the stigmata of the crucifixion to help him convince Doubting Thomases that he really is a manifestation of the Second Coming, nor would one agree to address him as ‘Lord’ or to capitalise his pronouns. To do so, other than through sarcasm, would be collusion with a lie, and in the case of surgery, a grotesque travesty of medical treatment.
Furthermore, he would not, methinks, be referred to a organisation specially set up in the NHS called the Religious Identity Development Service (RIDS) where he would find the deliverables of a highly specialised multidisciplinary team with contributions from specialist social workers, family therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, and clinical nurse practitioners.
Preventing mental health problems
Returning to GIDS, the document repeats on page 11 that:
The aim of the service is to provide a highly specialised service for children and adolescents up to their 18th birthday who are experiencing features of gender dysphoria or need support to explore their gender identity.
(They do bang on about their service being not just specialised, but highly (!) specialised.)
The above quotation assumes that if someone suffers from unhappiness due to a perceived discrepancy between their actual sex as male or female and a fantasy that they are or ought to be members of the opposite sex, they will need support to explore it. How about the confused young person being helped to explore the causes of their confusion in order to resolve or come to terms with them?
In most, if not all, cases these feelings don’t arise in a vacuum. It’s likely they originate from conflicts or trauma experienced earlier in their lives, and that these young people’s unhappiness is projected onto the fantasy that they’re in the ‘wrong’ body.
It’s understandable that this happens, especially today when gender dysphoria is a popular idea and may enable a sense of rebelliousness so common in adolescents to be expressed in a way that is now more acceptable due to the antics of organisations like the well-named Stonewall. But what efforts, if any, are made to help the clients understand the roots of their problems?
By the very act of referral to GIDS there is an implication that clients will be treated accordingly. Otherwise, I should like to know, in what proportion of people referred to GIDS is it determined either that they do not have the capacity to make an informed choice for treatment with a puberty blocker (see below), or who are judged unsuitable to be set on the path to change their outward appearance to approximate to that of the opposite sex? I addressed these questions to the Freedom of Information Team at GIDS, only to be told they do not hold data on these matters.
The statement of the aims of GIDS continues by saying that for those who ‘need support to explore their gender identity’ the service will:
Foster recognition and non-judgemental acceptance of diversity in gender identities and gender expression…and offer options for physical interventions as appropriate, and work to prevent further mental health problems such as anxiety, low mood, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. (Slightly paraphrased.)
The physical intervention to be considered first is experimental, with what is called a puberty blocker. This is a synthetic hormone that can delay normal puberty to ‘buy time’ for the confused young person to make up his or her mind about whether, and if so, how far, to proceed with ‘transitioning’. As I have mentioned previously in a post about the sad case of Keira Bell, puberty is not something that can with impunity be turned off and on like a light switch.
This seems to be recognized since they point out:
Although GIDS advises this is a physically reversible treatment if stopped, it is not known what the psychological effects may be.
Safety concerns remain regarding the impact of physical interventions. Although puberty suppression, cross-sex hormones and gender affirming surgeries are generally considered safe treatments in the short term, the long-term effects regarding bone health and cardiovascular risks are still unknown.
Other medical resources I consulted warn:
Little is known about the long-term side effects of hormone or puberty blockers in children with gender dysphoria.
It’s also not known whether hormone blockers affect the development of the teenage brain or children’s bones. Side effects may also include hot flushes, fatigue and mood alterations.
The physical interventions proposed by GIDS may be taken to an extreme:
The Paediatric Endocrine Liaison Team will provide information on fertility options to the client’s GP who can make a referral to licensed NHS fertility specialists for advice including gamete retrieval. (Paraphrased and emphasis added.)
This means that in young people contemplating treatment with puberty blockers and who, if they then go on to take cross-sex hormones, are as a result very likely to end up infertile, their future child-producing ability might be preserved by obtaining their ova or sperm to be kept frozen for possible future use in in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
The ‘trans’ debate
What does the neologism ‘trans’ mean in the context of sex and gender? It means thinking of one’s gender in a way that is discordant with one’s biological sex.
This has led some people to question whether trans women or men are ‘real’ women or men, respectively, where the word ‘real’ refers to a person’s biological sex. Furthermore, those who assert that trans women or men are not real women or men, respectively, may be accused of the crime of being ‘transphobic’.
The suffix ‘phobic’ is from the Greek phobos, meaning fear, aversion, or hatred, especially if morbid and irrational. Thus, to call someone transphobic is to use the wrong word. If I state, as I do, for example, that a trans man is not a real or biological man, this has nothing to do with fear of hatred of such a person. Similarly, if a woman wishes to think of herself as a man, affect male mannerisms, undergo hormonal manipulation to acquire a deeper voice and a beard, and submit to surgery to remove her breasts, provided she is at least 18 and can make an informed choice in these matters, then good luck to her.
This is nothing to do with lack of respect for people who think of themselves in a way discordant to their biological sex. I believe everyone, regardless of gender identification, should be treated with respect, and the original Stonewall uprising was a necessary and overdue reaction against repressive views and legislation criminalising homosexual behaviour. These aims are now largely achieved, but Stonewall has gone beyond its remit to criticise, attack, and ostracize those who dare to speak the truth, as in the case of the philosopher Kathleen Stock who was hounded out of her post at Sussex University for saying that the idea that trans women are women is a fiction.
For Stonewall to say that statements of the above kind deny people’s chosen gender identity is nonsense. People are free to say their gender identity is whatever they wish it to be, but they cannot assert their biological reality out of existence.
It’s time for Stonewall to stop stonewalling.
Text © Gabriel Symonds