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At the NHS and BBC, Important Steps Toward Restoring Balance in the Gender Debate

Written by Julian Vigo for the Quillette, Aug 5th, 2020

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‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud? Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate https://t.co/cVpZxG7gaA

— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020



In recent months, a sense has emerged that the tide might finally be starting to turn in the gender debate: Things that most everyone believes to be true, but that no one has been allowed to say, are now increasingly being said by writers, lawmakers, and litigants.

Certainly, the battle is still far from over. CNN is referring to women as “individuals with a cervix.” Last month, J.K. Rowling was trolled yet again for stating ordinary views about men and women (though thankfully, the media is no longer getting away with defaming her). And best-selling children’s author Gillian Phillip has been sacked by her publisher, Working Partners, because she added the hashtag #IStandWithJKRowling to her Twitter bio. But at least now, in mid-2020, these acts attract growing criticism. We are no longer in 2018, when the most militant gender activists could still pretend that they spoke for the entire LGBT community, with the “debate,” such as it then was, consisting mostly of endless mobbing campaigns against so-called “TERFs.”


One reason it has taken time to bring common sense back to the debate is that much of the media, and many NGOs, became deeply vested in gender ideology during the early and mid-2010s, at a time when most ordinary people simply weren’t paying much attention, or believed that the phenomenon was confined to academia. Websites such as Pink News relentlessly vilified anyone who suggested that biology had any role to play in determining who was a man and who was a woman. The American Civil Liberties Union turned its social-media feeds into an endless stream of trans-rights slogans and hand-clap emojis. Venerable groups such as Stonewall UK put their brand behind the most uncompromising demands of gender ideologues. A group called Mermaids demanded that aggressive transition therapies be provided to children who exhibited signs of dysphoria. All of this was done under cover of sunny, family-friendly PR campaigns that presented transition as a gateway to happiness.


Meanwhile, feminist critics of gender ideology often were isolated, marginalized, and dismissed as cranks. As early as 2012, sociologist Julia Long has noted, a feminist conference organized by radical feminists in London was cancelled due to the speakers’ allegedly “exclusionary” stance. And in time, scenes such as this convinced gender activists that they could harness the power of social media to mob “gender-critical” women at will—as with the call to sack Radio 4’s Jenni Murray, co-host of Woman’s Hour, after Murray penned a Sunday Times op-ed in support of Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who’d noted that many self-described trans women grew up with all of the privileges associated with being male.


That’s why it’s significant that the website of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS)—the umbrella group for the country’s publicly-funded healthcare systems—has removed the prominent, once-numerous references to Mermaids from its online materials. Mermaids is a charity that has long identified its constituency as “transgender children” and their parents, but which long ago focused on pushing for the most rapid possible transition of the highest possible number of children, with the fewest number of safeguards. As the notorious case of a seven-year-old boy who was removed from his mother’s care shows, there really seems to be no line the group won’t cross in this regard. (One particularly memorable Mermaids moment came when the organization promoted an article on transgender children supposedly written by two academics named Natacha Kennedy and Mark Hellen. It later turned out to have been written by a single person, who, bizarrely, then appeared under two different names on the Goldsmiths University of London website—one male, the other female, naturally.)

Look for any mention of Mermaids today on the NHS site, and you’re likely to find the pages are gone. The BBC, too, seems to have wiped away references to Mermaids from its list of “Gender Identity” “Information and Support” resources, which listed Mermaids prominently until last month. This has unfolded during the same period when the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation, which provides mental-health services to children, is facing a lawsuit from a former patient who says she was rushed into an aggressive, and ultimately destructive, program of hormone therapy. A former psychiatric nurse at Tavistock is making related legal claims, alleging the provision of drugs to children as young as nine. Numerous clinicians have resigned in protest at such policies. And it may be the case that lawyers at the BBC and NHS are simply seeking to protect their clients from legal exposure.

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