Could social transition increase persistence rates in “trans” kids?

The trend of “socially transitioning” children as young as 2 or 3 years old to endorse the notion they are “born in the wrong body” is a very new phenomenon. But to read about it in the press, you’d think this was a settled area of clinical practice, with proven results and few doubts about its efficacy.

It is no such thing.

In a 2011 journal article,  Dutch clinician-researchers who first pioneered the use of puberty blockers cautioned that early social transitions can be difficult to reverse:

 As for the clinical management in children before the age of 10, we suggest a cautious attitude towards the moment of transitioning. Given our findings that some girls, who were almost (but not even entirely) living as boys in their childhood years, experienced great trouble when they wanted to return to the female gender role, we believe that parents and caregivers should fully realize the unpredictability of their child’s psychosexual outcome. They may help the child to handle their gender variance in a supportive way, but without taking social steps long before puberty, which are hard to reverse.

Even the Endocrine Society, which actively promotes puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for pubescent children, counseled against social transition in its practice guideline:

endocrine-society

As recently as last year, a 17-clinic qualitative study reported on doubts some clinicans have about aspects of “affirmative” treatments for children:

As long as debate remains … and only limited long-term data are available, there will be no consensus on treatment. Therefore, more systematic interdisciplinary and (worldwide) multicenter research is required.

But among many clinicians and activists, social transition (which usually leads to puberty blocking and then to cross sex hormones) is now being actively promoted as completely harmless and “fully reversible.” Not only that: it is being shamelessly peddled as the only way to prevent suicide amongst children and teenagers.

What evidence do we have for these assertions? There is no historical record of desperately dysphoric “trans children” who demanded sex change lest they commit suicide.  The constant media and activist drumbeat that very young children must be socially transitioned ASAP; must be called by the correct pronouns; must have their “wrong bodies” fixed prior to the “wrong puberty”– or they will kill themselves–is the most irresponsible thing the mass media and medical profession could possibly do. It is a form of emotional blackmail which has terrorized countless parents into handing their kids over to gender clinics and activist-run “charities” for transition to the opposite sex. And the media, by running breathless stories implying that the only way to support gender-defiant and gender dysphoric children is to  “transition” them, may be contributing to suicide contagion, a phenomenon that has been well known for decades.

As far as evidence that social transition is “reversible,” which of these children is actually “reversing”? Certainly, the ones who have continued on to puberty blockers are not:

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Imagine the pressures on any of the myriad trans-kid YouTube stars, or the children who are the subjects of the too-many-to-count fawning media portrayals we see in every major newspaper and magazine. Can a Jazz Jennings really change course?

None of the children who have been identified as “truly transgender” by clinicians like Norman Spack and Johanna Olson are going to get the chance to find out if they would have been just as happy not being socially transitioned. We won’t learn in any systematic way whether social transition and media validation could be creating persistence in children who might otherwise have grown up without medical and psychiatric tampering.  We can’t know, because researchers aren’t studying them; they don’t have control groups of children who claim to be the opposite sex but who are not socially transitioned and subsequently puberty blocked.

What is a truly transgender child? According to activists and some clinicians, the key trait (along with being generally “gender nonconforming” and preferring the clothes, activities, and appearance more typical of the opposite sex) is that these children are more “persistent, consistent, and insistent” in saying they are the opposite sex (vs simply wanting to be, or wishing they were).

But what is the meaning of “persistent, consistent, and insistent” with children who have only been on the planet a short time, as are the many toddlers, preschoolers, and grade schoolers now being labeled as “trans kids”?  Especially when a rather large percentage of these children also exhibit traits of autism—a disorder known to be characterized by rigid thinking, gender nonconformity, and obsessive/restricted patterns of behaviors?

Activists don’t seem troubled by any of this, nor by the decades of research showing most dysphoric children desist and grow up to be lesbian or gay adults.

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The recent study most often cited by trans activists is one by Kristina Olson at the University of Washington, which essentially proved that children who preferred the activities and appearance of the opposite sex weren’t just pretending; they  really meant what they said! (Why would anyone question that?)

But even Dr. Olson, whose confirmation-bias-riddled study includes no control group of non-socially transitioned children, admits that no one can know the outcome for this new generation of experimental patients. kristina-olson-does-not-know

These kids are, by any measure, guinea pigs being subjected to social engineering and then (in most cases) experimental medical procedures, the results of which won’t be known for decades. Researchers like Kristina Olson are fully aware of this, but they think it’s worth the cost of some regrets, some detransitions. Because hey–it’s science.

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A commenter on the above article aptly points out the elephant in the room:

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Fortunately, there is reliable data from other clinician-researchers which suggest a more cautious approach is still in order. We have a 2012 study by Devita Singh, which demonstrated that a very high proportion of kids—some 88%–happily desisted from a trans identification as adults.  It’s worth noting that several of these children were “persistent, insistent and consistent” in their formerly intense gender dysphoria.

Dr. Singh shared her views about early transition in a recent, unusually balanced article in The Walrus magazine:

Singh is frustrated that, despite the findings of her study and others like it, there’s now more pressure than ever for doctors and families to affirm a young child’s stated gender. She doesn’t recommend immediate affirmation and instead suggests an approach that involves neither affirming nor denying, but starting with an exploration of how very young children are feeling. Affirmation, she argues, should be a last resort.

These days there can be a high price to pay for treating gender affirmation as a last resort. Dr. Ken Zucker, a  renowned gender dysphoria expert, has approved puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for many adolescents. Nevertheless, he recognizes that children often change their minds, and takes a careful approach in his clinical practice. For this heresy, he was hounded from his position at CAMH in Toronto by trans activists hellbent on preventing any kind of therapy for dysphoric kids besides “affirmation.”

But Dr. Zucker is still actively publishing,  having co-authored several scholarly journal articles in 2016 alone, and he continues to work with families and young people in his private practice.

In an age when too many believe that children, no matter how young, should be affirmed in their gender identities with no further investigation, clinicians like Zucker are very much needed. Desistance, despite trans activist protestations to the contrary, is a real thing. It’s just not as newsworthy as the latest trans kindergartener coming out story.

This places a heavy burden on parents who aren’t sure who their children are, or who don’t accept the notion that a 5-year-old, even an insistent and strong-willed one, has a set identity in the same way adults do. The current politics leave them behind, because their stories don’t fit neatly into the binary in which trans identities are either accepted or rejected, full stop. There’s no natural political grouping for parents of desisters, because desisting isn’t an identity-politics lodestone in the way persisting is. “We’re quieter,” said Amanda of parents of kids whose gender dysphoria desists. “There are a bunch of us scattered around, and we’re not acting collectively.” As Merry put it, “I feel like sometimes there’s no middle ground. You’re either trans or you’re not, and you can’t be this kid who is just kind of exploring.”

 

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Too much trust

4thWaveNow contributor Overwhelmed is the mother of a daughter who previously identified as transgender. Her daughter is now comfortable being female even though she chooses to eschew conventionally feminine clothing and sports a short haircut.

Overwhelmed can be found on Twitter: @LavenderVerse


by Overwhelmed

Why does the public seemingly trust that gender doctors know what they are doing? Well, one of the reasons is the frequent media portrayals of trans kids. Children who have recently undergone medical transition are being presented as success stories, even though no one knows the long term consequences of gender-affirming treatments.

I came across this article on the University of California San Francisco website. It covers the transition of three children—two who have puberty blocker implants and one, a natal female named Oliver, whose treatment has included puberty blockers, testosterone, a double mastectomy with chest contouring, a hysterectomy (at 16 years old!) and plans in the near future for the first in a series of phalloplasty surgeries. The article also highlights the involvement of three gender-affirming pioneers—Dr. Ehrensaft, Dr. Rosenthal and Joel Baum—whom I will discuss a little later in this post. But first I will focus on Oliver.

Oliver’s story (which I’ve pulled from three separate articles) starts off as expected—a young child uncomfortable in dresses who likes short hair and playing baseball. When puberty started, it caused a great deal of distress. Suicide was considered. And then:

A few months before his 15th birthday, …stumbled across the word “transgender” online. He read about people who had had medical treatment to align their bodies with their gender identity – their inner sense of who they are.

“Bam, my life changed,” he says. “It lifted a major weight to find out I could do something about all this pressure I had been feeling.”

 At first Oliver’s parents, especially his father, didn’t accept that their daughter was really their son.

“It took me a bit to become a really supportive dad,” ….

For months they didn’t speak. But in the end, reading the suicide statistics for transgender teens brought him around.

“My kid’s not going to kill himself,” …. “I don’t care what he is, as long as he’s a productive person in society, and he needs all the support we can give him.”

Oliver was taken to UCSF’s Child and Adolescent Gender Center.

By age 15, Oliver… was on a dual regimen of testosterone, plus puberty blockers to keep his endogenous estrogen from competing with the male hormones.

While he had to endure a second puberty, and he’ll need to take testosterone for the rest of his life, he’s had no second thoughts about transitioning.

The summer after his sophomore year, he had “top” surgery – a double mastectomy and male chest contouring – in San Francisco. To pay for the procedure, which was not covered by insurance, he used earnings from years of showing and selling pigs at the Tuolumne County fair.

“It’s a lot of money for a 15-year-old,” he says of the $8,000 price tag. “But I appreciate it every day.”

His family’s insurance also wouldn’t cover a puberty blocker implant, so… at first chose cheaper but “gnarly” monthly shots. Later, concerned about unknown long-term effects of the blockers, and hating the painful shots, he opted for a hysterectomy at age 16 – performed by the same family doctor who had delivered him.

In June, he’ll undergo the first in a series of “bottom” surgeries to create male genitalia.

His only regret, he says, is not finding UCSF’s Gender Center sooner. “To not go through the wrong puberty, those kids are lucky,” he says. “That’s a team effort. You have to show [gender dysphoria], and parents have to catch it.”

Oliver’s story has been published in at least three media articles, likely reaching a large audience. The teen has also been influential in Oliver’s small town high school  where at least four other transgender students have since come out.

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An increasing number of children like Oliver are announcing they’re transgender, and families are looking to the experts in the field for guidance. Diane Ehrensaft, PhD, a clinical and developmental psychologist, is one of a number of pediatric gender-affirming pioneers in the San Francisco Bay area. She is Director of Mental Health and founding member of the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center. She is a well-known proponent of the gender affirmative model and has authored two books on the subject. Ehrensaft has a private practice in Oakland and serves on the Board of Directors of Gender Spectrum.

Her credentials seem impressive, but there are concerns that her stance could unnecessarily pressure parents into eventually medically transitioning their children. She’s often quoted in news reports about trans kids. Here she is in the Duluth New Tribune article from above, rationalizing the dramatic increase in trans-identifying kids seeking treatment:

“We have lifted the lid culturally,” said developmental psychologist Diane Ehrensaft, whose Oakland, Calif. practice has seen a fourfold increase in the number of gender-questioning kids in recent years. “These kids have always existed, but they kept it underground.”

She is also quoted in the UCSF article:

“When a child says, ‘I’m not the gender you think I am,’ that can be a showstopper,” says Diane Ehrensaft, PhD, the Gender Center’s director of mental heath as well as a private-practice psychologist in Oakland. “Some parents say, ‘Not on my watch. No way am I signing off on a medical intervention. When they’re 18 they can do what they want.’ I say, ‘You’re absolutely right, you’re the ones minding the shop, but let me share with you the risk factors of holding back.’”

A parent swayed by Ehrensaft’s logic may believe that, contrary to historical records,  there were always this many trans kids. This could lead parents to disregard the impacts of social contagion. And she tells parents that being cautious and holding back medical interventions until their child is 18 could lead to serious “risk factors.” Suicide seems to be implied.

Stephen Rosenthal, MD, is another pediatric gender-affirming pioneer in the San Francisco Bay area. He is a founder of the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center and currently serves as its Medical Director. He is also the program director for Pediatric Endocrinology, director of the Endocrine Clinics, and co-director of the Disorders of Sexual Development (DSD) Clinic. Additionally, Rosenthal spends time as a professor of clinical pediatrics at UCSF and conducts research. Currently, he is participating in an NIH-funded study of pediatric medical transition.

He has stated that “these kids have a very high risk of depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. Not treating is not a neutral option. He promotes early treatment—puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and sometimes surgeries—to alleviate these symptoms without any proof of long term relief.

Under his direction, the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center has grown substantially. It opened in 2010. By 2012 there were 75 patients and currently there are over 300 patients with about 10 new referrals a month. Business is booming. Clinics are being added in San Mateo and Oakland. The UCSF Gender Center network isn’t the only place in the San Francisco Bay area offering pediatric gender affirming treatment. Stanford and Kaiser Permanente provide similar services.

What could be driving all of these children to seek treatment? Well, the San Francisco Bay Area has been well-educated by Gender Spectrum, a “national advocacy group for gender expansive youth whose mission is to create a gender sensitive and inclusive environment for all children and teens.” Many schools in the area have hosted training sessions by Gender Spectrum. The goal of gender sensitivity training is to increase acceptance and decrease bullying, but it’s likely that some children get confused by the information, leading to a rise in referrals to gender clinics.gender-spectrum-logo

Joel Baum, MS, is an advocate for pediatric gender affirmation. He is the Senior Director of Professional Development and Family Services at Gender Spectrum and is the Director of Education and Advocacy for the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center. He co-wrote Schools in Transition, A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools, which I discussed in this blog post. He has spoken in schools, at conferences (mentioned in this 4thWaveNow post) and, according to this article, promotes transgender awareness on radio shows.

Per the article, it was Baum who helped Emily and her husband realize that their son was really their daughter (Kelly).

One day Emily got a call from her husband, who was in his car listening on the radio to Joel Baum, MS, the Gender Center’s director of advocacy as well as the director of education and training for the Oakland-based nonprofit Gender Spectrum. “You’ve got to turn on the radio,” he told her. “I think this is our kid.’”

Emily was horrified to learn about the high rates of harassment, school failure, and suicide among transgender youth. “I couldn’t talk about it without weeping. I kept going to all these images in our culture for transgender people, that they’re on the edge, disenfranchised,” she says. “I was thinking, ‘I can’t lose my kid. I don’t care what her gender is. I’ve got to get on the other side of those statistics.’”

Her path forward, she says, was “unconditional acceptance of my child’s truth.”

The family started regular visits to Gender Center clinics and let Kelly be their guide. She grew her hair long. In third grade, she switched her masculine birth name to a gender-neutral nickname. At age nine, she transitioned socially, becoming “she” to relatives, friends, and classmates.

Intensely private, Kelly wanted no emails to parents, no classroom announcement. Just a quiet switch in pronouns. Her elementary school administrators and teachers – faced with their first transitioning student – were “incredibly supportive,” says Emily, who sought out staff training and put Kelly in a classroom with only one student who knew her from “before”: her best friend.

Now 13, Kelly has a matchstick-sized implant under the skin near her left bicep to suppress the male hormones her body produces. She’s blossomed into a “beautiful, smart, artistic, empathetic, fun kid,” Emily says. “I’m like, ‘Whoo! I hit the jackpot.’ But it was definitely a process and a journey for our family, and our daughter, to come to understand who she was.”

Ehrensaft, Rosenthal and Baum are promoting treatment for gender dysphoric children based on unproven theories, not solid evidence. There has been a dramatic rise in trans-identifying youth, but instead of questioning why, Ehrensaft says that the increase is due to hidden trans kids coming out. Rosenthal seems to believe that pre-emptive treatment (leading children to become permanent medical patients with unknown long term side effects) is worth it to potentially avoid future depression, substance abuse and suicide. Baum doesn’t appear to consider that transgender advocacy can lead some impressionable kids to mistakenly self-diagnose as trans. Or, that it can affect how parents interpret their children, potentially leading their gender defiant kids unnecessarily down the path of transition.

And each uses suicide statistics, flawed as they are, to justify early intervention. I’ve seen many parents in news articles state that the motivation to go along with transition was to avoid suicide. Parents are scared and feel pressured. They want to keep their children alive, no matter what. They don’t feel like they have a real choice. “I can either have a live son or a dead daughter” (or the reverse) is a common saying. When parents trust the advice of gender experts, they will accept puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, mastectomies, and hysterectomies as necessary. Unfortunately, though, this approach does not guarantee a live child.

Tremendous pressure is being placed on parents to provide gender affirmative “support.” Media articles never quote these pioneers recommending what we do at 4thWaveNow—to support our children in defiance of gender. We allow our children to choose their haircuts, clothing and interests. We accept them as is, without pressuring them to conform to societal expectations. We urge caution and encourage reflection on what it means to be male or female. We consider the long term impacts of medical interventions. We don’t rush into gender affirmation via pronouns or treatments. We want to avoid suicide in our children, but realize that the underlying reasons are more complex than the trans kids media articles portray. And some of us have had success with this approach.

There is a great deal of trust being put in the experts in the field, but we need to remember that they are pioneers in the strictest sense. They are still developing new ways of thinking about and treating gender dysphoric patients. The process is not complete. Gender science is rapidly evolving and changes to treatment protocols are likely. Today’s success stories may not be tomorrow’s success stories. The trust in experts should be viewed from this perspective.

The boy who ‘lived in stealth’: Judge challenges ’emerging orthodoxy’

The following guest post by 4thWaveNow contributor Artemisia investigates a recently reported case of a 7-year-old child in the UK who was removed from the custody of his mother. The court found that the child had been essentially groomed into a transgender identity by his mother. UK charity Mermaids was banned from contact with the mother and child.

UPDATE. On 8th October 2017 Mermaids issued an official statement which was posted on Facebook. It stated, in part:Mermaids has not been served with any orders by the high court … … Following the proceedings, the mother informed us that the judge had ordered the child should have no further contact with the charity.’ This statement was later altered (without acknowledgement, but on or before 10th October). In an addition made at that time, Mermaids admitted to making ‘Facebook comments, which we acknowledge were unclear and suggest a ban’. (The charity also made at least one similar statement on its Twitter stream: see screenshot below and archived link.)


 by Artemisia

 On 21 October the Family Division of the High Court published a judgement delivered earlier that month by Mr. Justice Hayden. The case was widely reported in the press under headlines such as ‘Boy “living life entirely as a girl” removed from mother’s care by judge’ (Guardian). guardian-headline

At once the organisation Mermaids began to kick up a fuss on Twitter. Mermaids is a UK charity. Its objects are ‘to relieve the mental and emotional stress of all persons aged 19 years and under who are in any manner affected by gender identity issues, and their families, and to advance public education in the same’. Mermaids asserted that it had been involved with the family for three years, supporting the mother and child. The claim that Mermaids has had a close involvement with the case is corroborated by a passage in the judgement, extracted from a report prepared for the local authority, which states that the child’s mother was receiving ‘support from the charity Mermaids’.

Mermaids strongly disagrees with the decision to remove the child from his mother. In a series of remarkable public statements on Twitter and elsewhere, the charity and its supporters have stigmatized the judge’s decision to transfer the boy to the care of his father as ‘a huge injustice and transphobic practice’, claimed (wrongly) that ‘there is no evidence … to support [his] views’, described the judge as ‘uninformed and cold hearted’, accused him of ‘abuse’ towards the mother and child and demanded that the judgement be ‘overruled by a higher authority’.

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 This seems like very indiscreet behaviour for a charity, particularly a charity which has not denied that it was made the subject of a court order, banning it from contact with either mother or child; but discretion, it appears, is not the Mermaids way.

[Note: On 8th October 2017 Mermaids officially denied having been served an order by the court. See update above.]

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The case arrived in the High Court as a child protection case. However, it began as private legal proceedings brought in the county court by the child’s father.

The child at the centre of the case, called in the judgement ‘J’, is seven years old. His parents separated while he was still a baby. The father (‘F’ in the judgement) continued to have contact with the child until he was about three or four, when there was a breakdown in the access arrangements agreed between the parents. In 2013 the father applied to the county court for a child arrangement order. He was not seeking to remove his son from the care of his mother; he just wanted to be back in contact with him.

‘M’, the mother, opposed F’s application. Among other reasons she claimed that her son was ‘gender variant’ and that F was resistant to allowing him ‘to present as a girl’. The case was heard by Her Honour Judge Penna, a specialist in family proceedings.

In April 2014 Judge Penna considered a report from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS). It recorded that F had stated that he would not have an issue with J’s being ‘gender variant’, though he did request proof that this was actually the case. CAFCASS suggested that ‘this could be provided by the support group’: presumably this was a reference to Mermaids. Regardless, CAFCASS recommended that the court proceedings should be concluded and that there should be no resumption of contact between J and his father. The stated reason for this was that ‘the animosity between the parents was likely to lead to “potential emotional harm not only to [J] but to [M] too” ’.

Mother Must Never Be Upset. This is a precept that more than one of the agencies involved in this case seem to have taken as a guiding rule.

Judge Penna did not accept the conclusions presented by CAFCASS, stating: ‘I am unable to agree that this recommendation addresses J’s welfare needs which include a need to have a rounded sense of his identity as he grows older.’

Early in 2015 Judge Penna directed the local authority to conduct a section 37 investigation. This is an investigation to determine whether the local authority should apply to the court for a care order. Evidently the reports that Judge Penna had been receiving had led her to the view that J might be at risk.

The section 37 report, dated 20 March, records that during the course of the previous two years a number of concerns relating to M’s parenting of J had been raised by a range of agencies, including the local authority housing department, two different schools and the health centre. Some of the concerns raised, but not all, were related to M’s insistence that J was ‘gender variant’ or ‘transgender’.

The child’s first school, for example, reported that M was claiming that J was being bullied because of his ‘gender variance’. She was unable to provide any names of the bullies and the staff had not seen any bullying take place. M wanted to send her son to school ‘dressed as a girl’. The school, however, found ‘that in class, [J] [didn’t] display any differences to the other boys’. M did not wish to hear this, and ‘on occasions she reduced a teacher to tears’ by  ‘her “forceful and confrontational” manner’.

There are other reports of M behaving aggressively when she is challenged.

Transgender activist Fox Fisher, a strong supporter of Mermaids, has posted an ‘open letter’ addressing J as a ‘trans girl’. Fisher says,

‘After having spent time with you and your mum on number of occasions I cannot understand how anyone could not see you as the girl that you really are. … When I met you at the age of 5, you were using female pronouns and were living happily as the girl that you are.’

I am sure Fisher is perfectly sincere and has reported the situation as it appeared. But has Fisher ever met J without his mother? Or witnessed J’s mother in one of her well-documented rages?

The section 37 report did make some acknowledgement that M could be a difficult person to have dealings with and that ‘on occasion’ she had ‘challenged professionals’. However, this was blamed on the schools and other agencies, who, it was said, ‘did not have a full understanding of gender non conforming children’. This made M feel ‘stressed’. (Mother Must Never Be Upset.)

In spite of the large number of referrals, the report concluded that ‘the concerns have not been substantiated and did not meet threshold for further intervention’: in other words, the local authority would not be applying for a care order.

At several points the report mentioned that M was receiving support from a charity. In each case this was given as a reason why there was no need for further action to be taken by the children’s services department. In one place the charity is named as Mermaids. In other places the name of the charity has been redacted.

No doubt the children’s services department is under-resourced. Probably the social workers felt off-balance and out of their depth, faced with a putatively transgender five-year-old and his articulate and sometimes very daunting mother. Still, with the best will in the world, the CEO and volunteers of Mermaids do not have the training that a social worker receives, nor could they have the overview of the case gained from multi-agency referrals. On the other side, handing J and his mother off to Mermaids meant that the department was committed to accepting without proper investigation the claim that J ‘feel[s] like a girl and want[s] to be a girl’, to use his mother’s words. Moreover, the department bestowed its authority on the ideology of transgenderism which Mermaids embraces and propagates, and in particular the highly questionable construct of the ‘transgender child’. And it led to the rather convenient assumption that whenever concerns were raised about J’s welfare, this was merely a sign that the agency involved was deficient in its ‘understanding of gender non conforming children’.

By October 2015 the court and the local authority had lost track of J. His home address was not known, he was not attending school, and M was not co-operating with the court-appointed guardian over her efforts to get in touch. In this situation, concerned for the child’s welfare, Judge Penna took the decision to transfer the case to the Family Division of the High Court, which has statutory powers that the county courts do not possess. At this point the case ceased to be a matter of private legal proceedings and became a child protection case, a matter of public law.

The case came before Mr Justice Hayden, the judge against whom Mermaids has directed so much bile.  Anthony Hayden QC was made a High Court judge in 2013. Before then he was a senior barrister, acknowledged as an expert in family and children’s law. He was one of five specialists  who contributed to a massive, ground-breaking legal handbook on Children and Same Sex Families (2012). Judge Penna was another of the contributors. The book includes a detailed section on ‘Gender Recognition’.

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The ‘transphobic’ & ‘uninformed’ judges were contributors to this book

Mr Justice Hayden wrote in the foreword: ‘A society that respects diversity, values equality and promotes fairness is a healthier one for children to grow up in and a better one for us all.’

The judges who have dealt with J’s case are among the top authorities in the country on family and children’s law as it relates to transgender people. When Mermaids and its supporters call Mr Justice Hayden ‘transphobic’ and ‘uninformed’, they show up their own ignorance and prejudice.

At the first hearing before Mr Justice Hayden, in November last year, he made what he describes as ‘a variety of highly prescriptive orders, reinforced by a Penal Notice’ (that is, a warning that any breach of the order will be a contempt of court). He discreetly declines to say what was in these orders or to whom they were directed. However, Fox Fisher, a Mermaids volunteer with inside knowledge of the case who does not, it seems, appreciate that there are some things it is better to keep quiet about, has acknowledged being subject to a gagging order. Fisher has also stated that there has been ‘a ban on Mermaids being involved with either [J or M] for many months’. Presumably, after studying the reports, Mr Justice Hayden concluded that the continued involvement of Mermaids would not be helpful.

During that hearing M told the judge that her son was living ‘in stealth’, that is, entirely as a girl. She claimed that in bringing him up as a girl she was following advice that she had received from the Tavistock Centre (which runs a gender identity clinic for children). When the court asked to see the records that the Tavistock held on her child, she tried to bar their production; when, eventually, these were obtained, they did not bear out her claim.

The next hearing was in February this year. Mr Justice Hayden makes some telling observations about M’s behaviour in court:

What struck me forcibly … was that M spoke of J only in the somewhat opaque and convoluted argot of social work and psychology. She offered an impressive, intense and highly articulate evaluation of the problems faced by children with gender dysphoria but she conveyed no sense of J’s personality, temperament or enthusiasms, notwithstanding frequently being encouraged to do so. Repeatedly she struck me as a professional witness giving evidence about somebody else’s child.

This is reminiscent of some of the signs of Munchausen syndrome by proxy (also known as factitious disorder by proxy). An attention-seeking mother gratifies her needs by faking in her child an unusual condition or disease. Typically she is well-informed about medical care and is able to discuss the child’s symptoms in considerable detail.

I am critical of the modern tendency to class every problematic behaviour pattern as a mental disorder. But the fact that this kind of pattern in a mother-child relationship is recognised and documented is a useful notice that it is by no means unheard-of for mothers to treat their children as screens on which they project whatever gratifies their needs. And I think we need to be reminded of this sometimes. The meme of the ever-loving mother is very powerful and there are strong cultural taboos on saying anything that may tend to undermine it.

After the hearing in February, the judge concluded that J ‘was at risk of significant emotional harm’. He agreed with J’s court-appointed guardian that he should be removed from M’s care. A very experienced clinical psychologist had made assessments of M and F. On the basis of her reports and his own assessment of F as a witness, the judge made an order transferring J to the care of his father.

Mr Justice Hayden has set his views out plainly:

My experience in the Family Division leaves me with little doubt that some children, as young as 4, 5, 6 years of age may identify strongly with their opposite gender. Such children can experience rejection and abuse arising from ignorance both on a personal and institutional level. … It is important that such children are listened to and their views afforded respect but, to my mind, they are ill served by premature labelling. What they require … is the opportunity to develop their identity in which ever way it evolves. J was not only deprived of that space and opportunity by his mother, he was pressed into a gender identification that had far more to do with his mother’s needs and little, if anything, to do with his own.

J’s father has undertaken to give him that space; his mother remains convinced that he is ‘a girl whose true gender identity is being repressed by F and the professionals’.

What Mr Justice Hayden says in the passage I have quoted above is simply the epitome of good sense. To the ideologues of the transgender movement, however, it is heresy. The claim that a child’s ‘gender identity’ is immutably fixed, and identified by the child at four, or three, or even two, is often made by trangenderists and their allies and facilitators. It serves an obvious political purpose, bolstering the ‘born this way’ narrative. However, I have never seen any research evidence that supports it.

Is Mr Justice Hayden aware that he is going against a cherished tenet of transgender ideology? I think he probably is – he’s clearly well-informed – and doesn’t care one bit. No good purpose is served by pandering to the promoters of unsupported and unlikely notions. There is little point, even, in undertaking a debate with them, since their arguments typically disintegrate as soon as they are closely examined. There is a great deal to be said for simply stating reason plainly, and leaving it to the other side to find rational grounds to criticise – if they can.

The judgement is highly critical of the local authority for its persistent failure to intervene in a case where, as Mr Justice Hayden says, ‘there were strong grounds for believing that a child was at risk of serious emotional harm’. He continues: ‘I propose to invite the Director of Children’s Services to undertake a thorough review of the social work response to this case.  Professional deficiencies to this extent cannot go unchecked…’ He raises as a special cause for concern the way the local authority ‘moved into wholesale acceptance that J should be regarded as a girl’, disregarding the fact that, as he states, ‘There was no independent or supportive evidence that J identified as a girl at all, indeed there was a body of material that suggested the contrary.’

He is certainly aware, at least to an extent, of the social and political pressures that have been placed on professionals as a result of the directions taken by transgender activism. He suspects (no doubt correctly) that this is part of the reason why the social workers involved with this case failed to conduct a proper assessment.  He makes it plain that he does not find that acceptable. He refers to ‘an emerging orthodoxy’ with, I think, a clear implication that it hasn’t been adequately scrutinised:

Transgender equality has received a great deal of attention in recent times.  I believe that in this case the profile and sensitivity of the matters raised by the mother blinded a number of professionals from applying their training, skills and, it has to be said, common sense.  They failed properly to investigate M’s assertions, in part I suspect, because they did not wish to appear to be challenging an emerging orthodoxy in such a high profile issue.