Has the UK become a police state? (And has Twitter become its informant?)

Inga Berenson is the mom of a teen girl who previously identified as transgender but has now desisted. She lives with her family in the United States.


By Inga Berenson

Freedom of speech took another big hit in the United Kingdom last month. In response to a complaint filed by Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids, the Yorkshire police interrogated Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull because of some tweets she posted in 2016 and 2017. Known on Twitter as ThePosieParker, Ms. Keen-Minshull is a stay-at-home wife and mother of four.

Mermaids is a nonprofit organization based in the UK. According to its website, Mermaids “supports children and young people up to 20 years old who are gender diverse, and their families, and professionals involved in their care.”

The offending words

According to Ms. Keen-Minshull’s account, Ms. Green objected to a tweet stating that “the CEO of Mermaids took her 16-year-old to Thailand and got him castrated.”

For this tweet and others criticizing Mermaids for promoting pediatric transition, Ms. Keen-Minshull was “interviewed under caution” for 40 minutes on February 23, 2018. She now awaits the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision on whether she will be charged. According to Ms. Keen-Minshull, the potential charges against her are “nuisance, public order, malicious communications compounded with a potential hate crime.”

On the crowd-funder site she has set up to raise funds for her legal defense, Ms. Keen-Minshull writes, “This fight is not whether you agree with my views on [the] transgender issue as much as it is that you agree that I have a right to air my views, a right to voice an opinion, a right to free speech.”

Without question, Ms. Keen-Minshull’s tweets were strongly worded, but were they untrue?

Unmasking euphemisms

It is not disputed that eight years ago Ms. Green took her 16-year-old child to Thailand to receive gender reassignment surgery, which was and still is illegal for minors in the UK and is now illegal in Thailand. (In fact, the legal age for SRS was raised to 18 not long after the Greens went there for the surgery.)

In a 2012 BBC 3 documentary, Ms. Green confirmed that her child underwent full GRS in Thailand. The narrator [4:15] states that Ms. Green’s child was “the youngest person in the world to change gender through surgery.”

It must indeed have been painful for Ms. Green to see a tweet in which someone says she had her child castrated, but the statement is not untrue. In fact, this type of surgery involves far more than castration, which refers only to the removal of the testicles in natal males. But Ms. Keen-Minshull used the word “castrated” to make an important point: GRS is a euphemism that conceals the drastic nature of this medical intervention.

And if it seems unfair that Ms. Keen-Minshull singles out Ms. Green, we must remember that she is not merely a mother who did what she believed to be right for her child. As CEO of Mermaids, she is an advocate for the use of these interventions in other people’s children. Mermaids has provided training and education to various UK government agencies, including schools and (interestingly) the UK police force. Mermaids representatives regularly attend Pride parades and other events to reach out to gender-nonconforming children and teens to inform them about transition. Ms. Green cannot reasonably expect that others won’t point out the full reality of these interventions if she is promoting them for other children.

Ms. Keen-Minshull also came under fire for a tweet that said Mermaids “prey[s] on homosexual teens,” alluding to the organization’s efforts to reach out to gender nonconforming and gender dysphoric children, many of whom (many decades of research have shown) grow up to be gay or lesbian.

The 4thWaveNow website has previously featured articles about Mermaids and its influence on UK policymaking, as well as their efforts to circumvent parents and appeal directly to children and teens.

Although our website hosts authors from both North America and the UK,  4thWaveNow is based in the United States, which protects the freedom of speech via the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution. If that were not the case, we too might have been interrogated by the police, because Ms. Green’s complaint (which we have seen but are not at liberty to share at this time) also cited a tweet we issued in the summer of 2017:

mermaids candy and puppiesWe decided to raise this question in our tweet,  after seeing this one posted by Mermaids a few weeks earlier:

mermaids unsupportive parents

As parents of current or formerly trans-identified teens, we are concerned that Mermaids is trying to influence teens whose parents do not share the organization’s definition of “unsupportive.” (In fact, as parents who try to help our kids find ways to feel comfortable in their natural bodies – at least until they are adults, we are being supportive.) And the fact that Mermaids feels empowered to publicly state its intention to influence teens like ours is all the more troubling.

We and Ms. Keen-Minshull are far from alone in believing that Mermaids oversteps appropriate boundaries in advocating for transgender services for children. In October 2016, a court removed a seven-year-old child from his mother’s custody because she was found to have essentially groomed her child into a transgender identity. The mother had been receiving support from Mermaids. The court reportedly ordered the child should have no further contact with the charity. (See “The boy who ‘lived in stealth’: Judge challenges ‘emerging orthodoxy.’”)

Twitter’s role in the interrogation of Ms. Keen-Minshull

Although it’s troubling enough to think that a supposed democratic Western nation would interrogate someone for expressing her opinion, it’s even more troubling to hear that a US-based company revealed the person’s identity to the government. According to Ms. Keen-Minshull, the police informed her that they had obtained her contact information from Twitter.

This is not the first time that Twitter has shown its bias in the battle between adherents of gender ideology and those who see dangers in it. Gender-critical individuals have had their Twitter accounts suspended for merely stating that “transwomen are men” while adherents of gender ideology regularly direct misogynistic language like “cunt” or “Kill All TERFs” at people who disagree with them.

It turns out that individuals associated with Mermaids are also guilty of mud-slinging on Twitter. “Helen” (@Mimmymum), who has frequently stated she is a member of Mermaids, regularly brandishes the word “bigot” at those who don’t share her opinions. In a tweet referring to Dr. Ray Blanchard, an American-Canadian sexologist, best known for his research studies on transsexualism and sexual orientation, she writes:

mimmymum blanchardBoth sides of this debate are exercising their democratic right to express their opinions and their concerns about public policy, but it appears that both the UK police and Twitter have chosen to respect the rights of the one while disregarding the rights of the other.

Uncomfortable truths

Ms. Green and her organization suggest that those who oppose the transitioning of minors are motivated by bigotry and hate. They refuse to acknowledge that this opposition could stem from genuine concern for the welfare of children and outrage that organizations like hers promote transition so eagerly and misrepresent the realities of it.

In a segment on BBC Newsnight in November 2016, Stephanie Davies-Arai, founder of the organization Transgender Trend, said that “the treatment pathway [for treating trans-identified children is] … cross-sex hormones…. It leads to children being sterilized and on medication for life.” When the interviewer asked Ms. Green if this were correct, she answered, “Well, no,” then changed the subject. (See “Should Mermaids be permitted to influence UK public policy on ‘trans kids’?”)

Yet this statement is correct, and it’s acknowledged to be so by clinicians who promote and administer these treatments. While the word “castration” may be jarring, Ms. Keen-Minshull used it because it exposed the reality that activists like Ms. Green would evidently rather conceal.

Ms. Keen-Minshull believes strongly, as do we at 4thWaveNow, that drastic interventions like these deserve public scrutiny. To be able to express our concerns about these interventions, we must be able to name them. If people no longer have the right to speak uncomfortable truths because others may find them offensive, a democratic society is no longer possible.

Advertisements

Should Mermaids be permitted to influence UK public policy on ‘trans kids’?

by Artemisia

Mermaids is a UK charity. Its aims 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’.

The organisation began a number of years ago as a support group for parents, and it still maintains an online forum. It also undertakes casework, training, advocacy and political campaigning.

In interviews with the press, its Chief Executive Officer, Susie Green, has described her experiences as the perplexed mother of a small boy who was drawn to ‘girly dresses and dolls’ rather than ‘’trucks and football’. When Jackie was nine, permission was obtained for him to wear girls’ clothes to school.

At twelve, his mother took him to the United States for a consultation with Dr Norman Spack, an endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr Spack prescribed a puberty-blocking hormone, a treatment that at that time was banned in Britain for any child younger than sixteen.

Later, when Jackie was thirteen, Spack put him on estrogen: again, a highly controversial approach. Current policy in the NHS prohibits the prescription of cross-sex hormones to children younger than about 16.

In recent years, under Susie Green’s leadership, Mermaids has pressed insistently, disregarding the concerns of clinicians, for cross-sex hormones to be prescribed to younger children.

For Jackie’s sixteenth birthday, he was flown to Thailand where he underwent a seven-hour operation to fashion a pseudo-vagina. This would not be legal nowadays; soon after Jackie’s operation new regulations were imposed by the Thai Medical Council, restricting ‘sex change operations’ to patients over the age of eighteen. Furthermore, since 2009, young adults aged 18-20 must now obtain parental permission to undergo sex change procedures in Thailand. As can also be seen in this excerpt from a 2009 Telegraph article discussing tightened restrictions, a Thai gay rights activist drew attention to the phenomenon of post-SRS regret experienced by some patients.

In England under the NHS, irreversible gender-related surgery is only available to patients eighteen and older. This is in accordance with international standards of care.

Mrs Green has promoted Mermaids energetically. As CEO, and before that, Chair, she has been regularly quoted and interviewed in the media. In recent years she has been an invited speaker at various forums and conferences. Convenors have included the Westminster Social Policy Forum and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

In 2015, Mrs Green was selected to give evidence in person to the inquiry into Transgender Equality conducted by the Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons. Mermaids also submitted a written statement. Later in this post I shall have more to say about that.

In a previous post I discussed an episode in which local authority social workers handed over to Mermaids the effective management of a child welfare case. This did not end well. Ultimately the High Court ordered that the child be removed from his mother. The charity was excluded from further contact.

Mermaids also offers training to professionals:

With this in view, it is reasonable to enquire into Mrs Green’s qualifications for the kinds of activity she and her organisation undertake. Under ‘Education’ on her LinkedIn page there is only one institution listed: ‘prince2 academy’.

PRINCE2 is an acronym for PRojects IN Controlled Environment and as its name suggests, it is a project management system. The PRINCE2 Academy appears to be a set of courses delivering online training in the PRINCE2 method. It is not clear if Mrs Green is a registered PRINCE2 practitioner or whether she has simply taken the foundation course. But that is not particularly important.

Project delivery is about process. Training, advocacy, an advisory role with respect to public policy: these are primarily about content. Delivery of accurate information is key, accompanied with well-informed insight, perceptive analysis.

Let’s look at how Mermaids measures up.

Mermaids submitted erroneous evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee

 The following passage is taken from the written evidence submitted by Mermaids to the Transgender Equality Inquiry conducted by the Women and Equalities Committee in 2015.

Mermaids frequently quote the Equality Act, primarily to schools unwilling to accommodate trans children. Antithetically, a young person of 16 wanted their name changing at school but their parents did not consent to this. Although the Equality and Human Rights Committee found the schools refusal to comply was discriminatory, they could not proceed with action against the school as the young person was under 18.

[Recommendation]: Lower or remove the age the Commission could pursue a young person’s complaint without parental consent.

This passage was quoted in the Committee’s report, which duly recommended:

The Equality and Human Rights Commission must be able to investigate complaints of discrimination raised by children and adolescents without the requirement to have their parents’ consent. [See pp. 27, 74, 81]

Following which the Government Equalities Office looked into the matter. Here is the Government response:

No such restriction exists on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC’s) power to investigate complaints of discrimination, and we are not aware of any legal basis for the statement in Mermaids’ written evidence to the Committee that “a young person of 16 wanted their name changing at school but their parents did not consent to this. Although the Equality and Human Rights Committee [sic] found the schools [sic] refusal to comply was discriminatory, they could not proceed with action against the school as the young person was under 18.” The Committee may wish to note that, in order to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, the Equality Advisory and Support Service may pass an individual’s details to the EHRC only with the explicit consent of the individual. The case referred to in Mermaids’ written evidence was not referred to the EHRC. EHRC staff have met with Mermaids recently to clarify how the referrals process operates. [p. 13]

Rather snarky, it seems to me, but civil servants don’t like having their time wasted.

So: for whatever reason, Mermaids included a claim without foundation in its submission to the Transgender Equality Inquiry. The Committee trusted the organisation to know what it was talking about — and found itself with egg on its face.

Does Mermaids understand how much this matters?

It matters because public policy should be founded on sound evidence — on facts. No one who peddles made-up claims should be advising government committees.  Nor should they be involved in training professional people with direct responsibility for children, sick people or families in crisis.

Susie Green refused to acknowledge on the BBC that cross-sex hormones cause sterility

susie green bbc newsnight

Susie Green

 The evidence is there on YouTube for everyone to see. On 1 November 2016 there was a short debate on BBC Newsnight between Susie Green of Mermaids and Stephanie Davies-Arai of Transgender Trend.

Here is a transcript of the key exchange, which begins at around 4:20. Important passages bolded:

 Stephanie Davies-Arai: The treatment pathway is the same as transsexual, it’s cross-sex hormones (not cross-gender hormones). It leads to children being sterilised and on medication for life in order to be ‘their authentic selves’.

Evan Davis (interviewer) to Susie Green: Is that correct or …

Susie Green: Well no. I think that in terms of the way that these young people are assessed, they go through very careful assessments before any medical intervention is offered, that’s never before puberty has at least begun and got through to a certain stage …

Susie Green’s denial—’Well no’—and avoidance of the key issues raised by Ms Davies-Arai–are remarkable. Note the following points:

  1. ‘The treatment pathway is … cross-sex hormones’

At the Tavistock and Portman Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) the treatment pathway is cross-sex hormones from the age of 16.

Less than four months before she appeared on Newsnight Susie Green gave a statement to the Guardian in which she called for the age limit for prescribing cross-sex hormones to be lowered.

  1. ‘It leads to children being sterilised’

This is a well-recognised effect of administering cross-sex hormones. Here is a concise and comprehensive statement from a medical authority, which also covers the effects of so-called ‘puberty blockers’ and gonadectomy:

Medical treatments—effects on fertility

Pubertal suppression with gonadotropin releasing agonists (GnRH-a) not only prevents development of potentially distressing secondary sex characteristics but also suspends germ cell maturation. Puberty appears to progress normally after discontinuation. However, many transgender individuals initiate gender-affirming hormone therapy concurrently with pubertal suppression, and thus, germ cells never fully mature. …

Gender-affirming hormones produce impairments in gonadal histology that can cause infertility. Estrogen use by transgender women results in impaired spermatogenesis and an absence of Leydig cells in the testis. Testosterone use by transgender men causes ovarian stromal hyperplasia and follicular atresia.

Gonadal effects of gender-affirming hormones are thought to be at least partially reversible. For example, pregnancy has been reported in transgender men who have previously used testosterone. Thresholds have not been established for the amount and duration of exogenous testosterone or estrogen exposure necessary to have a permanent negative effect on fertility.

For patients who elect surgical transition, gonadectomy will render them permanently sterile.

Source: Johnson EK, Finlayson C (2016) ‘Preservation of fertility potential for gender and sex diverse individuals’, Transgender Health 1:1, 41–44

  1. ‘It leads to children being … on medication for life’

Here are a couple of relevant statements by medical authorities:

  1. a) ‘Cross-sex hormone treatment has an important role in acquiring the secondary sex characteristics of the desired sex. Transsexuals often start taking sex hormones at young to middle age and in higher than recommended dosages. Fearing loss of secondary characteristics of the reassigned sex, transsexual subjects usually continue hormones lifelong.’

Source: Asscheman, Henk, Giltay, Erik J et al, ‘A long-term follow-up study of mortality in transsexuals receiving treatment with cross-sex hormones’, Eur J Endocrinol April 1, 2011 164, 635-642

  1. b) ‘After reassignment surgery, which includes gonadectomy, hormone therapy must be continued.’

Source: Gooren, Louis J., Giltay, Erik J, Bunck, Mathijs C. ‘Long-Term Treatment of Transsexuals with Cross-Sex Hormones: Extensive Personal Experience’ The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 93, Issue 1, 1 January 2008, Pages 19–25


Considering her position as the CEO of an organisation that claims to speak with authority on the transition of children and young people, it is shocking that Susie Green should go on television and mislead the public on these crucial matters.

To say the very least: this is not professional behaviour.

Immediately after saying ‘Well no’, Mrs Green changed the subject with very noticeable promptness. Let’s look at what she said next: ‘in terms of the way that these young people are assessed, they go through very careful assessments before any medical intervention is offered’.

We might find this just a little bit glib, coming as it does from a woman who ignored the settled opinion of experienced clinicians and arranged for her son to have a gonadectomy when he had barely turned sixteen–in a country (Thailand) which now bans such surgeries to people under the age of 18.

Mermaids has falsely stated the survey population when purporting to cite statistics for suicidality among ‘trans youth’

In presentations aimed at concerned professionals, Mermaids has exhibited a PowerPoint slide with the heading ‘Statistics’. It displays a set of figures designed to chill. But let me quickly say: these are not what they seem. They have been fiddled to support an agenda. They are, in fact, completely worthless.

Mermaids-suicide-stats-compressor

Here are the phony statistics in question:

  • ‘59% trans youth considered suicide
  • 48% attempted suicide
  • 57% actively self-harm’

A subheading claims that the figures come from a survey of ‘more than 2000 trans people in the UK’. The survey, cited at the foot, was conducted by academics from three universities in collaboration with PACE, a now-defunct LGBT+ mental health charity. The report was published in 2014.

There is no mention of the report’s title: LGB&T Mental Health — Risk and Resilience Explored. The foreword records that ‘Over 2000 people completed our survey…’

Spot the obvious mistake. The trans participants in the survey were only a subset of the total number of people who took part. The statement that ‘more than 2000 trans people’ were surveyed is not true.

And this matters enormously, because unless the survey population is of adequate size, the results of the survey have very little meaning. It is not possible to use those results to make useful generalisations about the target population, the group about which the survey is intended to provide information.

In the case of the survey into ‘LGBT&T Mental Health’, the overwhelming majority of respondents were lesbian, gay or bisexual. Only a minority, just over 17%, identified themselves as trans.

And here’s the clincher: Only 27 of the trans respondents were under 26. This is the total size of the survey population on which the claim is based that 48% of ‘trans youth’ have attempted suicide.

There is absolutely no way that the results of such a tiny survey can be mapped onto the whole population of trans-identifying young people in the UK.

That twelve of the 27 reported such an attempt is very sad for them and their families. However, it tells us nothing about the prevalence of suicide attempts among ‘trans youth’ in general. This micro-survey is of no value whatsoever as a basis for determining social policy.

This is not an abstruse matter: it should be obvious to anyone with common sense.

Mermaids has used the supposedly high risk of suicide attempts by trans-identified young people to support its campaign to lower the age at which the NHS prescribes cross-sex hormones to children. It claims that medical transition reduces the likelihood that a gender dysphoric child will commit suicide. In reality, there is no persuasive evidence that this is true.

When Susie Green gave oral evidence to the Transgender Equality Inquiry she argued that the treatment protocols followed by the Gender Identity Development Service are too restrictive and should be relaxed. She claimed that children waiting to be put on cross-sex hormones become ‘self-harming and suicidal’ and referred to ‘a 48% suicide attempt risk’.

This claim was picked up and repeated in the report from the Committee: ‘Mermaids said there was a significant risk of self-harm or suicide where hormone treatment is not yet being given; they drew attention to evidence that the attempted suicide rate among young trans people is 48 per cent.’ [p. 52]

For the 48% figure a footnote refers to an article in the Guardian published in November 2014. The Guardian in turn cites ‘findings released by Pace’. Evidently the journalist had had an advance view of a press release from PACE dated 20 November. This press release predated the publication of the full report of the survey.

The press release gives an overall figure of 485 for ‘survey participants under the age of 26’. Rather strangely, however, it omits to give an overall number for the ‘young trans* participants’ while stating that ‘48.1% … have attempted suicide’. The use of percentages at this point conceals the very small number of respondents. The other figures in the Guardian post also come from PACE: the Guardian has simply rounded them down, so that 48.1% becomes a snappier 48% and the figure of ‘59.3%’ for suicidal thoughts becomes 59%.

It is, perhaps, not coincidental that these misleading and alarmist figures were initially presented by a charity that was forced to shut its doors for lack of funding just over one year later.

Meanwhile, the Guardian confused matters further by implying that all of the ‘more than 2,000 people’ surveyed were ‘trans’. Presumably this was due to a careless misreading of the statement from PACE.

Given that the Mermaids PowerPoint slide refers to a ‘survey of more than 2000 trans people’ it seems likely that the figures on the slide came by way of the Guardian report. Even assuming that this is the case, it does not let Mermaids off the hook.

It is simply not professional to quote statistics from a newspaper report without attempting to check them at source. In this case the survey report is easily found on the web. Although PACE has closed down, the report has been archived on several sites by interested parties.

Regardless of what it was intending to do, Mermaids deceived the audiences to whom it presented that PowerPoint slide. Even more important and worrying, it gave misleading information to the Women and Equalities Committee.

There is more. The problems with the figures on the PowerPoint slide have been pointed out in detail in at least two important blog posts:

So far as I am aware Mermaids has never acknowledged either of these critiques, nor has it qualified Susie Green’s statement to the Women and Equalities Committee.

The organisation does not seem to have cited the 48% figure recently. But last month Mrs Green was back beating the same old drum, this time in an article on Huffington Post UK. This time she kept things vague, asserting that there are ‘shockingly high statistics for suicide attempts by transgender young people’ without citing any source at all.

These serious misstatements of fact are not acceptable

Mermaids presents itself as a repository of wisdom on the subject of transgender children and youth and in many quarters it is accepted as such. The inaccurate statements detailed above are not minor matters. The UK, as a society, cannot afford such lapses in an organisation that trains professionals and advises on public policy.

Moreover, none of this is helpful to children who show symptoms of gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder (as currently defined), or their anxious and more or less bewildered parents. They deserve a more professional service than Mermaids is currently providing.

Meanwhile, it should, unfortunately, be recognised that it is never safe to take on trust any statement that comes from Mermaids.

 

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’.

mermaids-tweet

 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.]

mermaids-tweet-2

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’.

children_and_same_sex_families

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.