It’s cruel to deny trans children the chance to think again

Imagine your 13-year-old daughter is depressed and withdrawn and then, one day, she tells you she’s trans and will, henceforth, be known as Sean. You must no longer call her by her “dead name”. Even the most liberal parent may swallow hard and ask her (them) to have counselling with an experienced psychologist who can explore those feelings before the teenager embarks on drastic hormone treatment.

That’s a loving reaction, in my book. Astonishingly, in some countries it would be illegal. Therapists are forbidden to try and find out if anything else may lie behind a young person’s misery in their own body. According to trans activists, “talking therapies” are the same as “conversion therapy”, an abhorrent practice which puts pressure on a gay boy or girl to renounce their sexuality.

Stonewall, the LGBTQ campaign group, insists that only “affirmation” is acceptable. You are not allowed to suggest your child is confused or to point out that there has been an extraordinary increase in girls seeking to transition from female to male or that many of those girls have autism. Nor that some kids who think they are trans have been bullied for being gay.

I agree with Debbie Hayton, a transwoman and campaigner, who says that the denial of meaningful therapy for vulnerable youngsters is “chilling”. But loving parents who make the same objection are branded “transphobic”.

This is the background to the Government’s “U-turn” in which it excluded trans people from legislation banning conversion therapy. The Prime Minister drew a crucial distinction, saying, “There are complexities and sensitivities when you move from the area of sexuality to the question of gender … I don’t think it’s reasonable for kids to take decisions about their gender without a parent’s involvement.”

Boris is right. It isn’t reasonable and nor is it kind. Kids who are in a distressed state can fixate on one solution to all their problems. Society owes them more than a reckless rush down the clinic for hormones which will wreck their fertility.

How tragic that this personal matter should become a political football. Terrified of their ideological commissars, Labour MPs look like complete wallies as they refuse to confirm or deny whether a person with a penis can be a woman. Angela Rayner’s tortuous answer to that vexed question sounded like a stoned sociology lecturer speaking Swahili. It’s encouraging to see women across the spectrum, from Mumsnet to radical feminists, uniting against this insulting nonsense.

Ironically, many trans people do not want all this aggro on their behalf. It’s frightening. A wise friend of mine whose partner transitioned successfully says, “Every family starts from a position of denial and sadness. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong.” Exactly. Some children will turn out to be correct in believing they would feel more themselves as another gender. For others, gender dysphoria may have been a peg on which to hang all the neuroses which are so common in that difficult phase of life.

Those young people all deserve loving support and proper counselling. What they don’t need is fearful “affirmation” as they make the biggest, potentially most irreversible, decision of their lives.

Fear itself

Much amusement here at Pearson Towers after a “headache” and “feeling tired” were added to the official list of Covid symptoms. Isn’t that the chronic and irreversible condition called Being Over 50?

Before half the population decided to throw a Covid sickie (Cickie?), Sajid Javid said that he personally would “first reach for the Nurofen” and go into work. I should think so too. The Health Secretary has got a six-million-long hospital waiting list to tackle.

I wonder, is Mr Javid aware of the further delays that an ongoing Covid fixation is causing in the NHS? One surgeon emailed me to express his alarm. A 66-year-old patient had arrived in hospital for heart surgery. Just hours before the operation, the poor man tested positive for Covid. Although he was not displaying any serious symptoms – except, possibly, “feeling tired” – the operation was cancelled.

“That patient’s risk of death from surgical intervention has just risen to 90 per cent from an estimated 30 per cent directly because of the delay,” fumes my source. “I cannot believe that so many allegedly intelligent people are unable to make a sound judgment on the risk-benefit ratio of what is now just a flu.”

Covid is no longer likely to kill you. But hospitals cancelling your operation or urgent appointment may well. The NHS needs to get a grip. We have nothing to fear but the fearful.

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