In recent years, the establishment has shown an increasing willingness to capitulate to the transgender lobby. I’m all for supporting much-abused minorities, but the loudest voices in the current debate around transgender rights is a cabal of bullying censors demanding nothing less than blind loyalty and total obedience. Under its vociferous pressure, local and central government, universities, the NHS, and even the police, are hell-bent on silencing anyone who might dare offend the trans-Taliban.
Even West Yorkshire police appear to be under their cosh. Last week, a verbal harassment warning was issued to Graham Linehan, the co-creator of the sitcom Father Ted, for pointing out that the transwoman Stephanie Hayden was biologically male, and tweeting her two previous male names – a practice known in the transgender universe as “deadnaming”. Even though, in the course of their spat, Hayden had posted details of Linehan’s wife’s company on Twitter, she still considered herself to be the aggrieved party.
Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email
Already registered? Sign in
At the heart of their dispute is the Government’s proposed amendments to the Gender Recognition Act which, if passed, would allow men to self-identify as women. Those who have raised questions about the issues, as Linehan did, or expressed moderate concern about for example, access to same-sex spaces, have found themselves vilified. Best not mention Karen White, the transgender inmate of an all-female prison who admitted to sexually assaulting other women within days of being incarcerated.
Hayden, who is pursuing civil proceedings against Linehan, having accused him of harassment, defamation and misuse of private information, said that she had spent five hours giving a statement to police. That’s five hours of police time, plus the paperwork involved, and for what? For describing a person with XY chromosomes as “he”.
It’s not just the police who have joined the woke Stasi. The Scottish Government launched the poster campaign One Scotland, warning that “hate crimes” will not be tolerated and that anyone “perpetrating hate” towards disabled, lesbian, gay, and transgender people will be reported. Of course hate crime should be prosecuted, but in today’s climate, this could mean being prosecuted for calling a transgender, though biological male,”he”. It’s the same in our universities. Even neutral investigation of the issues, disinterested academic speech, and differing views are being silenced and howled down.
Perhaps, given the prevailing McCarthyite climate on our campuses, we shouldn’t be quite so shocked by the case of James Caspian. He is a gender identity clinician, and the trustee of a charity that works to help transgender and transsexual people. He had heard from other gender specialists about the growing numbers of female-to-male transsexuals who wished to revert to being female, despite having undergone life-changing surgery. Caspian decided to write his thesis on de-transitioning, and submitted a proposal on the subject to Bath Spa University as part of his Masters degree.
The proposal was rejected by the university’s ethics committee because it could be deemed ‘politically incorrect’, and that such research might “offend” trans people by highlighting the fact that some people regret undergoing sex-change surgery.
Here then is another eulogy for that once prized ideal that universities exist to encourage discussion, research, and to challenge out-of-date ideas. When Caspian complained, he was told the university’s decision was justified because his research could provoke “unnecessary offence” and “attacks on social media”.
Caspian is now crowdfunding online in order to fight the case.
Similarly supine responses to the bullying have extended to the workplace. Ken Zucker headed the Toronto-based child, youth and family gender identity clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) for more than 30 years. He was sacked in 2015 following claims that he had “practiced conversion therapy” on children that identified as transgender, because he advised parents to “watch and wait” before opting for hormone blockers or other invasive treatment. CAMH launched an external review as a result of complaints, and on the day it was published – without consulting Zucker – fired him. Earlier this month, Zucker received a public apology and a substantial pay-out from CAMH.
The shutting down of the debate is ramping up, as the need for discussion becomes more urgent. Earlier this month, an event organised by Women’s Place UK to discuss proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act was cancelled by Leeds City Council with less than three hours’ notice after complaints from trans activists. Merseyside mayor, Joe Anderson, last month used his packed council chamber to make an impassioned speech denouncing ReSisters, a feminist group which opposes mixed-sex toilets in public buildings.
Have we forgotten why we need to debate these policies? Shouldn’t we be examining all aspects of the impact the legislation would have on half of the population if it were passed? The changes proposed are far from uncontroversial, and will have real material effects. Discussion of them (as with any proposed change to the law) is what the legislative process is all about.
Making immediate concessions to the bullying eliminates the chance of any rigorous investigation into the evidence taking place. It also grants one group legislative superiority over the rights of any others. It is governance based on who shouts the loudest. Apart from putting lives at risk, it also sets a terrible precedent for other bullies and ideologically driven pressure groups. Police, governments, places of work and learning need to be able to stand up for rights, not illogical and dangerous rhetoric. Otherwise democracy loses. And that should concern more than half of the population.
Join the discussion
To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.
Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.Subscribe