November 24, 2022 - 7:00am

The disease most women fear is breast cancer. The loss of a breast, even to save life, is hard to contemplate, yet young women are being encouraged to have a double mastectomy in the hope of changing biological sex. Yesterday Sinead Watson, a 31-year-old woman from Glasgow who underwent such treatment and bitterly regrets it, spoke to MSPs at the Scottish Parliament. She was joined by another detransitioner, Ritchie Herron, a 35-year-old civil servant from Newcastle, who has been left infertile, incontinent and in pain after having his genitals removed.

Their testimony was no doubt harrowing but the Tuesday evening session was closed to the public. Herron felt it went well, tweeting ‘Nailed it tbh’ after speaking. Let’s hope so, because the Scottish government is in a headlong rush to pass controversial legislation that will remove virtually all safeguards from the process of changing legal sex. Social transition, which is what the bill is about, sometimes leads to irreversible medical treatment, as detransitioners like Watson and Herron have discovered to their cost.

In any rational universe, their voices would have a powerful effect on law-makers, but we are talking about Holyrood here. In Scottish politics, anything but unquestioning acceptance of the tenets of gender ideology is treated by the SNP-Green coalition government as akin to heresy. “The voices of detransitioners have not been heard either by the Scottish Government in developing its proposals, or by MSPs who are considering this draft legislation,” Watson said before yesterday’s session. 

Significant numbers of Labour women voters have concerns about the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. It removes the need for a medical diagnosis of dysphoria, reduces the period during which individuals have to live in their acquired gender from two years to three months, and drops the age limit for obtaining a gender recognition certificate from eighteen to sixteen. It exists in a sphere where teenagers have no doubts about their identity, and where no one would dream of lying about their motive for transitioning. Last week MSPs even rejected an amendment that would have required sex offenders and domestic abusers to provide ‘authentic evidence’ of dysphoria before acquiring a GRC.

Ministers have their fingers firmly in their ears, insisting that the bill will merely make life easier for an oppressed minority. Anyone who listens to detransitioners, however, might conclude that, far from being too onerous, the process of ‘changing sex’ is ludicrously easy. “When I told doctors at the gender clinic I hated my body and wanted to be a man, they never questioned why,” Watson said in an interview earlier this year. As well as having her breasts removed, several years on testosterone have left her with a gruff voice and facial hair. Herron’s story is similar: “I was diagnosed with transsexualism after two short appointments and underwent medical and surgical interventions, which have left me with life-long side effects,” he has said

In the current climate, such testimony may prove too explosive to change the minds of Scottish politicians. After all, detransitioners are the Achilles heel of gender ideology, their bodies literally bearing the scars created when vulnerable people are hurried into irreversible decisions.

Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She has been Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board since 2013. Her book Homegrown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists was published in 2019.