When lobby groups like Mermaids dictate policy and discourse around gender identity, kids lose

mermaids

Last week, The Guardian reported that “a seven-year-old boy who was “living life entirely as a girl” has been removed from his mother’s care after a ruling by a high court judge. At first read, it was unclear who the actors in this case were aside from, obviously, the mother (M), the father (F), and child (J). The judgment of this case, which includes a critique of the section 37 report prepared by Social Services, which Justice Hayden describes as “very disturbing reading,” though, begins to clarify things.

Justice Hayden writes that J’s mother caused “significant emotional harm” to her child and critiques the local authority social services staff responsible for the youngster’s welfare.

He goes on to detail the acts of a controlling mother towards her child, M’s personal diagnosis of J’s alleged gender dysphoria, and a system which failed this child. Together, these various failures demonstrate a pattern of abuse and a mother who, Hayden writes, “deprived [her son] of his fundamental right to exercise his autonomy in its most basic way.”

What the judgment shows is that reports made by the Local Authority’s Housing Department, J’s school, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), and Social Services gave M’s behaviour towards her child (including her approach to J’s “gender presentation”) a pass simply because she was receiving support from Mermaids, a UK-based charity that claims to support parents of children who identify as transgender. Observations like these show major conflicts of interest between Mermaids and the government agencies named in the judgement.

Susie Green, the CEO of Mermaids, began her trajectory into the transgender debate through personal investment. She took matters into her own hands regarding her son’s gender dysphoria, leaving the country for the USA, then Thailand, when the National Health Service (NHS) would not undertake the treatment she thought her child needed. Mermaids is entirely comprised of parents like Green, who have either a child who self-identifies as having gender dysphoria or have started seeking professional help for their child. Despite the fact that Mermaids is not a professional organization, it has managed to push its way into government policies such as the House of Commons Select Committee “Transgender Equality” report (within which Mermaids is referenced twenty times) and has successfully convinced local school systems and councils that its form of “support” is tantamount to professional ethos.

In short, we have governmental policies being decided via a support group that functions as a political lobby — a political lobby which justifies its authority because of government championing. (The NHS, for example, cites Mermaids as “a charity that helps children with gender identity issues and their families.”) More surreal is the fact that some of the Mermaids members regularly give lectures to nursing students and NHS staff. The fact that medical and legal documents are produced by basically taking the word of desperate, if not confused, parents equates to both a shocking oversight and the tail wagging the dog.

Make no mistake, Mermaids is not a body of psychologists or trained healthcare professionals — it is merely a group of parents who have a child they believe to be transgender. Unlike other professional organizations, Mermaids is just a support group and therefore not accountable to medical and psychological  bodies or government institutions. Under the leadership of Green, Mermaids harbours vested interests in dictating political discourse around transgender identity.

Two days before a public seminar organized by Mermaids called “New perspectives on healthcare provision for transgender youth,” a number of people who had registered to attend received an email from Green stating that “due to oversubscription” their tickets had been cancelled. The recipients of this email were uniquely women — largely self-identified feminists. Oddly, the tickets of those who registered after these women were not cancelled. Notably, the women who received this cancellation email had signed their names to a letter in support of the Morning Star after the newspaper published two gender critical articles and was subjected to backlash and threats of violence earlier this year. Not surprising, the first talk at this seminar was by none other than Dr Norman P. Spack, Paediatric Endocrinologist, Boston Children’s Hospital — the same doctor who attended to Green’s child.

In short, the government is taking its cues from a lobby group that apparently keep lists of gender critical women, striking them from participating in an ostensibly public forum.

On their website, Mermaids defines gender dysphoria as “a mismatch between the gender assigned to a person at birth and the gender that they actually identify with.” Expanding on that definition, they explain:

Sometimes in younger children, this may surface with boys playing with dolls and other traditionally female toys, or girls who refuse to wear dresses or hate having long hair. Some young people may identify as non-binary, meaning that they feel as though they are neither truly male or female, they may feel like they can be both at once, either one or the other on different days, or just a mix of the two. Once puberty hits a lot of trans* teens begin to get very depressed, withdrawn and may even self-harm or have suicidal feelings.”

Unfortunately,  this definition is entirely inaccurate (gender dysphoria has nothing to do with “boys playing with dolls and other traditionally female toys” or “girls who refuse to wear dresses”) and imposes gender normativity on children and parents, reinforcing the idea that girls and boys should dress and behave a certain way. This definition also plays on parents’ fears around what their child might be suffering, browbeating them into accepting the easiest answer without any further investigation. The reality is that, once puberty hits, most teens get depressed or withdrawn for varying lengths of time. In fact, these rates have soared in recent years among adolescents. Most notably, the mental health of teenage girls in the UK is at an all-time record low and the rates of girls engaging in self harm are on the rise.

Considering that Mermaids appears not able to define gender dysphoria in an accurate way, it is shocking that UK government agencies are relying on the charity to craft its future policies on the transgender identity of children.

Is it any wonder that Mermaids was “supporting” M in her delusion that her son was “really” a girl for over three years, considering that the government has done absolutely nothing to rein in rogue organizations that present themselves as professionally sound? Even now, Mermaids stands in fierce opposition to this judgment and has recently launched a petition in protest of the judgment against M. Green writes:

“During the three years that Mermaids have supported this family there has been no evidence AT ALL to support this judge’s views. Mum has listened to her child and supported her unconditionally. There have been two independent gender specialists who have reviewed the family and agreed that Mum is not responsible for her child’s gender expression.”

Justice Hayden notes that M’s description of her son’s issues sounded coached, explaining that “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.” He added that M struck him “as a professional witness giving evidence about somebody else’s child.”

Rather than support a child, the agencies and organizations involved appear to have simply supported a mother’s claims, without investigating further. In fact, Justice Hayden ruled that “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.” Notably, he added that he believes Social Services “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.”

This is the sort of solipsism from which Mermaids operates. The organization cherry-picks “specialists” who corroborate their view of gender, denigrates judgments that are backed up by myriad others whose observations support the judge’s views, thereby ignoring the actual specialists involved in this case.

This particular family and case is not an isolated one. The media is having a field day with these children and there have been numerous incidents of parents parading their children on a sound stage only to project their ideas of gender onto them. The infamous case of Jazz Jennings whose mother “was convinced she was going to have a girl” is a good example of that narrative.  More recently, a Radio 4 interview featured Leo, a “non-binary” child who takes cues from a mother who queries her child about which gender they are on a daily basis. This mother admits she has taken cues from the “transgender community,” which has led her down a path to non-binary pronouns, a litany of vocabulary words and concepts which she clearly does not fully understand, and a very naive understanding of the implications of what the long-term medical implications of Leo’s “identity” could be, given that she compares Leo’s non-binary status to her son’s vegetarianism.

Unless government agencies stop taking cues and training from parental support and lobby groups that are obviously not objective, the number of legal battles involving parents who do not see transitioning a child as the only option to gender dysphoria will continue to grow. Tangentially, one must also ask why only the pro-transition side to this debate is being heard by the government when we know that desistance rates for these children are at least 80 per cent.

Where Mermaids seeks to change reality through fiat and to close down debate such as the recently cancelled NSPCC debate on transgender children, we must push to open the doors of censorship to clear avenues towards dialogue and reason in the hopes that children who are suffering from issues of body dysphoria are treated with the best medical and psychological care that can be afforded to them. Equally imperative, we must undertake an ethical debate as to why there is a stigma being placed on practitioners who see viable alternatives for dealing with gender dysphoria or gender non-binarism where permanent medical intervention is not generally necessary or recommended.

Julian Vigo is a scholar, film-maker, and human rights consultant. Her latest book is Earthquake in Haiti: The Pornography of Poverty and the Politics of Development (2015). She can be reached at: julian.vigo@gmail.com.

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  • therealcie

    While I am very sympathetic to people with gender dysphoria, playing with toys that the opposite gender is supposed to prefer has nothing to do with a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. My (cisgender male) son played with both “traditionally male” toys such as Matchbox cars and with “traditionally female” toys such as dolls. He also played with non-gender specific toys such as Legos. He has never been dysphoric regarding his gender, and he is heterosexual.
    When I was young I (a cisgender female) played with dolls. I also played with toy trucks, and I played with Lincoln Logs. I did not have gender dysphoria. I never had literal “penis envy.” I envied the opportunities that boys were given, and that they weren’t expected to “look pretty.” I was (and am) heterosexual.
    The only thing a kid playing with a given toy means is that the toy is fun for them.

    • Snork Maiden

      It’s good to read the whole court judgement. The bit where they talk about him being interested in Sponge Bob and Power Rangers is kind of annoying because that doesn’t indicated where this kid stands with gender. Reading the whole document I got a real sense that the judge based his decision upon how manipulative and argumentative the mother had been throughout, while the child’s father was able to just let J be himself without pressure, whereupon J gravitated towards being male.

      I think gender dysphoria is pretty rare, and I’ve a lot of compassion for those who have it, but I think now there are a lot of people keen to dole out that label on anyone who doesn’t fit a narrow set of stereotypes.

      • Wire Bead

        What does “gravitated towards being male” mean?

    • Cindi Gold

      But you still believe in this idea of ‘gender dysphoria” and used the term cisgender.

      I recently found this brand new ,really important long article debunking myths that gender identity is innate and fixed!

      http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/part-three-gender-identity-sexuality-and-gender

      Here is my recent important blog called,Debunking Common Sexist Myths Of Gender .

      https://wordpress.com/posts/alotofresearchstudiesotherimportantinformationdebunkingcommonse.wordpress.com

    • Cindi Gold

      There is *no* such natural thing as ”feeling like a woman or man or a girl or boy”! I don’t feel like a woman inside even though I certainly look like a very pretty woman. Maybe I once felt that way before I became educated and enlightened about the extreme social constructions of gender.

      Maybe if someone hypnotized me and brought me back to when I was a little girl and asked me when I was constantly told even by many strangers in public places, I was a strikingly beautiful baby and child,if I ”felt like a girl” inside,I might have said I don’t know what is that supposed to mean? Which is a great question with a great point. Or I might have said no,or I might have said yes because I got the same extreme gender training into ”femininity” all girls and women do.

    • Wire Bead

      What do you mean by “cisgender”?

    • Hierophant2

      Your child is not cisgender. As far as I know, no such thing exists. There is no human being who is 100% comfortable with their gender role. (and if there is, I sure as hell don’t wanna meet em)

      • Yisheng Qingwa

        “Cis” is a made up, bullshit word that means nothing.

  • melissa

    Jesus Christ, what a fucking train wreck. How on earth did we get this reckless,specially regarding kids of all people? Reminds of this article being shared on ‘Women’s Rights News” fb page i used to follow not long ago…

    ” “The day Dev could walk, the walk was feminine,” Vaishali says in the third episode of The Keswanis: A Most Modern Family. “The day Dev could talk, it was really feminine.

    “We had this perfect kid,” Anil says. “But it wasn’t easy. There was something that was not clicking.”….“It took me about 30 seconds to take that in,” Vaishali says. “I just wrapped my arms around her and said ‘You will never have to be Dev again, ever.” ” (http://people.com/celebrity/the-keswanis-a-most-modern-family-meet-devina-keswani/)

    The hell does that even mean? How does a goddam toddler have a “feminine” walk or talk? Since when did “feminine” waking and talking become innate gender behavior now for toddlers? And strangely there’s no mention of how or what the kid felt or said at all, only the parents believing somethings “not clicking”. Am i crazy to think this probably came from a homophobic place, like its often the case in places like Iran?(http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29832690) They post endless garbage stories like these all day long. How do these lib fems that are so highly tuned to detecting sexism when it suits them, let stuff like this pass?Also, this is the same page that rages at instances of religious men talking about wives submitting to husbands(https://www.facebook.com/WOMENSRIGHTSNEWS/posts/1143112129064515?comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22O%22%7D), while in the next posts glorifies being a “submissive feminist”(https://www.facebook.com/WOMENSRIGHTSNEWS/posts/1106807662694962?comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22O%22%7D , https://www.facebook.com/WOMENSRIGHTSNEWS/posts/873877455987985?comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22O%22%7D) and gazillions of other posts that go something like “I’m a feminist but i like being called a whore”, “I’m a feminist but i like to submit to my man behind closed doors” etc etc. Only a matter of time before i finally unsubbed ,just t like i did with every other “feminist” page now.Over 1 mil 34 thousands subs that page has. Its unbelievable that this is the “feminism” girls are introduced to now.

    • Just Passing Through

      It is very scary isn’t it? And yeah, I agree WTF is a “feminine” walk for a fkng baby? Does she inject a little skip in her walk? Does she put her little pinky out and do a little hair flip? The absurdity is reaching ridiculous levels now.

      • Independent Radical

        It probably means he didn’t walk with stability and confidence, as if already prepared for a life of brutal aggression and competition, because he was, you know, a toddler. Idiots!

    • OldPolarBear

      Am i crazy to think this probably came from a homophobic place …?

      No. No, you are not crazy to think it. These parents are crazy. Or maybe being a gay man, I am overly sensitive to this issue but I don’t think so. It seems to becoming a thing to think that it’s better to have a “trans” child than a homosexual one, of either sex. It wasn’t always so. Back in the 1990s, I think it was, Iowa was getting ready to add sexual orientation as a covered basis to the civil rights, antidiscrimination law. Some of the proponents and activists wanted to add gender identity as well, but that proved to be too much for the conservatives and evangelicals, who are very influential here. They could, somewhat grudgingly, go along with sexual orientation, at least for prohibiting job discrimination, but not gender identity. Now it seems like even a lot of liberal parents would rather their non-gender-conforming* child be trans — with all the implications of needing hormone shots and surgery, FFS — than that they be gay or lesbian. And that’s discouraging, disheartening and downright scary.

      *And yes, at the age of a toddler, the very idea is just ridiculous.

      • melissa

        So insane.I feel ya. I may not be gay, but growing up in a quite conservative,religious household which had a very regressive attitude towards gender, stuff like this just instantly sticks out to me as well(i presumed that would be the case for all “feminists” that are typically sensitive about stereotypes,gender roles and homophobia too).This is like the antithesis of everything i understood about feminism. And to be at a point in 2016 where merely trying to raise these concerns in liberal/feminist/progressive circles, gets you completely shouted down, is beyond amazing to me.”Progressives” and the liberal media has bastardized feminism beyond repair it seems.No dissent is tolerated that challenges their incoherent babble.Anyone deviating from the party line is immediately excommunicated. Its a nightmare.

      • Wren

        I think it has to do with the medicalization. These parents have to be really into going through this whole process and buying into the idea of a “disorder.” I seriously think it is enjoyable for them. They, along with their child, get a shit load of attention, both by doctors, the law, and the public.

    • owleyes27

      How the hell can a parent conclude all this about a toddler based on how they walk and talk? These poor kids!

    • Helen A. Handbasket

      The parents are the ones that need professional help — not these poor kids.

  • SisterJ

    When reading this case I was reminded of the creep who pushed the entire concept of “gender” onto society: John Money. His “experiment” resulted in the ultimate suicide of his former patient, David Reimer. The trans community uses suicide as a constant threat to push the trans agenda onto children. But how many suicides will result from children pushed into a trans identity? Of course, the trans community will label those suicides as a result of transphobia instead of what they really are: a result of persistent and emotionally abusive manipulation of children to conform to a particular label and set of behaviors that fit the political needs of adults. Just horrifying. The next 20-30 years of watching these poor children will be a nightmare.

    • orangedesperado

      David Reimer’s twin brother, who was also forced to participate in J.Money’s questionable therapy also died young. I forget if this was due to issues from acute alcoholism or suicide. He died a couple of years before David Reimer, in his mid to late 30’s. That’s how successful J.Money’s approach to sex and gender roles was.

      • Pe Nelope Kay Greenhough

        they were identical twins and they both committed suicide.

  • owleyes27

    I find it bizarre that mainstream media is saying the judge “ordered boy not to wear girl clothes” when the whole thing was about the kid’s wellbeing living with their mother.

  • Wire Bead

    When discussing the medical model approach to children labelled as gender dysphoric, this study published in the October 2015 Journal of Adolescent Health is always worth reviewing.

    Abstract:
    Purpose
    The Endocrine Society and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health published guidelines for the treatment of adolescents with gender dysphoria (GD). The guidelines recommend the use of gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists in adolescence to suppress puberty. However, in actual practice, no consensus exists whether to use these early medical interventions. The aim of this study was to explicate the considerations of proponents and opponents of puberty suppression in GD to move forward the ethical debate.

    Methods
    Qualitative study (semi-structured interviews and open-ended questionnaires) to identify considerations of proponents and opponents of early treatment (pediatric endocrinologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, ethicists) of 17 treatment teams worldwide.

    Results
    Seven themes give rise to different, and even opposing, views on treatment: (1) the (non-)availability of an explanatory model for GD; (2) the nature of GD (normal variation, social construct or [mental] illness); (3) the role of physiological puberty in developing gender identity; (4) the role of comorbidity; (5) possible physical or psychological effects of (refraining from) early medical interventions; (6) child competence and decision making authority; and (7) the role of social context how GD is perceived. Strikingly, the guidelines are debated both for being too liberal and for being too limiting. Nevertheless, many treatment teams using the guidelines are exploring the possibility of lowering the current age limits.

    Conclusions
    As long as debate remains on these seven themes 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.

    Full text at:

    http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(15)00159-7/fulltext

  • cday881@gmail.com

    Do physicians assign or report on the attributes of neonates? And how could one report on the gender of a neonate?

  • Lucia Lola

    This is bonkers.

  • Law and Order Atheist

    I follow a few de-transitioning people on Twitter, and it is shocking and heartbreaking to hear how they were misled and misinformed about the realities of transitioning. Much of this misinformation comes, unfortunately, from psychiatrists and the APA, who are trying to create a group of surgically altered experiments, politically correct but sterilized and unhappy lifetime hormone customers for the drug companies. There is clearly a mental disorder at play here, and surgical treatment of mental disorders should never be allowed for minors. Thank goodness this judge was not duped by the trans cult. We need to outlaw this treatment in the U.S. now, before the trans cult gets even stronger. The comment by Vestigia, below, is spot-on.

  • Ricki Coughlan

    The ignorance in this article is wilful and that’s as clear as the author’s transphobic agenda. Every paragraph is slanted to deceive and adhere to that agenda – totally ignoring the amazing work for decades now in this area and tens, if not hundreds of thousands of lives vastly improved by transitioning – especially at an early age. It all says more about the personal insecurities of the author than the transgender children and their parents whom she seeks to denigrate. In a rare case for my generation, I began my transition in 1973 at the age of 14 (after knowing my gender truth from earliest memory). I have had a full, happy and productive life and, perhaps of interest to the author of the above piece, not one which required me put others down in order to achieve any of those things.