A seminar scheduled for October 25 called, “Is society letting transgender children down?” has been cancelled after complaints from trans activists. The Dare to Debate session had been set to feature feminist writer, Sarah Ditum, and Kellie Maloney, a boxing promoter formerly known as Frank who transitioned in 2014. On her website, Ditum writes:
“Maloney’s past includes the expression of homophobic sentiments (now repudiated), and a 2005 attack on Tracey Maloney when the two were married (Maloney has attributed this in part to the strain of living with a suppressed gender identity).”
According to a statement on the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) website, “Dare to Debate seminars are designed to provoke debate about serious issues facing children today — child protection issues that might not otherwise get the focus that they deserve.”
This particular debate, hosted by NSPCC, aimed “to shine a light on the difficulties and problems that trans children face in the UK, to ask whether society is doing enough to help them and discuss what more can and should be done.”
Rather than protest the presence of a wife-beater, trans activists, according to Pink News, “vowed to shun the session over the invitation to Sarah Ditum,” who writer Nick Duffy claims, “has a history of extreme comments about trans people.” Complaints online engaged in further slander about Ditum’s perspectives and work, misrepresenting her feminist analysis of gender as “bigotry.”
(1)NSPCC is supposed to protect & support children not encourage more abuse from a"conversion therapy " bigot. This debate will yet again https://t.co/GyPy1c1ZWR
— Parents LincsLGBT (@LGBTLincs) October 13, 2016
A petition against the debate (erroneously) claims Ditum “actively campaigns against supporting trans children with anything but conversion therapy.” In truth, pushing children towards medical and social transition as a first approach is more accurately defined as “conversion therapy,” as compared with the more nuanced approach many feminists like Ditum advocate for. The notion that we might consider “support” for children who believe they are struggling with “gender identity” beyond a medicalized, single-minded approach, rooted in regressive gender stereotypes, is not a bigoted one, but a progressive one.
While the petition itself acknowledges Maloney’s history of domestic violence, the vast majority of signees as well as complaints online focused on Ditum’s attendance, rather than Maloney’s.
@nspcc_press @NSPCC @kelliefmaloney @sarahditum why are you having a 'debate' with a transphobic speaker? This isn't 'reasoned'
— whispers on kittens (@Queer_Musings) October 12, 2016
Nonetheless, Maloney elected to pull out of the debate, complaining that the session had become a “social media circus” and a “personal attack.”
@nspcc_press @NSPCC please see my withdrawal statement below pic.twitter.com/YCSHVLZjpj
— Kellie Maloney (@kelliefmaloney) October 12, 2016
Numerous feminists and other interested parties have come out in support of Ditum, opposing the slander leveled at her, expressing disappointment that the event has been shut down.
.@sarahditum @NSPCC I have emailed this complaint. Was looking forward to an informed, respectful and balanced debate. One that is needed. pic.twitter.com/xmxsxThgDK
— Euro Bo (@bo_novak) October 13, 2016
@NSPCC as someone who regrets her gender transition, I am so disappointed to hear the #daretodebate event with @sarahditum was cancelled
— (Carey) Maria Catt (@catt_bear) October 13, 2016
This is disappointing @NSPCC Put children first and listen to @sarahditum @cwknews @catt_bear & many more https://t.co/pMFRoXcLx5
— RemakingAdam (@TransReflect) October 13, 2016
@sarahditum @NSPCC this is disappointing. We need informed, intelligent public debate on this issue. Sarah would have been an ideal speaker
— Julie Smith (@lazyjoolz) October 13, 2016
@sarahditum @NSPCC so, this is a thing an organisation supporting children doesn't 'dare to debate'. Disappointing.
— Debbie Cameron (@wordspinster) October 13, 2016
While the NPSCC’s statement acknowledges that “many trans children have felt that they aren’t getting the support that they need,” opposition to the event appears to be rooted in a fear of exploring what “support” means. The NPSCC explains:
“… The trans community have raised concerns and told us that they don’t support the NSPCC hosting this discussion. We have listened, and following the withdrawal of a keynote speaker, we are no longer hosting this event.”
The notion that transitioning children is unequivocally the best way to support kids who don’t fit into stereotypical gender roles is highly contested and should be of concern to anyone who claims to have the best interests of children in mind. That questioning this approach and the quickly growing industry surrounding gender transition is being positioned as “bigotry” or “transphobia” is telling. When it becomes impermissible to question ideas, those ideas become dogma, not progress.
As Ditum put it, “they don’t actually ‘dare to debate’ if there is a risk that the conversation might challenge the current conventions around transgender children.”