Maggie Mellon: @ScotGov is embracing policies which will harm children – I and other feminists will challenge them

Ben Wray

Maggie Mellon, feminist campaigner and former social worker specialising in child protection, argues that the Scottish Government has embraced policies on transgender issues which willl harm children, and says an increasing number of women are challenging it

A COMMONSPACE article about five transgender young people called on us to see the humans behind the headlines.  I agree. Children and young people deserve better than to be the objects of policy, of adult agreement or dispute about what is best for them. That is why I object so strongly to the Scottish Government’s embracing of a range of policies that I believe harm children.

By all means let us look behind the headlines at real people.  Women are real people. I and other women who object to the falsification of reality that transgender ideology represents are real people.

I am a woman of 64 years of age who has had a mostly happy life. But when I was 9 and 10 and 11 and for some years afterwards, I was unhappy to realise that,  against my will, I was destined to be a woman. I did not “feel” like a woman. I could not mentally entertain the idea of becoming a woman.  This meant having breasts, periods, and a destiny of marriage, servitude and babies.  The expectations of what “being a woman” entailed physically and socially were horrifying.  My mother did all the housework and my father went out to work. Women had to give up work, women were domestic servants without pay. Women had to keep everyone happy.  They had to curl their hair, and wear stockings and keep their knees together. Women did not get to fly to the moon, or win wars, or become prime ministers.  When I was nine I was given a toy iron for Christmas while my brother got a chemistry set.  I had to pretend to be pleased, a lesson in humiliation vividly remembered. 

I was always top of the class, but told I could aspire to nothing more than being a secretary. Girls did not run wild across the fields with boys, girls did not organise the games, or lead gangs, girls did not have scabby dirty knees. I spent hours trying to work out how to stop breasts growing, or how not to have periods, or how to pee standing up.

If anyone had suggested to me that I might actually be a boy I would have leapt at the idea.  It would have explained everything – why I was punished for being clever and bossy, for not wanting to wear frilly dresses, or kiss boys, or be a bride and have babies.

I also remember vividly that I blamed my mother for making me be a woman. This was childlike “magical” thinking – my mother had “made” me a woman, she had betrayed me. If I could only find a magic spell, if she would only release me from the curse that she had put on me. But I was not offered the magical possibility of being a boy. 

RESPONSE: Caitlin Logan: It is because I am a feminist that I support trans rights

I was a girl, a female human being. Physical reality asserted itself. Men started staring at me in the street and making remarks about my body.  I had nightmares about a future of wearing bras and suspender belts and stockings and make up. I still break into a sweat at the thought of being a bride.    

I now know that many other girls felt the same way too.  I met them when I discovered feminism.  I read Simon de Beauvoir, Doris Lessing, Germaine Greer, Spare Rib. Feminism was glorious rebellion. it released me. There was nothing wrong with me, or my body. It was society that needed changed.  I still haven’t cracked that one despite a lot of campaigning, but I haven’t spent fifty or more years fighting physical reality.

But children today are being offered what purports to be the possibility of escaping their physical reality.   They are told that “gender” is an inner knowledge of self which trumps physical reality. Puberty will change  your familiar child’s body into something strange. So why should you not believe your body can change in any way you want it to change? Why try to change society, when you can just change yourself?  

Telling children that they may be boys trapped in girls’ bodies or vice versa and that they can and should “transition” out of their physical reality is telling them a lie. It also consigns susceptible children to a future of denial, of being angry and upset when people see them as the sex that they actually and usually obviously physically are.  When they are directed to the male or female changing rooms, or toilets or addressed by the “wrong” pronouns.  When women tell them to get out of girls’ toilets. When men harass them in male toilets.  When people pity them or patronise them or avoid them or insult them. When they realise that the hormones that they were encouraged to embark on at age 12 or younger have irreversible effects. When they realise they will never be fully a woman or fully a man, and that they can never have children. When they realise that hormones are a permanent necessity if they want to maintain even a straggly beard, or to have breasts or soft skin.  When they realise that hormones have permanently damaged their bones or caused any number of other physical problems.  When they realise perhaps that they could have lived full lives as lesbian or gay adults instead? 

No amount of saying that a transwoman is a woman, or a trans man is a man will make it true. No amount of pleading or demanding that people accept what they want them to believe will make it true.  

I can understand the children’s confusion, their distress, their feelings of being wrong and needing to be right. What I cannot accept is that adults in government, in health and  social services, have allowed lobbyists who deny biological realities to dictate policy for children and for women.

READ MORE: LGBTI charities launch resource to support trans young people in schools

Scottish policy for primary and secondary schools, “Supporting Transgender Young People in Schools,” was written by LGBT Youth and Trans Alliance. It states that it is based on solely the experiences of some transgender people and some unnamed others.  Transgender young people are defined as those “whose gender identity or expression differs in some way from the sex assigned to them at birth”. The term “young people” is deliberately used to describe children from four years of age upwards. Childhood has apparently been abolished.

The guidance states that children of all ages should be supported to express their “gender identity”  regardless of their age. Teachers are advised not to disclose information to parents or carers without the young person’s permission and that they  should use the  name that the child wants to be used and that parents are not to be told without the child’s permission – regardless of the age or the capacity or mental health needs of the child. Children who identify themselves as of the opposite to their own sex should be allowed to share toilets, changing rooms and sleeping accommodation with children of the opposite sex.

Parents are to be advised they should support their children making the decision to transition and that teachers should correct any misconceptions that they have. If parents disagree then the guidance advises that this may be a child welfare issue and that a report may be made to the local authority. 

This Guidance is, we are told soon, to be joined by the compulsory embedding of transgender education into the school curriculum. This will confirm official teaching based on the completely unevidenced belief that men can actually  be women and vice versa, based not on their biology, but on their own belief about this. Teaching children this in school flies in the face of science.  It seems to put  transgender ideology on the same plane as a belief in god. There is no proof, but it is evidence of virtue to claim belief.

Current law recently confirmed that children under 16 are presumed not to have capacity to consent to sex.  This is to protect children from predatory adults, and also from premature pregnancy and parenthood. But what is being presumed here is that children have full capacity to make life changing decisions about their sexuality and their identity, even before they are 12 years old. Puberty blocking drugs are being prescribed in our health service for children who are too young to understand the effects and the risks. This is not promoting children’s rights. It is a betrayal of children.

READ MORE: More than a piece of policy: Scotland’s trans youth say it’s time to see the humans behind the headlines

Not a single assessment of the impact on children of this approach has been carried out by any of the agencies promoting these policies.  Are they afraid of what impact assessments would reveal about about the disastrous impact on children’s mental health, on their understanding of themselves, and of reality, on relationships between children, and between adults and children?

There has been a deliberate freezing out of debate and discussion.  Questions or challenges are called “transphobic”, implying that the questioner is a deranged bigot. If you are deranged and a bigot, you must of course be shunned and driven out of work as teachers, academics, social workers.  Most of those who are and have been attacked are women. Think about what that means. 

Leading feminists such as Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel have been “no-platformed” and accused of bigotry and hatred. Jenny Murray of Woman’s Hour has been no platformed,  denounced as transphobic for asking politely how men can be women. Academic research – by women – which points to the dangers of the direction of travel to women and to children has been suppressed, and the authors’ careers threatened. People, usually women, have been reported to employers or to police for “hate crime” with demands that they are silenced and sacked.   

When women attempt to meet to discuss concerns, we have been intimidated, reported to police. Venues have been subject to bomb threats, and to demands to cancel the booking. If meetings go ahead in spite of this, people in masks, wearing black and shouting abuse have gathered outside shouting and banging to disrupt the event.  Online discussions are stopped in their tracks by attacks on women who raise questions as “terfs” (trans exclusionary radical feminists).

“People in authority in Scotland have abdicated their responsibilities in allowing this situation to develop.  They have allowed believing in the unbelievable to become a national commandment.”

It is now a life and career threatening act to decide to speak out.  I am not employed by anyone, but I am not unaware of the dangers of public vilification, and the complicity of public authorities in the persecution of anyone challenging what is now apparently government orthodoxy

It is an orthodoxy which most people in Scotland are unaware of. A recent consultation on gender recognition proposals for self ID, including change of birth certificate, was conducted so quietly outside of the small circle of advocates and their supporters that it resulted in 66 per cent support for the proposals. Most people were quite unaware of the consultation or the proposals. There was however no possibility of open discussion because of the level of vitriol and threat.

People in authority in Scotland have abdicated their responsibilities in allowing this situation to develop.  They have allowed believing in the unbelievable to become a national commandment. They are allowing children – and parents and teachers too – to be defenceless in the face of the unreasonable and unaccountable diktats of people with no qualifications or evidence to support their claimed authority.

“We don’t accept the sexist assumptions that underpin claims that being “gender non-conforming” means that you must be “transgender”.”

In whose interests is it that an increasing number of children and young people are being taught to believe unevidenced and dangerous beliefs about reality?  A few adults with no stated qualifications in biology, psychology, neuroscience or child development have managed to get a seat at every policy table in Scotland to assert and have accepted that children are born “transgender”.  

Complacent agencies and adults, whether from fear, ambition, funding, ignorance, or perhaps truly believing that they are doing the right thing (despite no impact assessments and no evidence) have allowed them to dictate policy. And it seems that the punishment for questioning or for not believing should be sacking, vilification and exclusion. As a result the Scottish Prison Service has actually been hoodwinked into allowing fully biologically male sexual and violent offenders into women’s prisons, where they are allowed to shower and share intimate spaces with women. Female prison officers are expected to conduct intimate body searches.  SPS  policies were developed on the advice of the same “experts” who have dictated  policy for children.

I and an increasing number of women will not obey the commandment to accept.  We don’t accept the sexist assumptions that underpin claims that being “gender non-conforming” means that you must be “transgender”.  We do not accept being called “cis” women or “terfs” or “transphobes” or any other insult which denies our rights and the actual physical realities of being a woman.  We cannot accept the dangerous doctrines being promoted, for ourselves or for children.

Picture courtesy of Hillel Steinberg