Archives for posts with tag: lgbt


Former Church leader caught spreading untruth about healthcare for vulnerable transgender patients.


David Robertson, former Moderator of The Free Church of Scotland

By Paris Lees and Sarah Lennox

In an opinion piece entitled: “Dare to debate this damaging idea that gender is a social construct”, David Robertson, a minister and former Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, sought to justify his belief that Gender Affirmation Surgery1 is harmful by stating:

Professor Paul McHugh of the John Hopkins Medical School, one of the first in the world to offer gender reassignment surgery, now says the process is so harmful they have stopped doing them.

In fact, the opposite is true. As John Hopkins Medicine (JHM) made clear in 2016:

We have committed to and will soon begin providing gender-affirming surgery as another important element of our overall care program, reflecting careful consideration over the past year of best practices and the appropriate provision of care for transgender individuals.

JHM’s decision to offer the surgery reflects its “evidence-based, patient-centered” approach.


Paul McHugh

Robertson also failed to note that Paul McHugh retired as director of the Department of Psychiatry at JHM in 2001. McHugh, 87, condemns current medical therapies available to the trans community on grounds of religious ideology: he also considers homosexuality to be an “erroneous desire” and supported California Proposition 8. He advises a fringe group calling itself ‘The American College of Pediatricians’, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group“, with “a history of propagating damaging falsehoods about LGBT people”.


Dean Hamer, scientist emeritus at the National US Institutes of Health, describes McHugh as using a “selective and outdated collection of references and arguments aimed at confusing rather than clarifying our understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Following a complaint made through IPSO, The Scotsman have made the following correction:

In an article entitled “Dare to debate this damaging idea that gender is a social construct”, David Robertson, of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity, wrote: ‘Professor Paul McHugh of the John Hopkins Medical School, one of the first to offer gender reassignment surgery, now says the process is so harmful they have stopped doing so.’ 

We have been informed that, although John Hopkins Medical School stopped carrying out genitoplasty under Prof McHugh’s direction in the 1970s, it has since reversed this policy and is now ‘fully committed to providing gender-affirming surgery’. An official statement issued in 2016 confirmed that the decision to resume this surgery was taken as the result of ‘careful consideration over the past year of best practices and the appropriate provision of care for transgender individuals’.  We are happy to set the record straight.


Robertson did not make clear that his claim “One doctor said he was stopping doing such operations because they had an 80 per cent negative outcome” was based on a serious misrepresentation by McHugh of a 2011 study undertaken at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Indeed the author of this study, Dr Cecilia Dhjene has gone on record many times to debunk such misrepresentation. “It’s very frustrating!” she says.

I’ve even seen professors use my work to support ridiculous claims. I’ve often had to respond myself by commenting on articles, speaking with journalists, and talking about this problem at conferences. The Huffington Post wrote an article about the way my research is misrepresented … Of course trans medical and psychological care is efficacious. A 2010 meta-analysis confirmed by studies thereafter show that medical gender confirming interventions reduces gender dysphoria.

Nor did Robertson reference the numerous other studies (Murad M., 2010, DeCuypere, 2006, Kuiper M. 1988, Gorton 2011, Clements-Nolle K., 2006) that consistently show how access to gender affirmation surgery significantly reduces the risk of suicide.

Nor, indeed, did he mention the consensus among currently practicing gender specialists regarding the benefits of gender affirming surgeries (where indicated as appropriate according to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s current guidelines).


Award winning journalist and equality campaigner Paris Lees said: 

This article contained serious misinformation, which may harm vulnerable people by discouraging them from seeking potentially life-saving treatment. It may also persuade confused family members to withdraw their support, right when the people they love need it most.

This article is part of a worrying trend to cite misleading, inaccurate and outdated evidence in an attempt to deny trans people their rights, driven by ideology. Why do they drag up discredited studies and ‘experts’ from 50 years ago when all recent evidence shows trans people do better with medical support? As David Robertson claims to be a man of God, I’m sure he’ll want to apologise for spreading such misinformation as soon as possible.

Indeed, a programme entitled ‘Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best’, broadcast by the BBC on 12th January 2017, showcased the views of Dr Ken Zucker and Dr Ray Blanchard, the basis of whose theories were developed in the 1970s and 80s. It gave very little airtime to widely accepted current best practice in relation to trans youth.


Ken Zucker

Blanchard’s theories have been rejected by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (the largest association of medical professionals who provide care for trans people) as lacking empirical evidence. Zucker has been accused of practicing conversion therapy on trans children. His Toronto Children’s Clinic was shut down by the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry CAMH in December 2015. CAMH’s medical director stated: “We expect CAMH’s services to reflect the latest and best practices in the field. We want to apologize for the fact that not all of the practices in our childhood gender identity clinic are in step with the latest thinking.”


Ray Blanchard

The evening before the broadcast of this documentary, BBC Newsnight also called on Ray Blanchard to discuss the issues raised by it without revealing that he is a longtime friend, collaborator  and associate of Dr Zucker’s at CAMH Toronto.


Jenni Murray, presenter of BBC Woman’s Hour

Another instance involves Dame Jenni Murray, whose 30-year reputation as presenter of BBC Woman’s Hour is widely assumed to be one of impartiality and reliability. In a recent comment piece for The Sunday Times she sought to cast doubt on the reliability of evidence for the incidence of suicide risk among young trans people. Giving credence to such doubts without reference to the substantial body of evidence from around the world that Transgender youth represent a vulnerable population at risk for negative mental health outcomes including depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidality could well put young lives at risk.


Robertson’s piece contained many other misleading opinions.

For instance his assertion that “84 per cent of children who experience gender identity issues resort to their biological gender by the time they are in adulthood” repeats a well-known myth which Dr Helen Webberley – in line with many other current practitioners in the field – describes as an: “inaccurate statistic, which should no longer be used as a proof point in the argument against treating children with gender variance.”

Robertson also states: “Bear in mind that a transgender teenager is twenty times more likely to attempt suicide than a non-transgender”. What he fails to mention is that this figure applies only where children lack access to family and social support and/or appropriate medical therapy. When such social support is in place, studies show self-harm ceases to be an issue.

Recent studies have all reached the same conclusion of positive outcomes for children who undergo supported social transition and, where current guidelines consider appropriate, suspension of puberty with blockers.


Perhaps David Robertson should also apologise for defaming John Hopkins Medicine. In a twitter exchange with Sarah Lennox, co-founder of AllAbout Trans, Robertson claimed that the only reason Hopkins had restarted provision of gender affirmation surgery was “because they have been threatened by trans activists”.


Given that Hopkins themselves stated their approach as following “evidence-based, patient-centered care” and “reflecting careful consideration over the past year of best practices and the appropriate provision of care for transgender individuals”, Robertson appears to have put on record a prima facie libel against this world renowned medical faculty … that they bowed to pressure from a handful of transgender activists rather than basing their decision strictly on scientific evidence and best practice.

1Gender Affirmation Surgery is the term used by most current practitioners in the field as being more appropriate than the older terminology of Gender Reassignment Surgery



Millions of words will be juggled today on the confusion, the social complications and the circus surrounding Bruce Jenner’s coming out at 65 …

How should we behave?
How should they behave?

What is the social etiquette around a middle aged transition?

‘It’s all SOOOO complicated!” A thousand media commentators will say. “It’s sooo complicated,” a bunch of trans commentators will parrot.

It’s NOT … and they’ll all be missing the real question: WHAT IS OUR SOCIETY GOING TO DO NOW TO ALLOW AND SUPPORT TRANS KIDS TO BE THEMSELVES FROM THE GET-GO SO THAT SOCIAL TRANSITION ITSELF BECOMES A THING OF THE PAST? Because then the kids will never have felt they had to conceal anything. It’s not rocket science.

Jenner knew as a child but could see no viable way to be themself. They first attempted to transition thirty-five years ago in 1980.

I find it heartbreaking to see somebody, as entitled as Jenner is in all other respects, feeling not entitled to chose their own name or pronoun for the Diane Sawyer interview and having as their main worry not wanting to let anybody else down. Of course that’s an honourable sentiment but FFS cis society has historically let down every trans kid (and indeed LGB kid) … FOREVER.

This needs to be the narrative from now on … please.

In 1988 Tory MP, Dame Jill Knight, a key supporter of Section 28 … yes, the lovely elderly person with some “delightful, very artistic” gay friends …  said of that shameful piece of legislation: “The major point of it was to protect children in schools from having homosexuality thrust upon them.”

Now Libby Purves … yes, the fine ally of trans people who even wrote a novel with a trans teenager as the main character … writes in the Daily Mail of “children coming under terrible pressure” to start down the road to gender reassignment. “How horrifying,” she writes “that anxious parents might be encouraging a child in that direction”.

Oh Libby 😦

“Alarmingly,” she continues, “some clinics seem willing to prescribe drugs that delay the onset of puberty because of the ‘distress’ of what is normal development” although she offers no hint of evidence for her alarm. The hugely cautious National Research Ethics Service certainly doesn’t seem to be alarmed, having imposed stringent conditions under which puberty blockers can be prescribed in the UK.  Indeed the Endocrine Society recently published a paper suggesting, far from careless prescribing, the medical needs of trans children are hardly even beginning to be met. And who does Libby cite in support of her panic? Only our old friend Ken Zucker, the doctor whose clinic has been closed following allegations that he has been practicing “conversion therapy” on trans kids  … something discredited by every reputable medical organisation in the world and which the Obama administration has announced it will now work to outlaw.

And then employing classic Daily Mail sleight of hand, after scaring the cissexist pants off us for the bulk of the article, Libby quietly more or less admits that the horrifying scenarios she envisages are not really happening … “The Tavistock clinic does not ‘generally consider it helpful to make a formal diagnosis in very young children’”.

When are these people … even otherwise sensible people like Libby Purves … going to get the message in the way that few other than bigots now dispute about being gay … YOU CANNOT THRUST TRANSNESS ON ANYBODY and nobody … literally nobody … is trying to do that.

Trying to thrust cisnormativity and heteronormativity on kids is a different matter entirely. We don’t even need to look up to see that. Call it cisgenderism or cissexism  or just plain prejudice … read about Leelah Alcorn here if you don’t know her story. They’re all at it … and with an incredible lack of self awareness …  including sadly it seems our ‘ally’ Libby Purves.


by Lisa Williamson

(David Fickling Books ISBN: 1910200328)


Artof BeingNormal

I’m so surprised and relieved at how much I loved this book. Surprised because I’ve learnt to expect little authenticity from non-trans authors who chose to include trans characters in fiction. Relieved because I don’t feel obliged to explain a long list of problems in a way which may be viewed as ungrateful or even deluded because … hey! … the author was trying to be positive.

Lisa Williamson gets it.

By any standards The Art of Being Normal is well-constructed. The main characters are developed beautifully so that you can’t help empathising with them. There is tension and pathos … it had me in tears at times … and a reveal which I must admit I did not see coming. It also deals movingly with some grittily unpalatable realities, not by any means all to do with being trans, while still being none the worse for a gloriously sentimental denouement.

It’s wonderful to be able to recommend a book which parents, teachers and young adults can be sure they are going to enjoy while at the same time finding an authentic portrayal of trans kids’ lives mostly filled with the same kind of concerns as their own.

The book is written from the viewpoint of two parallel narrators and the only thing which I found consistently jarring was that, once the narrator known as “David” had clearly revealed herself as Kate to Leo, the other narrator, Leo still refers to her as “David’ and uses the pronoun “he”. I’m not suggesting this couldn’t be justified by saying it might authentically have been the case. I do however wish that it had been used as a powerful teachable moment. The struggle to claim our gender identity experienced by trans people … the lack of entitlement … is something which I think few cisgender (non-trans) people grasp. As Paris Lees has written:

Research shows that the majority of trans adults got the memo we were trans at around 5 years old – a realisation most of us felt we needed to hide: “It soon becomes clear that to be different in this way is socially unacceptable and as such the most common response is concealment of their true feelings.” If we also know that 94% of people who walk into gender identity clinics are adults, that means, although the figure is accelerating, only 6% of trans children are currently being identified. In other words, most trans kids are suffering in silence.

Even Williamson’s blessèd publisher, David Fickling, describing in his forward how the book has “changed his perception of the world”, refers to “the boys in this book” despite one of the protagonists on the very first page making no bones about who she feels she is: “I want to be a girl”. Such misgendering may seem like a small thing to most people but to a trans child it is huge.

It probably shouldn’t surprise me either how some of the reviews of the book slip blithely into the usual clichés about “young people struggling with gender identity” (The Guardian), “a tale of a teenager’s struggle with identity” (The Telegraph) when this is so clearly not what Williamson’s book is about. Her characters give no sign of being anything other than clear about who they are. Her story is emphatically not about some imagined internal gender struggle taking place in a vacuum inside the protagonists’ heads. It’s about the struggles young trans people experience when dealing with the gender expectations mainstream cisgender society dumps on them. As such I think it’s a breath of fresh air.

One last thing … before writing this book Lisa Williamson worked at the Tavistock NHS clinic in London which specialises in treating trans children and I have to say I do find the rosy picture she paints of the ready availability of professional support for such children in the UK misleading. While we may assume things have improved somewhat, research only a few years ago found that 1 in 5 GPs are unwilling to help with referrals to gender services and 60% of those who wanted to help felt they lacked the information to do so.

For trans kids and their parents seeking support and advice on this topic, I’d recommend contacting Mermaids, GIRES or Gendered Intelligence. There’s good advice at NHS Choices  and a growing collection of great videos at All About Trans


A few days ago IPSO announced the appointment of three lay members to its Editors’ Code of Practice Committee. This committee oversees the precepts according to which complaints against newspapers are supposed to be judged. IPSO let it be known the appointments are  in response to the Leveson Report.

The Editor’s Code, inherited by IPSO from the PCC, has always seemed to me as Polly Toynbee has described it:

The PCC’s editors’ code of practice is a delight. Article 1 says: “The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures”. Now imagine the culture shock for all of us if truly independent adjudicators applied that maxim every day.

Should IPSO find itself replaced by a new government after the general election, I have no doubt that any future Press regulator … truly independent, Leveson-compliant or not … will chose to retain it.

There’s also no doubt that it could do with some tinkering around the edges especially better to protect vulnerable individuals and marginalised groups. To quote Scott Long, who has been rather busy this week writing about the disingenuity surrounding a certain letter to the Guardian:

Ideas exist not in an ideal but in the real world, and one way to judge them is not by their consistency with other ideas but by whether they have victims. By that standard, an idea that breeds hatred … has its problems.

The way things are, I can think of nobody I shall be happier to see keeping a caretaker’s eye on progress than the redoubtable Dr Kate Stone
Congratulations Kate!

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