Archives for posts with tag: Paris Lees


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Dean Hamer, scientist emeritus at the National US Institutes of Health, describes McHugh as using a “selective and outdated collection of references and arguments aimed at confusing rather than clarifying our understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity.”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


I am so thrilled to see Paris Lees top the Independent Pink List 2013 … and Jackie Green also in the top ten at number 8. This is exactly what we need … young possibility models (the term inspirational American actress, Laverne Cox prefers to role model).

The doyenne of UK trans activism, Christine Burns, pointed out recently that the older generation of out trans people were by necessity focussed on challenging the law in order to gain basic human rights. In the UK now … though sadly there’s a long way to go in much of the rest of the world … the focus has moved on towards effecting change in social attitudes. Paris and Jackie epitomise the way a new generation have been enabled by Christine and her contemporaries to emerge from under that smothering cloud of institutional discrimination and to demand the same respect as everybody else in an equal  society … in Laverne’s words, to live out their dreams publicly.

This to me is THE change which trans kids and teenagers, growing up now, and crucially their families need to see. I don’t think we can overestimate the importance of demonstrating to the parents of trans and gender non-coforming kids that … not only can their children be safe … but the door is now open for them to go on and lead fulfilling, indeed enviable lives.

I was particularly struck by a passage in a recent blog by trans activist and author Julia Serano on Transadvocate entitled Considering trans and Queer Appropriation. For me this sums up the assumption Paris, Jackie and other young volunteers have been working on with the All About Trans project:

The more highly stigmatized a group is, the less likely it is that the dominant/majority group will even attempt to appropriate aspects of their identity or culture, as doing so will only lead to them becoming tainted by said stigma. However, if the marginalized/minority group becomes more accepted over time, there will be less of a social price to pay for associating oneself with that group. Thus, as acceptance of the group increases, so do the chances that others will engage in non-EED (erasure, exploitation, and denigration) appropriation.

Paris and Jackie are smart, bright, admirable human beings who are not only living out their dreams but who enrich the lives of everybody they meet … by which I mean everybody … not just trans people (though maybe not the bigots who are on the wrong side of history). They don’t suffer bigotry and will complain when necessary but primarily the focus of their existence is positive … breaking down barriers and I’d go so far to suggest, winning over large numbers of people who want to know them, to associate with the trans ‘group’, even to appropriate a part of our magic.

There’s others on the list who are on the same path … for example Raphael Francis Fox and Lewis Hancox whose inspirational film company Lucky Tooth Productions is starting to attract attention … also musician and inspirational blogger CN Lester. None of them could be leading the lives they are without the work of previous generations of trans activists. There’s plenty to do yet before things are perfect but these are  not just the buds. They are the blooms of a new trans generation. I think it’s hugely appropriate that this year the Pink List celebrates this. There’s a place for handing out medals for long service but, as in any field, the winners of such medals are seldom heard of very far outside their own trade association or field of activity. Paris, Jackie and their generation are already making waves in the wider world and I am in no doubt that we are going to hear so much more from them.

Some are mentioned in the Pink List some are allies but, if I could make my own list of those who are doing the most to encourage the the next generation of trans kids, it would certainly include …
Mermaids (particularly chair, Susie Green, Jackie’s Mum),
Jay Stewart of Gendered Intelligence,
Sue Sanders and Tony Fenwick of Schools Out
Natacha Kennedy, who is dramatically changing perceptions with her papers such as:  Transgender Children: more than just a theoretical challenge

and the best allies ever Nathalie McDermott and Alana Avery of On Road Media whose innovative work with young trans volunteers on All About Trans is truly breaking the mould.

I am proud of my friend Paris Lees. She is a hugely gifted writer for whom I (and quite a few others) predict great things.

Paris is editor of META magazine an ambitious project which has set out to do what many might describe as impossible … produce a magazine for the trans community. It’s no accident that the first question asked on the cover is “What does ‘the trans community’ actually mean?” while one article inside by Roz Kaveney discusses the problems associated with ‘Cat Herding’ and a debate between Dru Marland and Natacha Kennedy on whether the term ‘tranny’ is acceptable or not.

Also featuring are interviews with Justin V. Bond, Tomboy director Celine Sciamma, Lewis from My Transsexual Summer, Dian Torr and articles by Del La Grace Volcano, Jane Fae, Jennie Kermode, CN Lester and much more

For many years a magazine like META would have been anathema to me. I saw the trans community as something fractious … a hydra which ate its own. But META captures a new zeitgeist of confidence and assertiveness. More and more of those who make up the trans community are developing the sense of entitlement which has been so lacking in the past when most of us were grateful if we could achieve a place where we were free from constant opprobrium and just left alone to live our lives. Finally we are becoming sufficiently confident in our own identities as individuals not to rage at the mirrored image of ourselves we see in others of our kind.

I firmly believe that if things are ever to change for succeeding generations of trans people, it is essential that we stand up and are proud. Parents of trans children growing up now need to know that transition is a viable pathway whatever form it may take … binary, non-binary, gender variant. Hopefully all such terms will disappear before too long and we will all be just people.

It’s beginning to happen but until that process is complete, META is the mast we can all pin our colours to. Please buy a copy now. Apart from anything else it’s a really good read.

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