25 November 2021
By Lynda Goetz
In considering the now thorny question of Trans identity, we appear, as in so many other aspects of modern society, to have succumbed to groupthink and fear. Fear mainly of being on the wrong side, of holding the wrong views and above all of speaking out about those views. Fear because having the ‘wrong’ views can lead to terrifying things like death threats. This week has seen a number of incidents which reinforce that concern; J K Rowling (who has received death threats for her feminist views) has spoken out on Twitter about a photograph which Trans activists have put up on social media clearly and deliberately showing the address where she and her family are living; Eddie Redmayne, six years after defending his role as Lily in The Danish Girl has said that it was ‘a mistake’ and Poland, a majority Catholic country in which five regions had put in place ‘LGBT ideology-free zones’ to support ‘family values’, is now backtracking on those decisions. In a rather different development, Dr David Bell, a former member of the Tavistock Clinic, has spoken out yet again against the attitudes and practices of that institution.
The Government Equalities Office, in a fact sheet entitled Trans People in the UK admits frankly that it doesn’t know how many Trans people there are in the UK. Their tentative guesstimate is somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000. The population of the UK is estimated by the Worldometer to be standing currently (as at 24th November) at 68,382,922 (last year, rather alarmingly it stood at ‘only’ 67.22 million). Even if we take the larger estimate for Trans people and round down the overall population figure to 68 million, this gives a percentage of 0.79% as possibly being Trans. The lower estimate would give a figure of 0.29%. Whilst admittedly not insignificant, this is actually a tiny minority of the population who, in pursuit, quite understandably, of their own rights and interests, appear, in an absolutely unacceptable way, to be terrifying the rest of the population into conformity with their way of thinking.
this gives a percentage of 0.79% as possibly being Trans. The lower estimate would give a figure of 0.29%
In Scotland, the new Hate Crime Act which was passed in April has raised fears of suppression of free speech, amidst concerns that even speech made within the home could fall under its provisions. This Act was very clearly passed to burnish the Trans credentials of the SNP, as was shown by the debate in the Scottish Parliament earlier in the year before it was voted upon. Feminists in the public eye who share the view that biological sex matters, like JK Rowling and Kathleen Stock (the philosophy professor who recently resigned from the University of Sussex after a trans campaign against her), as well as, almost certainly, a majority of the population who share those views are being literally shouted down – and worse.
The situation in Poland may well be money- rather than fear-related. In response to Poland’s regions declaring their anti-LGBT ideology stance, the EU declared itself to be an LGBTIQ freedom zone, but more importantly, it also threatened to withhold millions of euros worth of funds to which these regions could be entitled. Of course, if these regions’ policies contravene EU law, then the EU is entirely within its rights to take appropriate measures. Nevertheless, once again, the bullying tactics being used by the supporters of current ideologies are in evidence; ‘if you don’t fall into line we will punish you’. Wednesday’s Today programme on BBC Radio 4 had a small item at the end of its broadcast on the situation in Holy Cross province. The chair of the regional assembly said he felt that repealing the legislation after two years was not just about the money, but because it had ‘had its intended effect’ and that it was not about individuals, but the ideology and ‘general views of our society’. The question is, have those general views really changed in two years or is Poland, rather like the rest of the West, being steamrollered into submission by the views of a small minority?
Lionel Shriver, American author of the novel We need to talk about Kevin, was a few weeks ago at the Cheltenham Literary Festival reported as saying that the way woke ideology was heading, it would not be long before all that authors could write would be memoirs, given that the woke brigade are against anybody writing without ‘lived experience’. This approach is also now rife in the acting and film industry. Both of these activities are supposedly creative. The writer of novels uses his/her imagination to conjure a world which may be far from their lived experience. It is the skill with which they do this which determines their ability and the extent to which they can engage their readers. In the same way, an actor’s job is to sublimate their own personality and take on the character which they are ‘playing’ (note the word). It is not, and should not be, a prerequisite that they themselves have experienced being or doing whatever their character is or does. Yet, increasingly this is what is being sought or even demanded*.
In 2015, Eddie Redmayne defended playing the Trans female Lile Ebner. At the time he said he felt ‘honoured’ to be part of the debate and an ‘ally of the trans community’. In a recent interview with The Sunday Times mainly about his latest role in a new stage version of Cabaret, Redmayne says he “wouldn’t take it on now. I made that film with the best intentions, but I think it was a mistake,” and added, “The bigger discussion about the frustrations around casting is because many people don’t have a chair at the table. There must be a levelling, otherwise we are going to carry on having these debates.” If only debates were what we were having!
Dr David Bell recently told a conference organised by Genspect, a parental support group for those concerned about the treatment that their children are receiving, that those “unwilling or unable to conform to gender stereotypes” are “misunderstood” as being transgender. He went on to say that NHS services treat girls who “don’t like pink ribbons and dollies” as if they have been born in the wrong body. Dr Bell, a consultant psychiatrist, formerly with the Tavistock clinic, who retired earlier this year and who three years ago raised serious concerns about whether the clinic’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) was ‘fit for purpose’, has expressed concern that between 2010-11 and 2019-20 the number of referrals to the clinic increased nineteenfold from 135 to 2,565. Dr Bell considered that factors including the “influence of powerful political lobbies” such as Stonewall and Mermaids meant that staff feared raising concerns in case they were labelled transphobic. Once again, the question of fear raises its ugly head. These doctors were not transphobic, but debate and discussion around the subject was closed down. Dr Bell said he knew of instances where clinicians were taken off a case because they believed that the child was not Trans but gay.
she could ‘paper a room with the death threats I have received’
J K Rowling was once a much-loved children’s author. Nowadays she claims she could ‘paper a room with the death threats I have received’. The majority of sane people in this country must find that statement shocking. As an MP said on Woman’s Hour very recently in a somewhat different context, whilst it may well be true that most of those making these threats would never carry them out, ‘it only takes one’. No law-abiding citizen in a free democratic country should have to live in fear of such threats – and certainly not for being accused of a phobia most do not feel. The vast majority are happy to ‘live and let live’, but they certainly do not wish to be threatened into agreeing with the agenda of a minority. By and large they are pre-occupied with many other issues which matter far, far more to them.
* e.g The latest production of the NT’s production of Mark Haddon’s ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time’ is to star autistic actor Connor Curren as Christopher Boone.
Note: I am rather puzzled by my spell checker suggesting that the word ‘trans’ should be spelt with a capital. As far as I am aware, words such as Man, Woman, Gay, Lesbian and Bi-sexual are not normally spelt with a capital letter. Very curious!