We are sadly used to the mass media using “controversy” to sell their wares. The Trump phenomenon is the obvious end point of that, in that the more vile he becomes the more publicity the media gives him. It is quite another thing, however, when a supposed charity uses controversy around the people it is supposed to protect as a means of publicity. We are, of course, sadly used to tragedy porn on the TV, and in letters sent to us at Christmas. Those, however, normally only point out the very real suffering that the charities want us to take note of. They don’t target the victims.
Step forward now the NSPCC, whose motto is apparently, “Every childhood is worth fighting for”. They are planning to stage a public debate asking whether a particular group of children should be excluded from that mission. And the debate is so rigged that there can only be one conclusion: that trans kids do not deserve to be helped.
On one side of the “debate” is Sarah Ditum, someone with a long history of attempting to deny any treatment to trans people other than “conversion therapy”. On the other is Kellie Malloney, an elderly trans woman who has no experience of treating trans children but does have a history of domestic violence. There is no representation from Mermaids, or Gendered Intelligence, or any doctors with experience of working with trans children.
Conversion therapy is, of course, thoroughly discredited. It is illegal for LGB people in many places and illegal for trans people in Vermont. The main reason it has not been banned for trans people in other jurisdictions is that gender clinics fear that such legislation would be used by trans-haters to try to shut them down. Trans people often do need psychiatric help, and no one wants to have to risk letting a court decide what is the right sort of help. (See here for some discussion.)
Following the tragic suicide of Leelah Alcorn late in 2014 there was a petition in the USA asking for conversion therapy to be banned. It got over 120,000 signatures. The White House responded favorably.
Earlier this year the UK’s Professional Standards Authority was asked its opinion of conversion therapy for trans people. It responded that it didn’t know of anyone advertising such a service, but suggested that if they did they might be in breach of the Equality Act.
And yet the NSPCC is planning to give a platform to someone who advocates conversion therapy, and give her an inexperienced opponent to “debate” against.
The fact that suicide rates of trans youth are at horrific levels presumably means nothing to the NSPCC. As for Ditum, she defends herself by characterizing trans people who are suicidal as “manipulative abusers”.
There’s a lot that could be said about how trans kids are currently treated. This isn’t the place to do so. What I will say is that, regardless of what one thinks of current medical practice, it cannot be right for the NSPCC to make it a subject of public entertainment in this way. They are clearly looking to give Ditum an easy victory. Presumably they will then use that as a means to raise money, and possibly to campaign against treatment for trans kids.
Personally I hope that there will be a formal complaint to the Charities Commission. However, it isn’t my place to do that. What I can do is point you to this petition, which has gained around 100 signatures while I have been writing this post. I don’t seek to deny Ditum the right to air her vile and dangerous views about trans people. She does, after all, have a national media platform in The New Statesman where she airs them on a regular basis. I do, however, think it is utterly irresponsible of the NSPCC to exploit vulnerable children in this way, and I fear that the only thing that will dissuade them from doing so is if enough people sign that petition that they start to fear a drop in their income.