Last night and this morning my Twitter mentions have been full of outrage about a High Court judgement to remove a child from the care of their mother because of concerns that said child was being abused by being allowed to present as female. There’s news coverage here.
I’ve had a chance to look through the official judgement this morning. It doesn’t make for pretty reading. I have an awful lot of questions, some of which may be answered as more information comes to light.
To start with, this case seems to be part of an acrimonious dispute between the biological parents of the child who are now separated. The case seems to have revolved entirely around the question as to whether the father or mother was correct with regard to whether the child is a boy or a girl. A child’s welfare should never come down to taking sides in such a case.
I note also that there appears to have been zero consideration that both parents might be correct. There is good evidence these days that children can have strong cross-gender identification at a very early age. However, many children are ambivalent about their gender. Forcing them to choose one or the other can be just as harmful as forcing them to make the “wrong” choice between binary genders.
I am wondering where the expert testimony is. A “Consultant Clinical Psychologist” was employed to assess the child, but there is no suggestion that she is an expert in gender issues. The child is apparently a patient at the Tavistock gender clinic, but no one from the Tavi is mentioned as giving evidence. Mermaids have stated that they have been supporting the mother and child for over two years, but there is no mention of them being asked to give evidence.
I’m struck also by the way in which the mother’s attempts to protect her child have been used against her. When the child was bullied she tried to keep them away from the bullies, and was accused of isolating the child. When she tried to allow the child to start social life again in a new environment where the child was known only as a girl, which is standard practice for raising trans kids, this too was condemned by the judge on the grounds that someone might find out. He described it as:
an arrangement that was fraught with potential for real harm to J if his true gender was inadvertently discovered
I submit that in referring to the child’s “true gender” the judge is showing obvious bias.
What is most disturbing about this case, however, is the way in which the judge gives equal weight to the opinions of people who know nothing about trans issues to those of the mother and the various agencies attempting to help her. A local authority report is quoted as saying:
It is evident that some agencies do not have a full understanding of gender non conforming children and have therefore contacted Children’s Service, sometimes when they have not met [J].
The judge responds to this with:
The two remaining passages of the conclusion make very disheartening reading indeed. They combine both naivety and professional arrogance.
I can see no basis for this comment other than that he feels he knows the “true gender” of the child. There are lots of attempts to appeal to the views of other agencies, all of which have a lot of experience with children, but none that appear to have much awareness of trans issues.
As anyone who has worked with trans children will tell you, there is a vast amount of ignorance out there. Schools, health care professionals, government agencies and voluntary services of all sorts are full of people whose view of trans people have been shaped by reading tabloid newspapers. They will often “raise concerns” solely on the grounds that they don’t believe that being trans is a real thing, or in the case of schools because they are unwilling to deal with the complications that having trans pupils entails.
Much of this reminds me of when I was a kid. My brother had very severe dyslexia, and my mum spent a great deal of her time fighting against schools and other agencies. At the time she was accused of being taken in by a popular fad that everyone with any common sense knew wasn’t real. The same sort of thing happens to parents of trans children today.
It is deeply concerning that the judge has used this case to attack the social workers who attempted to support the child’s mother. This sort of thing could easily end their careers, and it will have a chilling effect on every similar case around the country. All it will take is for some transphobic doctor or school teacher to “raise concerns” that a child is being raised in an inappropriate way and social services will have to react for fear that they too will be accused of abetting “child abuse”.
There is a petition about the case here. I make no claims to knowing how the child should be raised, but I think it entirely wrong that such issues should be decided in court, and am horrified at many of the comments by the judge.
Update: From Susie Green of Mermaids on Facebook
There have been 2 independent gender specialists who have reviewed the family and agreed that Mum is not responsible for her child’s gender expression.