On the matter of empathy

The sex that is being denied a name – in the name of “empathy”

On Monday, The National newspaper in Scotland published an article by Stephen Paton, one of their regular columnists “Shameful antitrans activitst lack empathy in latest attacks”. His point was that there should have been enthusiastic support for yet another Day of Trans Remembrance for all the numberless people who have allegedly died as victims of transphobia. Stephen Paton said we should all be lighting candles in our houses and scorning anyone who denies endless evidence free claims about deaths and suicide which fuel the thin arguments of the Trans lobby, This lobby objects to women and gay and lesbian people organising around our own interests, and insist that this is “exclusionary” and “transphobic”.any concerns expressed about the beliefs they promote are hateful, and lacking in empathy. That was David Paton’s published rant. While I have no problem about people believing what they want, I do object to being repeatedly told that we who do not believe must believe or pretend to believe or prepare to be houdned out of public life. The National is not a good paper. It is mostly devoid of news, and full of opinions.

This article seemed to me to represent the worst of the maudling, false claims which are fuelling what increasingly feels like a war on women, Something in me snapped and I wrote this response and asked the National to publish it. They have not. So here it is: Read and enjoy! and pass it on. And let us all rage against the erasure of women and the persecution of those who protest.

The Editor

The National

23 November 2020

For favour of publication

On the matter of empathy (Stephen Paton 23 November)

I know I speak for many women when I write to you in utter frustration and anger at the continued vilification of anyone, but particularly women, who dares to contradict the insistence that we all have to agree with the currently fashionable transgender ideology.  We are told that we must accept that children can be “born in the wrong body”  having been wrongly “assigned a gender”on the basis of their genitalia.  To me and most adults this is not a new frontier in the fight for human rights, but rather a relatively new minted belief that stems from and is allied to extremes of sexism and homophobia. Sexist stereotyping is at the heart of insistence that it is not “natural”  for boys to like clothes and toys and books and activities that only girls are supposed to like, and vice versa for girls. Transgender beliefs deny same sex attraction, and therefore homosexuality. If  sex has no meaning or definition, there can be no such thing as same sex attraction can there?

Your columnist Stephen Paton devoted a column (23 November) to tell us  that we lack empathy and that are against equality because we object to the constant demand that we accept a hierarchy of oppression, which somehow once again has men right at the top. We who disagree are chided  by Stephen Paton for a lack of empathy for transpeople on (yet another) day of remembrance.  But no figures, no names, no inquests into these claimed deaths were  forthcoming from Paton  or anyone else. In fact Scotland, with no recorded murders of transwomen at all in over 10 years, seems to be quite a safe place for transwomen and transmen. Why not celebrate that? And remember instead the women who have been killed, the girls suffering and even dying from anorexia and other self harms?   The truth is that there are statistically more transwomen serving sentences for murder and rape of women in the UK than transwomen  who have been victims of murder.    

Most women I know have huge empathy for the men and women and children who struggle with living in  their sexed bodies. But  that empathy does not mean agreeing to demands that  deny the separate identity and needs of women and girls.   Women and girls are being forced to accept men accessing our most intimate health care and  other services where we are vulnerable to sexual and physical assault.   The eminently sensible question “should men be allowed into showers with naked teenage girls, whether those girls agree or not?” is denounced as transphobic. If that is not recognised as a red flag, what will be?

Women and girls are abused and murdered on a regular basis in Scotland as in nearly every country in the world.  90 women have been killed in the UK is year alone during the Covid pandemic lock-up.  We do know the names and identities of women killed and injured by men.   There have been trials and inquests and fatal accident enquiries. When we count the women who are dead, we are not counting imagined deaths in places far away but actual women we have known in every town in Scotland. Women whose sisters and mothers and friends remember them. Women who have stood at school gates with other women, shopped, cooked, married, danced. Yet still women are told off by  Stephen Paton and his ilk for having a feminist opinion.

The Scotsman reports today that half – yes half! – of all women and girls in Scotland were subjected to street sex based  harassment by men and boys this summer. Those men know what a woman is.  80% of parents worry that their daughters will be sexually harassed. Most of the assaults are unreported. Whistles, lewd gestures, gropes and grabs, are all part of what girls grow to expect. We have to keep ourselves safe or be judged to have caused our own misfortune.  Girls in school uniforms are subject to adult men’s lewd attentions.  One of girls’ major complaints in surveys of school aged children  is of sexual harassment by boys.  The men frightening and offending against women and girls don’t stop to ask what pronouns they use, or whether they  “identify as” women.  They know what a woman is.

Unsurprisingly, it is girls who are particularly affected by trans-ideology. There has been  a huge rise in the numbers seeking a medical solution having been  wrongly promised hormones and surgery will release them from what seems to the adolescent girl the horror of being a woman.   They will and do grow out of it if allowed to, but now are being encouraged to take life changing decisions before they mature. If parents object they are vilified as transphobic bigots and even accused of child abuse.

Accepting and embracing outrageous demands for women’s rights and children’s minds is not empathy, and it is not kind.  

It’s time that there was a bit more empathy for  women and girls.   Erasing women’s existence as a separate sex with our separate rights and needs is not “empathetic”. And its time we had a bit more actual evidence of harm from those who would refuse us our own name and definition, and yet accuse us of lack of empathy.

Maggie Mellon

https://1drv.ms/w/s!AuNyszHddO9nmTKUbZ2cvZ5dtksB?e=94EE4A

No Problem? No Evidence.

Claims by Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, and Engender have been used to support the campaign for self ID of “gender”. I asked for their evidence.

On 16 May I sent  the following letter to Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) and to Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS).  I also sent a copy to the Scottish Government asking them if they had asked for the evidence before using the claims of “no problem”.

“Dear…

I am writing on behalf of a number of women who are concerned about the consequences for women and children for their rights, privacy, health and safety of the  acceptance of claims that biological males can and should be accepted as women on the basis of self definition of their own “gender”.   

Scottish Womens Aid supported  the Gender Recognition Act proposals in last year’s Scottish Government consultation and are often  quoted in support of self definition of “gender” and the presentation of the change from sex to gender as unproblematic). Scottish Women’s Aid have claimed that self ID of gender is already operational in your services and has not caused any problems. This has been used to deny the concerns raised by me and by other women.

We are writing to better understand the basis of the evidence that you draw on to suggest that there are no adverse impacts  of accepting males as women for the purposes of using, working in or in need of your services. For the avoidance of doubt my definition of women is adult human females. For example has Women’s Aid  carried out any formal consultations with members of staff and management committees?  Has there been any organisational or independently commissioned consultation or survey of current, former and also prospective service users in the adult human female population who rely or may rely need to rely on SWA services? Are you relying on any wider peer reviewed research or even independent evaluations to determine the views and experiences of current or possible service users and/or staff or volunteers? 

Given the importance of this issue for women  it is vital that any changes are fully and independently examined before proceeding. For such major changes to the position of women I am sure you would agree that a robust evidence base is important for well informed and measured debate about this important proposed change. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours etc”

I sent the same letter to RCS and to Engender.  I sent a copy of the letter to the head of the Scottish Government Equality Unit with this covering letter, asking for it to be treated as an FOI request.  

“Dear…..

Evidence of impact of accepting self-definition of gender for the purposes of receiving or providing  single sex services

I enclose a copy of a letter I have sent to Scottish Women’s Aid, asking for the evidence they rely on in claiming that there are no adverse impacts of accepting self ID of gender for the purposes of providing or using services provided for women. The same request has also gone  to Rape Crisis Scotland.

As the Scottish Government provides significant funding to these organisations and also to LGBTY and TransAlliance Scotland who make similar claims of lack of negative impact in relation to all aspects of the policies for health, education, and children’s social services, I would be interested to know if you have ever asked these or any other organisations for the evidence on which they are relying in making these claims? Has the Scottish Government carried out a review of the existing literature or commissioned any independent research or carried out any consultation of actual or potential users of these or any other women specific services?

Yours etc

RESPONSE FROM SCOTTISH WOMEN’S AID

I received a reply from SWA directing me to  their submission to the government consultation on the GRA proposals. (https://womensaid.scot/working-for-change/policy-research/briefings-and-consultation-responses/). SWA also pointed to the Engender Scottish Women’s Sector response (https://www.engender.org.uk/content/publications/Scottish-Womens-Sector-response-to-the-consultation-on-proposed-changes-to the Gender-Recognition-Act.pdf) as did Rape Crisis Scotland.  I will discuss this later in the context of the No Problem claim.

The SWA submission  states “Women’s Aid’s gendered analysis of domestic abuse recognises gender as identity and separate to biologically assigned sex, and Women’s Aid services are women- only organisations open to self-identifying women. Existing practice reflects this, and Women’s Aid groups do not require sight of a birth certificate in order to grant access to services.”  

 “Our existing position is that we provide services based on a gendered analysis of domestic abuse, and services are open to self- identified women only, as well as children and young people.”

 Scottish Women’s Aid  accepts biological men who declare themselves to be women for the purposes of providing or receiving a “women only” service.

Their submission goes on:

“To inform this consultation, we sought input from our network of services… A survey was distributed to all 36 Women’s Aid groups throughout Scotland which included specific question requested information about any problems that had arisen as a result of implementing trans-inclusion in their services.” 21 responses were received. They did not provide the survey but reported that  “Although most groups have limited experience in providing services to transgender women, children and young people, the overwhelming feedback confirmed that WA services want to be accessible and inclusive, and support a self-identification model.” And that

“Challenges identified were concerns regarding lacking experience in supporting transgender women, staff members’ limited knowledge and training on appropriate language and lack of confidence in ensuring non-discriminatory practices as well as considerations around whether refuge or outreach services would be most appropriate.”

SWA therefore acknowledged that they have little actual experience of providing “trans-inclusive services”.  Additionally, their member services were not asked if they or the women they work with believed claims that men can be women, or that self-ID  of gender is a safe basis for deciding who is a woman.

The submission did not answer any of the questions asked about research, surveys of impact,  or whether they  SWA had consulted  current or potential adult female service users

Rape Crisis Scotland responded that they had been providing services to men, including men who identify as women, for a number of years. They did not respond to the request for evidence to support their claim that there has been no negative impact of employing staff or engaging volunteers who are biologically male but identify as women.  The letter does however record that “we are very concerned about the current hostile and divisive climate and some of the misunderstanding about how support services are delivered in practice, which would make women feel their safety and choice isn’t valued…” and that they are “…considering how we best address this so that women who might self exclude because of fear or anxiety can be confident that support would meet their needs.”  “Of 5,072 survivors who accessed support in an RC centre last year, 212 were men, and 7 “identified as trans/non binary”.  The number of male, trans and non-binary staff or volunteers is not given. At least one local rape crisis centre is run by a transidentifying male.

So, Rape Crisis Scotland also has  very little experience of providing “transinclusive” services.  They do however record the gender identities given by service users. It is not clear how  they will in practice be able to offer assurances of a single sex service to women. One of their current managers is a male who identifies as a woman.

Response by Engender

“Our consultation response is based on our long experience of engaging with equality law and policy, and in service delivery at national and local level. It is also based on our many years of collaboration and dialogue with Scottish Trans Alliance, and other LGBTI national organisations, and on internal dialogue within our organisations and their memberships.” They omit to declare that membership is not open to anyone who disagrees that men can be women, or who disagrees with their inclusion in their own work or in Engender’s work..

On the question of the safety of the proposal that men should be able to change their birth certificate on the basis of self declaration as women and vice versa:

“ As we are not aware that any women’s organisation or group currently in our networks requires sight of a birth certificate in order to grant access to services or membership, this will have no impact on our services or work. All access to membership and services is based on self-identification. This will continue.”   

“All violence against women organisations that receive Scottish Government funding provide trans-inclusive services. The requirement for trans inclusion plans has been in place for six years, and has not given rise to any concerns or challenges of which we are currently aware.”

So there we have it. Firstly, Scottish  Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland have in practice got very little experience of providing their services to men who claim to be  women.  It is not clear from the evidence whether SWA have any experience of providing refuge. They do not say what their experience of service provision to biological men consists of.  Is it telephone based? Is it  mainly their training or outreach services? If they are training others in the inclusion of men who identify as women and vice versa, what is the evidence base for this, given that they have little or perhaps no experience and certainly no research or evaluation?

While SWA and RCS may not currently ask for birth certificates or Gender Recognition Certificates they do currently have the right to require  a GRC, and to refuse a service or employment to anyone without a GRC.  Therefore currently, if a man with a beard applied for service or for a job with them, they would be entitled to and would surely ask for a gender recognition certificate or a  birth certificate in order to protect the women using services designed for women who are overwhelmingly victims of male violence or abuse.

RCS and SWA are concerned for the rights and dignity of men who claim to be women.  But they  support legal changes that would force them and the women who use their services to accept men with fully intact male bodies as actual women for the purposes of women-only services.

The government-funded women’s organisations which are supporting the government’s proposals for the legal changes may genuinely believe that there will be no problem for women. However it is clear from the correspondence and from their own submissions to Parliament that they cannot provide the necessary evidence to support their beliefs. Therefore their testimony should not be used in the way that it has been to support the changes. These organisations’ support for the GRA proposals has been used quite wrongly to dismiss the legitimate concerns of self-funded women’s organisations .

These organisation and also LGBTY and Scottish Trans Alliance are almost totally funded by government. To date I have received no response from the Scottish Government on the question of whether they asked for evidence from SWA or Rape Crisis or Engender before using their claims to support the Government GRA proposals .

Maggie Mellon

Questioning transgender ideology – Briefing for Children’s Sector in Scotland.

Why the Children’s Sector should be brave and start asking serious questions about trans-ideology.

BRIEFING
 

Why the Children’s Sector should be brave and start asking serious questions about trans-ideology.  

The immediate and unquestioning “transitioning” of children with gender dysphoria to try to live as the opposite sex has been accepted across health and education services in Scotland without any open discussion.  It has been presented as an issue of children’s right to self-expression and to protection against discrimination. The right to protection from harm seems to have been forgotten. Anyone who questions the wisdom of these policies, or of the evidence that supports them, faces being criticised as “transphobic” and “bigoted” and lacking in basic understanding of the need for “trans inclusion”. For academics and professionals, this is often accompanied by calls for them to be disciplined and even sacked from their positions.

The Scottish Government and all of its funded organisations have adopted transgender ideology uncritically, even to the extent of endorsing (until recently) the Guidance for Supporting Transgender Young People in Schools, which was written by TransAlliance Scotland and LGBTY Scotland. This Guidance calls for girls to be evicted from their own changing rooms and toilets if they did not accept the inclusion of males who “identify” as girls. Girls were to be told to use the facilities reserved for disabled children, affecting the rights of girls and disabled children.

Despite the withdrawal of the Guidance at the end of the last session of Parliament, teachers are still being instructed not to report to parents about their children “transitioning” in school if a child of any age says they don’t want their parents to know. Parents who object or question it are told that they are not acting in their children’s best interests and told that they may be referred for child protection investigation and the possible removal of their children.

The children’s sector, including the Children’s Commissioner and Children in Scotland, has failed to stand up for children and families subject to these minority and unproven beliefs. They have instead endorsed these and other policies. They have not asked for research or any contrary evidence. They have not consulted or discussed with parents, the public, or with professionals with knowledge and understanding of children’s physical and psychological development.

This briefing challenges the widespread acceptance of these policies and points to the questions that should be asked by the Children’s Sector. 

Here are some relevant links : First http://www.transgendertrend.com

“Transgender Trend is an organisation which aims to provide an alternative source of evidence-based information which questions the theory, diagnosis and treatment of ‘trans kids.’ The mainstream media has been uniformly and uncritically accepting of the transgender diagnosis of children and in the absence of any public scrutiny the number of children referred to gender clinics has risen exponentially over the last few years.”

“We question who gains from this lifelong medicalisation of children, and whose vested interests are fuelling the promotion of transgender ideology. We ask why it has become impossible to debate the subject without being labelled ‘transphobic.’”

Transgender Trend has produced free alternative guidance for schools about how to help children with gender dysphoria.  This guidance is available on their website.

Now – watch this: Professor Michelle Moore expert on children and disability speaking at a Woman’s Place meeting in Sheffield

Professor Michele Moore has spoken and published against the adoption of trans-ideology. This is her speaking at a Woman’s Place meeting last year. Watch it! Her concerns are legitimate, evidenced, and supported by her considerable academic and practice experience and knowledge. She has inevitable been a target for criticism, and for calls for her dismissal as editor of the journal Children and Disability.

“It takes great courage to challenge the prevailing gender identity orthodoxy and its proponents, who have become totalitarian in their suppression of dissent. As a society, we depend on the courageous professionals who do not go along like sheep with the current crowd, but continue to centre the welfare, safeguarding and health of children above populist or political movements.

Breaches of Children’s Rights

An assessment by Women and Girls in Scotland of the now withdrawn and discredited Guidance on supporting transgender young people identified the ways that that the guidance breached children’s rights.  https://wgscotland.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Childrens-Rights-Impact-Assessment-by-Women-and-Girls-in-Scotland.pdf

This is a film of Maggie Mellon speaking at a For Women Scotland meeting earlier this year in Edinburgh,  specifically on the harms done to children by the adoption of trans-ideology.

The full meeting can be found on the For Women Scotland website, along with other important information and news about critical and feminist work in Scotland. https://forwomen.scot

The text can be found here: https://maggiemellon.online/2019/02/03/red-flags-and-crossed-bridges-why-uncriticially-adopting-transgender-theory-and-policies-harms-children/

And from the Guardian 27 July 2019, a piece on the dangers to children of the trans lobby pressures:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/27/trans-lobby-pressure-pushing-young-people-to-transition

“I believe the trans political agenda has encroached on the clinical environment surrounding and within the Gender Identity Development Service,” Evans , former head of the Tavistock GIDS service, told the Observer. “Young people need an independent clinical service that has the long-term interests of the patient at heart. To some extent, this requires a capacity to stand up to pressure coming from various sources: from the young person, their family, peer groups, online and social networking pressures and from highly politicised pro-trans groups.

The number of children referred annually to GIDS has risen from 468 in 2013 to 2,519 in 2018. Some claim social media is a factor in the increase.In a hard-hitting paper, presented at a conference earlier this year and shared with the Observer, Evans quoted the experience of “Dagny”, a woman who identified as a trans man in her teens, has now detransitioned and says she was influenced by views expressed on the social network, Tumblr.

“One of these unhealthy beliefs I held was the belief that if you have gender dysphoria, you must transition,” Dagny has said. “And anyone that appeared to stand in my way was a transphobe – an alt-right bigot.”

Sudden Onset of Gender Dysphoria in Girls – Social Contagion?

 Andrew Gilligan in the Sunday Times reports:

“The number of 13-year-olds seeking treatment rose by 30% in a year to 331. Referrals of 14-year-olds went up by a quarter, to 511. The number of 11-year-olds is up by 28%. The youngest patients were three.”

12 -17 year-olds make up 80% of referrals

This fits with the observed phenomenon of a rapid onset of gender dysphoria after puberty, among adolescents with no previous signs of dysphoria in childhood. In the first exploratory study of parental reports (Parent reports of adolescents and young adults perceived to show signs of a rapid onset of gender dysphoria : August 16, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0202330) by Dr Lisa Littman several factors were identified by a significant number of parents, suggesting a social contagion among teenagers, predominantly girls, with pre-existing mental health or neurobiological conditions.

Dangers of Unresearched Treatments –

The Tavistock Clinic has so far failed to publish research on the impact and outcomes of administering “puberty blockers” (drugs that delay the onset of puberty) to children over a period of years. This article discusses what has emerged so far about the effect on children and why the Tavistock abruptly ended the research https://www.transgendertrend.com/tavistock-experiment-puberty-blockers-update/

Gender questioning children deserve better science”

Byng, Bewley,Clifford, McCartney   December 2018 Lancet

https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32223

Margaret McCartney is a Scottish GP who is a well respected commentator on health and who with colleagues wrote in the Lancet about their concerns about transgender ideology. Here is what they wrote in the introduction:

“… Sex has a biological basis, whereas gender is fundamentally a social expression. Thus, sex is not assigned—chromosomal sex is determined at conception and immutable. A newborn’s phenotypic sex, established in utero, merely becomes apparent after birth, with intersex being a rare exception.”

“Distress about gender identity must be taken seriously and support should be put in place for these children and young people, but the impacts of powerful, innovative interventions should be rigorously assessed. The evidence of medium-term benefit from hormonal treatment and puberty blockers is based on weak follow-up studies. The guideline does not consider longer-term effects, including the difficult issue of detransition. Patients need high-quality research into the benefits and harms of all psychological, medical, and surgical treatments, as well as so-called wait-and-see strategies. This approach will provide reliable information for children, parents, and clinicians, and inform societal debate. We need to understand the rapid increase in referrals of girls and any relationship with gender identity legislation, the interplay between gender dysphoria, sexual orientation, and unpalatable roles in our highly-gendered society, and the twin potentials for underdiagnosis and overdiagnosis and treatment.”

Mermaids Charity promotes sexist stereotyping

Mermaids Training – how to help children know what their “gender” is

Despite the enormous advances of feminism in the 20th Century in challenging sexist stereotypes and expectations of children, the charity Mermaids is successfully promoting the stereotypical gendered behaviour as an indication of the actual true sex of children. If a girl is active, sporty, assertive, adventurous, then she is probably a boy. If a boy is quiet, sensitive, does not like football and likes to read or play with dolls, then he is probably a girl. No wonder that the number of girls identifying themselves as transgender is soaring. Mermaids and other transactivists have succeeded in getting this nonsense taught in schools across Scotland. 

Questions that need to be asked

  • What is the definition of   “ girl”  “ boy”  “woman” and “man”?    
  • If being transgender is a normal state for children, and not a disorder, why is treatment required?    
  • What is the evidence for believing that children may be “transgender” rather than unhappy about being expected to conform to sexist stereotyping?
  • What is the evidence that children who are unhappy about  their sex are “transgender” rather than possibly just more likely  to be lesbian or gay when they grow up?
  • What is the explanation for the greater numbers of girls than boys identifying  as transgender?
  • What is the evidence that teaching children to “explore” whether they are boys or girls based on “feelings” is not harmful indoctrination of impressionable young minds?
  • What is the evidence that children with autism or other disabilities or special needs are particularly vulnerable to embracing transgender identities?
  • What is the evidence that transitioning has good outcomes?
  • What is the evidence for the use of life altering puberty blockers for children?
  • What is the evidence for  advocating chest binders for adolescent girls?
  • Where are the child’s rights impact assessments to support the policies that have been adopted?

Maggie Mellon

M.Sc., CQSW, Dip Child Protection

27 July 2019

No Problem? No Evidence.

Claims by Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, and Engender have been used to support the campaign for self ID of “gender”. I asked for their evidence.

On 16 May I send  the following letter to Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) and to Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS).  I also sent a copy to the Scottish Government asking them if they had asked for the evidence before using the claims of “no problem”.

“Dear…

I am writing on behalf of a number of women who are concerned about the consequences for women and children for their rights, privacy, health and safety of the  acceptance of claims that biological males can and should be accepted as women on the basis of self definition of their own “gender”.   

Scottish Womens Aid supported  the Gender Recognition Act proposals in last year’s Scottish Government consultation and are often  quoted in support of self definition of “gender” and the presentation of the change from sex to gender as unproblematic). Scottish Women’s Aid have claimed that self ID of gender is already operational in your services and has not caused any problems. This has been used to deny the concerns raised by me and by other women.

We are writing to better understand the basis of the evidence that you draw on to suggest that there are no adverse impacts  of accepting males as women for the purposes of using, working in or in need of your services. For the avoidance of doubt my definition of women is adult human females. For example has Women’s Aid  carried out any formal consultations with members of staff and management committees?  Has there been any organisational or independently commissioned consultation or survey of current, former and also prospective service users in the adult human female population who rely or may rely need to rely on SWA services? Are you relying on any wider peer reviewed research or even independent evaluations to determine the views and experiences of current or possible service users and/or staff or volunteers? 

Given the importance of this issue for women  it is vital that any changes are fully and independently examined before proceeding. For such major changes to the position of women I am sure you would agree that a robust evidence base is important for well informed and measured debate about this important proposed change. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours etc”

I sent the same letter to RCS and to Engender.  I sent a copy of the letter to the head of the Scottish Government Equality Unit with this covering letter, asking for it to be treated as an FOI request.  

“Dear…..

Evidence of impact of accepting self-definition of gender for the purposes of receiving or providing  single sex services

I enclose a copy of a letter I have sent to Scottish Women’s Aid, asking for the evidence they rely on in claiming that there are no adverse impacts of accepting self ID of gender for the purposes of providing or using services provided for women. The same request has also gone  to Rape Crisis Scotland.

As the Scottish Government provides significant funding to these organisations and also to LGBTY and TransAlliance Scotland who make similar claims of lack of negative impact in relation to all aspects of the policies for health, education, and children’s social services, I would be interested to know if you have ever asked these or any other organisations for the evidence on which they are relying in making these claims? Has the Scottish Government carried out a review of the existing literature or commissioned any independent research or carried out any consultation of actual or potential users of these or any other women specific services?

Yours etc

RESPONSE FROM SCOTTISH WOMEN’S AID

I received a reply from SWA directing me to  their submission to the government consultation on the GRA proposals. (https://womensaid.scot/working-for-change/policy-research/briefings-and-consultation-responses/). SWA also pointed to the Engender Scottish Women’s Sector response (https://www.engender.org.uk/content/publications/Scottish-Womens-Sector-response-to-the-consultation-on-proposed-changes-to the Gender-Recognition-Act.pdf) as did Rape Crisis Scotland.  I will discuss this later in the context of the No Problem claim.

The SWA submission  states “Women’s Aid’s gendered analysis of domestic abuse recognises gender as identity and separate to biologically assigned sex, and Women’s Aid services are women- only organisations open to self-identifying women. Existing practice reflects this, and Women’s Aid groups do not require sight of a birth certificate in order to grant access to services.”  

 “Our existing position is that we provide services based on a gendered analysis of domestic abuse, and services are open to self- identified women only, as well as children and young people.”

 Scottish Women’s Aid  accepts biological men who declare themselves to be women for the purposes of providing or receiving a “women only” service.

Their submission goes on:

“To inform this consultation, we sought input from our network of services… A survey was distributed to all 36 Women’s Aid groups throughout Scotland which included specific question requested information about any problems that had arisen as a result of implementing trans-inclusion in their services.” 21 responses were received. They did not provide the survey but reported that  “Although most groups have limited experience in providing services to transgender women, children and young people, the overwhelming feedback confirmed that WA services want to be accessible and inclusive, and support a self-identification model.” And that

“Challenges identified were concerns regarding lacking experience in supporting transgender women, staff members’ limited knowledge and training on appropriate language and lack of confidence in ensuring non-discriminatory practices as well as considerations around whether refuge or outreach services would be most appropriate.”

SWA therefore acknowledged that they have little actual experience of providing “trans-inclusive services”.  Additionally, their member services were not asked if they or the women they work with believed claims that men can be women, or that self-ID  of gender is a safe basis for deciding who is a woman.

The submission did not answer any of the questions asked about research, surveys of impact,  or whether they  SWA had consulted  current or potential adult female service users

Rape Crisis Scotland responded that they had been providing services to men, including men who identify as women, for a number of years. They did not respond to the request for evidence to support their claim that there has been no negative impact of employing staff or engaging volunteers who are biologically male but identify as women.  The letter does however record that “we are very concerned about the current hostile and divisive climate and some of the misunderstanding about how support services are delivered in practice, which would make women feel their safety and choice isn’t valued…” and that they are “…considering how we best address this so that women who might self exclude because of fear or anxiety can be confident that support would meet their needs.”  “Of 5,072 survivors who accessed support in an RC centre last year, 212 were men, and 7 “identified as trans/non binary”.  The number of male, trans and non-binary staff or volunteers is not given. At least one local rape crisis centre is run by a transidentifying male.

So, Rape Crisis Scotland also has  very little experience of providing “transinclusive” services.  They do however record the gender identities given by service users. It is not clear how  they will in practice be able to offer assurances of a single sex service to women. One of their current managers is a male who identifies as a woman.

Response by Engender

“Our consultation response is based on our long experience of engaging with equality law and policy, and in service delivery at national and local level. It is also based on our many years of collaboration and dialogue with Scottish Trans Alliance, and other LGBTI national organisations, and on internal dialogue within our organisations and their memberships.” They omit to declare that membership is not open to anyone who disagrees that men can be women, or who disagrees with their inclusion in their own work or in Engender’s work..

On the question of the safety of the proposal that men should be able to change their birth certificate on the basis of self declaration as women and vice versa:

“ As we are not aware that any women’s organisation or group currently in our networks requires sight of a birth certificate in order to grant access to services or membership, this will have no impact on our services or work. All access to membership and services is based on self-identification. This will continue.”   

“All violence against women organisations that receive Scottish Government funding provide trans-inclusive services. The requirement for trans inclusion plans has been in place for six years, and has not given rise to any concerns or challenges of which we are currently aware.”

So there we have it. Firstly, Scottish  Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland have in practice got very little experience of providing their services to men who claim to be  women.  It is not clear from the evidence whether SWA have any experience of providing refuge. They do not say what their experience of service provision to biological men consists of.  Is it telephone based? Is it  mainly their training or outreach services? If they are training others in the inclusion of men who identify as women and vice versa, what is the evidence base for this, given that they have little or perhaps no experience and certainly no research or evaluation?

While SWA and RCS may not currently ask for birth certificates or Gender Recognition Certificates they do currently have the right to require  a GRC, and to refuse a service or employment to anyone without a GRC.  Therefore currently, if a man with a beard applied for service or for a job with them, they would be entitled to and would surely ask for a gender recognition certificate or a  birth certificate in order to protect the women using services designed for women who are overwhelmingly victims of male violence or abuse.

RCS and SWA are concerned for the rights and dignity of men who claim to be women.  But they  support legal changes that would force them and the women who use their services to accept men with fully intact male bodies as actual women for the purposes of women-only services.

The government-funded women’s organisations which are supporting the government’s proposals for the legal changes may genuinely believe that there will be no problem for women. However it is clear from the correspondence and from their own submissions to Parliament that they cannot provide the necessary evidence to support their beliefs. Therefore their testimony should not be used in the way that it has been to support the changes. These organisations’ support for the GRA proposals has been used quite wrongly to dismiss the legitimate concerns of self-funded women’s organisations .

These organisation and also LGBTY and Scottish Trans Alliance are almost totally funded by government. To date I have received no response from the Scottish Government on the question of whether they asked for evidence from SWA or Rape Crisis or Engender before using their claims to support the Government GRA proposals .

Maggie Mellon

Red Flags and Crossed Bridges: why uncriticially adopting transgender theory and policies harms children


On the harmful impact of transgender theory and policies on children – speech given to For Women.Scot meeting on 31st January 2019


Thank you very much for asking me to speak tonight.
I am aware that there are many women who have done more than I have and who know more than I do and I hope that we will be able to hear from all of them. (Murray Blackburn and McKenzie Consultancy and Susan Sinclair of scottish-women.com and the great work that Women and Girls in Scotland have done with their recent childs rights impact assessment of the Guidance for schools. I know that many women have problems in speaking out publicly because of intimidation and threats to their careers and that many women in the audience tonight are in that position.
I am not a lawyer, not a psychologist, or a teacher or a scientist. I am a social worker who has worked with families and with women and children and young people for many years. I do speak up about policies and practices that I disagree with – particularly when they actively hurt people and damage trust between citizens and our government. I have spoken out about policies that have been adopted in relation to children and young people. I was actively against the Named Person law – now struck down by the Supreme Court. Going to say a few words about that because it is relevant.
Many people thought I was wrong in speaking out against the NP. After all, the intentions of govt and supporters were benevolent towards children, and all the political parties agreed, and so did the education and social work establishment. So what was the problem? The problem was that it introduced unprecedented levels of intrusion into families lives and unprecedented breaches of confidentiality. The Supreme Court agreed that the parliament in Scotland had passed a law that breached human rights. So hold the thought that the “powers that be” can be very wrong, no matter how good their intentions are.
Today, I am speaking out against the harm that is being done to children by the wholesale adoption of policies advocated for and actually written by small but influential lobby groups. In July last year, I wrote an article on the issue and sent it off to the Herald. I was nervous. I had seen the levels of abuse and attack on people – mainly women – who had spoken out. I am fortunate in that I don’t have an employer, and when I do work, I work for myself. Nevertheless, I knew I was putting my reputation on the line, and putting any paid work in
2
jeopardy. But in fact I got lots of support. Some from women relieved I had written it because they had been watching in disbelief as things developed. And also from women who had been quite unaware of what was going on. I have written more since, and I have also met face to face with lots of other women we have all gained strength and courage from these meetings.
What I wrote about, and what I want to talk about tonight, is the harm being done to children specifically. All children. I don’t put the responsibility for this on the transgender activists who are so alarmed by us meeting tonight. I don’t agree with them but I support their right to advocate for policies that accord with their beliefs. That is free speech, it is democracy. If anyone was threatening their right to speak and to be heard I (and I hope everyone in this this room) would defend their right to do so.
My criticisms are not against the lobbyists. No, what has appalled me and made me very angry on behalf of children, and of parents, is the wholesale support given to their beliefs and policies by the powers that be in Scotland at the highest level.
Take the Guidance on supporting transgender young people in schools. This was written entirely by two members of LGBT Youth and the TransAlliance Scotland. Both of these groups receive significant government funding. They seem to have a presence at every policy table in Scotland. Education Scotland, the NHS in Scotland,COSLA, the police, the prison service, human rights bodies – which sadly include the office of the Children’s Commissioner for Scotland all welcomed and endorsed and promoted the Guidance. All without asking for an evidence base and without any impact assessment. With Women and Girls in Scotland’s great work dissecting the Guidance on Supporting Transgender Young People in School , we can see why good impact assessments are an essential part of any policy process. The childrens commissioner’s office should have completed that impact assessment and not left it to unfunded women’s groups with no seat at any table. Not till now at any rate.
But asking for evidence and for impact assessments breaches the first commandment that we are all given – that there must be “no debate” about the basic tenets of transgender beliefs. Government and its agencies have sadly been only too happy to oblige. some agencies threatening questioning staff with disciplinary action and even termination of
3
contract. The demand that no one should dissent should have been a red flag. Instead it has acted as a gag. Harm has been caused. and is being caused.
I think that harm is being done on two levels. One is harm to all children by the teaching of stereotypical sexist views about being a boy or being a girl. This puts all children in a gender prison. It is particularly harmful to girls for obvious reasons. But it is also harmful to boys. The other harm that has been created is to vulnerable children and young people – who I believe are being pushed with “NO DEBATE” down the rabbit hole of denial of biological actual sex, with I think very unfortunate personal consequences for them. Possibly life long, possibly life threatening. it is Sex and not gender that is the material reality. No amount of changing names or birth certificates or bodies will change a child’s sex.
What are children as young as 4 or 5 being taught? Inclusive education plans are to make what is called gender education compulsory. They are being taught that they may have “girls brains” in boys’ bodies and vice versa. That if don’t feel like they fit with the pink /blue colour gender colour code, then it very likely means that their sex could have been “assigned wrongly” at birth.
Here is a quote from a children’s book that is recommended in the guidance. JAZZ “From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn’t feel like herself in boy’s clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way.”
this is an example of harm at both levels. all children and particular children.
Yes, there are definitely boys who wish to be girls and it seems more often there are girls who wish to be boys. Yes those children can be quite insistent on having boy’s names and wearing only boy’s clothes – or vice versa. Tomboys feature strongly in children’s literature. Girls love them. George in the Famous Five was insistent that she was a boy with a boys name and that she should be treated as a boy. She (and I use the pronoun advisedly) was the most popular character in the books. I don’t know if George grew up and lived as a man. I doubt it. I suspect that she just lived as the kind of woman she was. Probably in trousers. Probably a feminist. maybe an explorer or a scientist or an explorer. The evidence
4
that we have suggests that she would have gradually desisted, accepted physical reality, and usually made a good adjustment to her actual sex as either as a lesbian or a heterosexual woman.
Some children dont desist and I am not denying their distress as adults if they continue to feel that they can’t live in their actual sex. It seems to me that we need a lot more research on whether and what treatments are helpful. also on the possible reasons – are adult men who insist they are women- despite not wishing to change their bodies at all – the same as teenage girls who don’t want breasts, periods and who would rather perhaps stay in androgynous prepuberty?
This guidance however starts from the single assumption that transgender individuals are born that way, somehow know that they are in boys or girls, and that they should be supported to transition to live in their gender identity and not their biological sex. Interestingly the guidance defines all children over 4 as young people. Interesting because that is also a bit of a red flag that the leaders of education services should have been alert to. It also advises that their parents don’t need to be told if the child of whatever age does not want them to know, which is legally incorrect. Children who might have issues about this are to be re-educated or excluded. We don’t know how many schools have been following the guidance. But we do know that training has been given to thousands of teachers in Scotland based on the guidance. We know that an increasing number of children are identifying or being identified as transgender. Some of them living double lives -their parents deliberately not informed if the child does not wish it. Parents who konw and who object are also being threatened with child protection measures if they do not go along with measures advocated in the guidance. All of this With no evidence base. No impact assessment. where is the research? ~Academics who disagree seem to be particular focus of attack.
There is evidence that children who suffer from gender dysphoria suffer from other mental health problems. A high proportion of girls who are coming forward to say they are as transgender are autistic. The connection between feeling different and not fitting in, and being attracted to transgender beliefs is pretty obvious. this might seem an easy diagnosis – someone misidentified you at birth. Encouraging children who are already distressed by
5
feelings of difference and not fitting in to deny the material reality of their sex is not surprisingly associated with a rising incidence of mental distress and self harm.
the holes in the case are obvious and the arguments contradict themselves. Gender – which is a set of expectations based on sex – has become confused with sex itself. So instead of denying limiting and stupid gender expectations, children are being asked to deny the reality of their sex. it is an Emperors new clothes tale for modern times.
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir was published in 1949. She dissected and demolished the “othering” of women, the denial of ownership of the meaning of our own lives. feminism and gay liberation were part of decades of progress and enlightenment after the 2WW. Feminism like gay liberation was not exactly welcomed by the establishment, But by 1975 we had the Equal Pay Act and the Sex Discrimination Act. Right to control our own bodies, contraception and abortion. We won the right to divorce, we exposed the hidden level of physical and sexual abuse. Gay and lesbian struggles won the right to decriminalisation, to the same age of consent for sex, and just recently the right to partnerships and to marriage
What feminists of my generation knew with certainty was that all the gendered expectations of girls and women are just that. Expectations that we had no intention of fulfilling. We knew that children should not be taught that there are innate characteristics of being female. There is nothing wrong with girls who wanted to play football or with boys who wanted to cook. Those are basic feminist beliefs and values. Most of these beliefs and values were well accepted in the 21st century, so we thought. What a shock we have had. Gendered expectations are now being taught in schools and children informed that they may be in the wrong bodies. Pink and blue and barbie and ken are back.
One of the ways that these views have become currency among people is on the basis that being transgender is the same as being gay, being born in the wrong body like Jazz is just a normal occurrence in the population. and doctors will just diagnose you, give you a pill and wishes will be horses. However, being lesbian or gay or heterosexual does not require a denial of biological sex, nor does it require any treatment. But transgender children face being set on a course of very specific treatment plans : immediate transitioning, then puberty blockers and breast binders, hormones, surgery. All of them with highly harmful
6
impacts on health – on sexual function and on fertility, as Margaret McCartney and colleagues warned in the Lancet recently and also pointed to other unknown long term consequences. these are life changing decisions. Just as important are the psychological consequences. Of always performing to gender expectations, of always facing possible challenge, of not fitting forever.
I want to talk briefly about claims that what is called transitioning is a children’s rights issue, children have many rights – to protection from harm and exploitation, to education, to parental support, to health care. It is usually the age of 12 where children are understood to have the capacity to make informed decision about some matters. But children – and their parents too – can’t can not be presumed to be able to make informed decisions about being transgender and transitioning if the adults offering guidance are completely ignorant of the consequences of the choices that are being urged on them. And there is yet no evidence that assesses the long-term outcomes of transitioning.Because we dont know. The head of Education Scotland does not know, the chief medical officer of Scotland does not know. It is my bet that the NHS and the education system will face future claims for failure of care and breach of rights.
But because a connection with gay and lesbian equality and acceptance and with children’s rights has been made we are all supposed to say “how enlightened” “how admirable” “how completely sensible” about policies and practices that are demonstrably unfair and are harmful to children. One day, we are all going to have to answer the question ;how could you let that happen? there will be enquiries and calls for enquiries. there will be angry and hurt people asking why this was allowed to happen.
Why have these ideas been accepted by people in power and in leadership positions in childrens services in Scotland? Only they can answer that. I have a feeling that many of them will be wondering how they can cross back over the bridges they have so carelessly crossed.
I think that we may need to help them cross back over. We need to be heard as the voice or reason, asking for discussion, calling for evidence, asking to get round the table and talk about what is in the best interests of our children.
7
Our voice will only be strong enough to be heard if we meet and organise together like this. being face to face with a newly formed group of women in Edinburgh over recent months has been fantastic experience. I know that there are groups started in Glasgow, Dundee, Stirling and in other places.
I am looking forward to having a good discussion tonight about the future. what should our aims be? how should we share and learn from one another?
thank you for listening


Thank you very much for asking me to speak tonight.
I am aware that there are many women who have done more than I have and who know more than I do and I hope that we will be able to hear from all of them. (Murray Blackburn and McKenzie Consultancy and Susan Sinclair of scottish-women.com and the great work that Women and Girls in Scotland have done with their recent childs rights impact assessment of the Guidance for schools. I know that many women have problems in speaking out publicly because of intimidation and threats to their careers and that many women in the audience tonight are in that position.
I am not a lawyer, not a psychologist, or a teacher or a scientist. I am a social worker who has worked with families and with women and children and young people for many years. I do speak up about policies and practices that I disagree with – particularly when they actively hurt people and damage trust between citizens and our government. I have spoken out about policies that have been adopted in relation to children and young people. I was actively against the Named Person law – now struck down by the Supreme Court. Going to say a few words about that because it is relevant.
Many people thought I was wrong in speaking out against the NP. After all, the intentions of govt and supporters were benevolent towards children, and all the political parties agreed, and so did the education and social work establishment. So what was the problem? The problem was that it introduced unprecedented levels of intrusion into families lives and unprecedented breaches of confidentiality. The Supreme Court agreed that the parliament in Scotland had passed a law that breached human rights. So hold the thought that the “powers that be” can be very wrong, no matter how good their intentions are.
Today, I am speaking out against the harm that is being done to children by the wholesale adoption of policies advocated for and actually written by small but influential lobby groups. In July last year, I wrote an article on the issue and sent it off to the Herald. I was nervous. I had seen the levels of abuse and attack on people – mainly women – who had spoken out. I am fortunate in that I don’t have an employer, and when I do work, I work for myself. Nevertheless, I knew I was putting my reputation on the line, and putting any paid work in
2
jeopardy. But in fact I got lots of support. Some from women relieved I had written it because they had been watching in disbelief as things developed. And also from women who had been quite unaware of what was going on. I have written more since, and I have also met face to face with lots of other women we have all gained strength and courage from these meetings.
What I wrote about, and what I want to talk about tonight, is the harm being done to children specifically. All children. I don’t put the responsibility for this on the transgender activists who are so alarmed by us meeting tonight. I don’t agree with them but I support their right to advocate for policies that accord with their beliefs. That is free speech, it is democracy. If anyone was threatening their right to speak and to be heard I (and I hope everyone in this this room) would defend their right to do so.
My criticisms are not against the lobbyists. No, what has appalled me and made me very angry on behalf of children, and of parents, is the wholesale support given to their beliefs and policies by the powers that be in Scotland at the highest level.
Take the Guidance on supporting transgender young people in schools. This was written entirely by two members of LGBT Youth and the TransAlliance Scotland. Both of these groups receive significant government funding. They seem to have a presence at every policy table in Scotland. Education Scotland, the NHS in Scotland,COSLA, the police, the prison service, human rights bodies – which sadly include the office of the Children’s Commissioner for Scotland all welcomed and endorsed and promoted the Guidance. All without asking for an evidence base and without any impact assessment. With Women and Girls in Scotland’s great work dissecting the Guidance on Supporting Transgender Young People in School , we can see why good impact assessments are an essential part of any policy process. The childrens commissioner’s office should have completed that impact assessment and not left it to unfunded women’s groups with no seat at any table. Not till now at any rate.
But asking for evidence and for impact assessments breaches the first commandment that we are all given – that there must be “no debate” about the basic tenets of transgender beliefs. Government and its agencies have sadly been only too happy to oblige. some agencies threatening questioning staff with disciplinary action and even termination of
3
contract. The demand that no one should dissent should have been a red flag. Instead it has acted as a gag. Harm has been caused. and is being caused.
I think that harm is being done on two levels. One is harm to all children by the teaching of stereotypical sexist views about being a boy or being a girl. This puts all children in a gender prison. It is particularly harmful to girls for obvious reasons. But it is also harmful to boys. The other harm that has been created is to vulnerable children and young people – who I believe are being pushed with “NO DEBATE” down the rabbit hole of denial of biological actual sex, with I think very unfortunate personal consequences for them. Possibly life long, possibly life threatening. it is Sex and not gender that is the material reality. No amount of changing names or birth certificates or bodies will change a child’s sex.
What are children as young as 4 or 5 being taught? Inclusive education plans are to make what is called gender education compulsory. They are being taught that they may have “girls brains” in boys’ bodies and vice versa. That if don’t feel like they fit with the pink /blue colour gender colour code, then it very likely means that their sex could have been “assigned wrongly” at birth.
Here is a quote from a children’s book that is recommended in the guidance. JAZZ “From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn’t feel like herself in boy’s clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way.”
this is an example of harm at both levels. all children and particular children.
Yes, there are definitely boys who wish to be girls and it seems more often there are girls who wish to be boys. Yes those children can be quite insistent on having boy’s names and wearing only boy’s clothes – or vice versa. Tomboys feature strongly in children’s literature. Girls love them. George in the Famous Five was insistent that she was a boy with a boys name and that she should be treated as a boy. She (and I use the pronoun advisedly) was the most popular character in the books. I don’t know if George grew up and lived as a man. I doubt it. I suspect that she just lived as the kind of woman she was. Probably in trousers. Probably a feminist. maybe an explorer or a scientist or an explorer. The evidence
4
that we have suggests that she would have gradually desisted, accepted physical reality, and usually made a good adjustment to her actual sex as either as a lesbian or a heterosexual woman.
Some children dont desist and I am not denying their distress as adults if they continue to feel that they can’t live in their actual sex. It seems to me that we need a lot more research on whether and what treatments are helpful. also on the possible reasons – are adult men who insist they are women- despite not wishing to change their bodies at all – the same as teenage girls who don’t want breasts, periods and who would rather perhaps stay in androgynous prepuberty?
This guidance however starts from the single assumption that transgender individuals are born that way, somehow know that they are in boys or girls, and that they should be supported to transition to live in their gender identity and not their biological sex. Interestingly the guidance defines all children over 4 as young people. Interesting because that is also a bit of a red flag that the leaders of education services should have been alert to. It also advises that their parents don’t need to be told if the child of whatever age does not want them to know, which is legally incorrect. Children who might have issues about this are to be re-educated or excluded. We don’t know how many schools have been following the guidance. But we do know that training has been given to thousands of teachers in Scotland based on the guidance. We know that an increasing number of children are identifying or being identified as transgender. Some of them living double lives -their parents deliberately not informed if the child does not wish it. Parents who konw and who object are also being threatened with child protection measures if they do not go along with measures advocated in the guidance. All of this With no evidence base. No impact assessment. where is the research? ~Academics who disagree seem to be particular focus of attack.
There is evidence that children who suffer from gender dysphoria suffer from other mental health problems. A high proportion of girls who are coming forward to say they are as transgender are autistic. The connection between feeling different and not fitting in, and being attracted to transgender beliefs is pretty obvious. this might seem an easy diagnosis – someone misidentified you at birth. Encouraging children who are already distressed by
5
feelings of difference and not fitting in to deny the material reality of their sex is not surprisingly associated with a rising incidence of mental distress and self harm.
the holes in the case are obvious and the arguments contradict themselves. Gender – which is a set of expectations based on sex – has become confused with sex itself. So instead of denying limiting and stupid gender expectations, children are being asked to deny the reality of their sex. it is an Emperors new clothes tale for modern times.
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir was published in 1949. She dissected and demolished the “othering” of women, the denial of ownership of the meaning of our own lives. feminism and gay liberation were part of decades of progress and enlightenment after the 2WW. Feminism like gay liberation was not exactly welcomed by the establishment, But by 1975 we had the Equal Pay Act and the Sex Discrimination Act. Right to control our own bodies, contraception and abortion. We won the right to divorce, we exposed the hidden level of physical and sexual abuse. Gay and lesbian struggles won the right to decriminalisation, to the same age of consent for sex, and just recently the right to partnerships and to marriage
What feminists of my generation knew with certainty was that all the gendered expectations of girls and women are just that. Expectations that we had no intention of fulfilling. We knew that children should not be taught that there are innate characteristics of being female. There is nothing wrong with girls who wanted to play football or with boys who wanted to cook. Those are basic feminist beliefs and values. Most of these beliefs and values were well accepted in the 21st century, so we thought. What a shock we have had. Gendered expectations are now being taught in schools and children informed that they may be in the wrong bodies. Pink and blue and barbie and ken are back.
One of the ways that these views have become currency among people is on the basis that being transgender is the same as being gay, being born in the wrong body like Jazz is just a normal occurrence in the population. and doctors will just diagnose you, give you a pill and wishes will be horses. However, being lesbian or gay or heterosexual does not require a denial of biological sex, nor does it require any treatment. But transgender children face being set on a course of very specific treatment plans : immediate transitioning, then puberty blockers and breast binders, hormones, surgery. All of them with highly harmful
6
impacts on health – on sexual function and on fertility, as Margaret McCartney and colleagues warned in the Lancet recently and also pointed to other unknown long term consequences. these are life changing decisions. Just as important are the psychological consequences. Of always performing to gender expectations, of always facing possible challenge, of not fitting forever.
I want to talk briefly about claims that what is called transitioning is a children’s rights issue, children have many rights – to protection from harm and exploitation, to education, to parental support, to health care. It is usually the age of 12 where children are understood to have the capacity to make informed decision about some matters. But children – and their parents too – can’t can not be presumed to be able to make informed decisions about being transgender and transitioning if the adults offering guidance are completely ignorant of the consequences of the choices that are being urged on them. And there is yet no evidence that assesses the long-term outcomes of transitioning.Because we dont know. The head of Education Scotland does not know, the chief medical officer of Scotland does not know. It is my bet that the NHS and the education system will face future claims for failure of care and breach of rights.
But because a connection with gay and lesbian equality and acceptance and with children’s rights has been made we are all supposed to say “how enlightened” “how admirable” “how completely sensible” about policies and practices that are demonstrably unfair and are harmful to children. One day, we are all going to have to answer the question ;how could you let that happen? there will be enquiries and calls for enquiries. there will be angry and hurt people asking why this was allowed to happen.
Why have these ideas been accepted by people in power and in leadership positions in childrens services in Scotland? Only they can answer that. I have a feeling that many of them will be wondering how they can cross back over the bridges they have so carelessly crossed.
I think that we may need to help them cross back over. We need to be heard as the voice or reason, asking for discussion, calling for evidence, asking to get round the table and talk about what is in the best interests of our children.
7
Our voice will only be strong enough to be heard if we meet and organise together like this. being face to face with a newly formed group of women in Edinburgh over recent months has been fantastic experience. I know that there are groups started in Glasgow, Dundee, Stirling and in other places.
I am looking forward to having a good discussion tonight about the future. what should our aims be? how should we share and learn from one another?
thank you for listening

Search the SR website:
23 January 2019

If there is one thing that we citizens might agree on, in the wake of Alex Salmond’s successful legal challenge, it is that we need to have a shedload of money to take on our government. Alex Salmond’s successful crowdfunding appeal safeguarded his own personal financial security. By contrast, the government did not need to seek our support before setting out to defend itself vigorously in court with our money. Then it lost our money. But the same civil servants are still in charge.

I have been learning a few hard lessons about the accountability of government in all its forms to citizens without personal riches who are not able to resort to crowdfunding appeals. Over two years ago I was approached by a family whose two children had been removed on an emergency order and who were still being held in care several months later. The mother was accused of ‘fabricating’ autism in the older child, and thereby exposing the younger child to harm. The ’emergency’ order was obtained despite extended family members making it clear that they would attend within hours if social workers had any reason to believe that such a step was necessary. The whole family could not have been more impeccably respectable, with stable family lives, successful careers, economic security, and close and supportive relationships. 

Despite this, the children were removed without warning. This was carried out by social workers with the attendance of uniformed policemen in the late afternoon one Friday. The parents and their wider family were given no information over the weekend about where the children were or how they were coping. They found out later that the children had been immediately separated after removal. The older child was placed in a residential home despite being under the age of children that the home was registered for. The home was also not registered for caring for children with autism. The younger child was placed in one foster home, and then in another miles away. 

As the children had been removed on a Friday, there had to be a hearing on the following Tuesday, the second working day after their removal. Over the weekend there was no news about the children – the family had no idea where they were or how they were. They were given no opportunity to instruct a solicitor or seek independent advice. 

The second working day hearing was introduced as a safeguard after the Orkney inquiry into the emergency removal of children from several families on South Ronaldsay in dawn raids in 1991. An additional safeguard that was introduced was clarity that children had an absolute right to attend their own hearing. If parents do not bring children to a hearing a warrant may be, and often is, issued by the reporter to compel a child’s attendance. Only a panel can excuse a child’s attendance, but they cannot deny the child the right to attend. The principle since the Orkney inquiry is that any and all children who have been removed on child protection orders must be brought to the first hearing so that they can be seen and heard. 

In this case – and who knows in how many others – the children were not brought to that crucial first hearing. We discovered later that serving notice of the hearing had been left for the social worker to do. No one checked that she had. If the children had been brought, the panel would have been able to see immediately that they were very distressed and wanted to return home and were not afraid to do so. As it was, the panel members were led to believe that the children were relieved to have been ‘saved’ and did not want to see their mother or father. The nature of the allegations and the emergency nature of the removal undoubtedly created the impression of a psychotic and dangerous woman whose children had been at imminent risk of terrible harm. 

The children were later allowed to write letters about their views and feelings which were brought and tabled at a subsequent hearing. But the hearing at that point said that they ‘did not have time’ to read the children’s views. A subsequent letter from the older child made it clear that she believed that she needed to have the panel’s permission to attend a hearing. That letter is on file, but was either never read or it was ignored. The child now says that she was told she had to wait for word from the panel to say that she could attend. However, on the day of the hearing she was told by staff that she was ‘not needed’. 

Staff in the children’s home, the children’s rights officer, and her social worker, were all aware she wanted to attend. Not one of them helped her exercise her rights. So much for children being ‘at the centre’ of the children’s hearings system. 

These two children were not seen by any children’s panel until after they had been detained in care for over a year. During that year and after, both were deprived of the right to communicate independently with each other or with any member of their family. The children were not allowed to receive or make calls to their mother or to other family members. They were not allowed to receive letters, gifts, or books or toys that had not been opened, read and approved by the social worker. They were not allowed to send private letters. 

The children’s mother was alleged to be suffering from a serious mental illness, such that she posed a serious risk to her children. In fact, there was never evidence of mental illness and psychiatric and psychological assessment cleared her of any disorder. 

Shortly after removal from her home, the younger child was hospitalised overnight and treated for dehydration. This child has a traumatic history of loss and separation, through no fault of the parents. Anyone with a basic understanding of the impact of separation and loss on children could have foreseen the traumatic effect that separation from her home, parents and sibling would have. The parents were also not told that the child was in hospital. 

The older child did not attend school for five weeks after removal. The social workers claimed that this non-attendance at school was useful in allowing the child to settle in care. She was also allowed to watch horror films and programmes with sexual content, and was in the company of much older children. She began to self-harm by cutting.

The youngest child’s school was changed without consultation or consent, so that within a few months she had lost every person and place that had been part of her life, including her sister. Their Catholic religious education and obligations were ignored. In that time the older child was officially diagnosed with autism. No apology was forthcoming about the previous claims that she was merely very badly behaved as a result of her mother’s poor parenting and that the claim of autism was a fabrication. This child was also interviewed on multiple occasions about the possibility that she had been sexually or physically abused by her father or her mother. 

The limited ‘contact’ time that the children were allowed to have with their mother was strictly supervised, and no discussion was allowed about why the children were in care, how they were being treated in care, or what their worries and needs were. Favourite books and toys from home were forbidden with no explanation. The mother was told that if she did not assure the children that they were in the best of hands and everything was fine, then contact sessions would be terminated. When the children were upset during contact, looking for explanations, and were clingy or tearful, this was described as ‘very poor contact’, and recommendations were made for contact to be further cut and restricted.

When the case finally got to court, it was nearly a year after the children were taken. Most of the grounds that had been alleged were disproved and were either retracted or struck out. However, one ground of neglect was upheld by the sheriff on the balance of probability, which is the standard of proof for civil cases. This ground alone would never have been enough for a sheriff to agree to the removal of children a year earlier. It was certainly not sufficient to justify the actions that followed. It is my belief that the single ground that was proved in that court could be proved against any parent in Scotland, particularly where one child has a disability or special need. 

The social workers used this narrow ‘win’ at court to announce that the children would never return to their mother, and that one child would be institutionalised in a residential school and never live at home again during her childhood. 

So far so terrible. But surely when this was all brought to light there would be official recognition of the harms done by what were blatant breaches of national regulation and guidance? When I became involved and was able to verify all of the facts, I naively thought that pointing these out to the senior people in the council would lead to things being put right. However, I was met with a wall of denial. The senior people insisted that they had total confidence in their staff and refused to justify or explain what was happening. 

I made formal complaints to the Children’s Hearing Service (CHS), the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA), and to the council concerned. Children’s Hearings Scotland refused to investigate the complaint that they failed to see the children and failed to take account of their views – or even to read them when they had the opportunity. They responded that the complaint was made outside of the six-month time limit. This ignored the fact that the children did not know they had a right to be heard for well over six months after the event. 

The Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration, who are responsible for the management of hearings, responded that they had relied on the social workers in the case to give children notice of their hearings and to explain their rights to them. They claimed that they were justified in relying on the social worker’s judgement as the social workers would know the children best and what was in their interests. There was no admission that SCRA had failed to perform its main role: safeguarding and promoting children’s rights and best interests, whether in the face of abuse of state power, or family abuse or neglect. 

I also made a detailed complaint to the council about their failure to follow regulations and guidance. They responded that there would be an internal investigation but that there would also be a review by an independent expert. That commitment was given by the CEO in December 2017 and was repeated several times in writing by him. The internal investigation took eight months to conclude. That is over seven months longer than the statutory time period of 20 days. Their response was that the complaints officer was not qualified to investigate my complaints, and that all of the issues that I had raised were to be dealt with by the promised independent review. On inquiring in writing about progress with this independent review, I was once again assured in a letter signed personally by the CEO in October 2018 that the review was being set-up and would take place shortly.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman has upheld both CHS and SCRA positions. That is, despite the whole purpose and legal duty of these two bodies being to safeguard children, to hear and take account of children’s views, and to protect children’s rights and best interests, it was okay that they did not see the children, did not hear or take account of their views, did not ensure that the children knew why there were removed, and did not ensure that the children knew and understood their rights and were able to exercise these. And this was all okay because it was reasonable for them to trust the social worker to do the right thing. And it was reasonable for CHS to refuse to apologise to children for refusing to hear from them at their own hearings. 

The SPSO are now currently investigating my complaint. This, you would think, would be an open and shut case for the SPSO. Councils are allowed 20 days to investigate and respond to complaints, which can be extended, but not indefinitely. The council have not investigated my complaint at all, promising an independent review in their official response. In December, I was informed that the long-promised independent review has been cancelled and an internal review is to take its place.

However, I am not optimistic. My faith in any process that is supposed to ensure accountability has been destroyed. People and organisations who publicly declare their commitment to children, to rights and to justice, to corporate parenting, to listening to children and families, have refused to acknowledge their part in causing or allowing huge harm and distress to the children and to their parents and wider family. These are people and organisations whose very existence is to protect children. Protecting children is what they were set up to do, what they are paid and funded to do, and it is what the general public expect them to do. 

This story is by no means unique. I have heard similar stories from many parents across Scotland – some even worse. So, to return to my original point. If you want to get a fair hearing about a wrong done to you by one or more public bodies in Scotland, you need to be very rich or very popular, or both. Without money, the only defence parents can have is publicity. 

There is a petition calling for a review of the child protection system being considered by the Scottish Parliament. We need to make sure that it is not dismissed in the same way that complaints are dismissed – with glib assurances that all is well and that the powers-that-be can be trusted. All is not well. 

I am working with parents in a group called PAR – Parents Advocacy and Rights. We held a Scotland-wide conference for parents in November 2018, which cost just under £1,000 and was entirely funded by online donations and run by volunteers. We have now established an online magazine PAR (Parents Advocacy and Rights) and the second edition is due in February. 

Parents are the most compelling witnesses in their own case. We intend to enable their voices to be heard so that their children’s plight can be understood. We want to make sure that a broken system is fixed and fight for the day that you don’t need to be rich to get justice in Scotland.