Sarah Ingham is author of The Military Covenant: its impact on civil-military relations in Britain.
With the Covid pandemic and now Monkey Pox stalking the land, ‘going viral’ has taken a bit of a hit.
Until early 2020, it was a handy way of describing how each and every new product, social norm or idea catches on. It can be anything: Buddhism, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, climate change, the mini skirt, the military covenant.
This random process of social contagion was generally of interest only to social scientists until The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell was published two decades ago. Becoming a global bestseller, the book itself reached a tipping point itself – ‘that magic moment when ideas, trends and social behaviours cross a threshold, tip and spread like wildfire.’
The Tipping Point came out in 2000, a few years after the internet took off, but long before Facebook, the i-phone or Instagram allowed crazes, fashions, fads and trends to sweep through society ever-faster.
On Monday at Westminster Hall, MPs debated the lack of legal recognition given to non-binary gender identities. The debate was the result of an online petition which gained 140,000 signatures.
Those taking part were clearly mindful of the sensitivities around subject, dialling down the rhetoric and party politicking. As Annaliese Dodds, Shadow Minister for Labour and Equalities, stated: “The key value for Labour in considering these issues is that of respect. The issues of sex and gender are highly emotive for understandable reasons”.
So highly emotive is the trans and non-binary issue that many in the Labour Party can’t bring themselves to define a woman [adult human female], eh? So highly emotive that MPs from all parties have repeated claims made by lobbyists that there are 500,000 identifying as trans and non-binary in Britain? Pointing this out would inevitably have led to tut-tutting over ‘tone’ on Monday afternoon.
Policymakers’ recent relentless appeasement of trans and non-binary ideologues – ‘trans women are women’, a denial of biological reality BTW – risks alienating millions of women voters, sports and safe spaces for whom have blithely been sacrificed. It could be considered almost comically short-sighted by MPs, if only children’s health and well-being were not also being jeopardised.
There has been an explosion in the number of under-18s identifying as trans and non-binary, with children referred to gender clinics increasing 17-fold between 2010-11 and 2020-21. According to GIDS, the Gender Identity Development Service based at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, twice as many girls as boys were referred. In addition, the peak age for these girls seeking was between the ages of 13 and 16. There is separate evidence that many of them are on the autism spectrum.
Schools have become battlegrounds where the culture wars are played out. While the spotlight in recent years has been on universities, Britain’s classrooms have received far less attention. A tougher focus on political impartiality in schools is being demanded by Don’t Divide Us, the campaign group which has a number of concerns, including the surge in the teaching of Critical Race Theory.
Groups on either side of the trans debate are keen to get their message into schools. Transgender Trend calls for evidence-based healthcare for children suffering from gender dysphoria. Its guidance pack for schools is described by LBGTQ+ advocates Stonewall, which produces its own lesson packs, as ‘a deeply damaging document, packed with factually incorrect information’ and ‘dangerous’.
Dangerous, surely, are medical interventions which give children not only the mistaken hope that they can change their sex, but that once they do all their problems will be magicked away. This can culminate in gender reassignment surgery once they are 18. Why does Britain discourage genital mutilation in Africa but endorse it via the NHS here?
We would castigate Big Pharma for drug trials on young people in the developing world, but have no problem with British children as young as 12 being prescribed puberty blockers, the long-term impact of which is imperfectly understood. If breast-flattening in Cameroon is perceived as violence against women, why is adolescent girls’ breast-binding endorsed by the Scottish government?
“In certain areas of the country, clusters of school children are saying they are non-binary or trans … Why it is more prevalent in some areas than in others?” In Monday’s debate, Nick Fletcher, the MP for Don Valley, raised a question that few others have dared to ask.
In 2018, Dr Lisa Littman, an American academic, was denounced for her work on what she termed ‘rapid onset gender dysphoria’: interviewing parents, it emerged that peer group influence could be a factor, where ‘one, multiple or even all of their friends have become gender dysphoric or transgender-identified during the same timeframe.’
Last week, Bill Maher, the US talk show host, questioned why there are so many trans teens in California but not in Ohio, unleashing a torrent of comment on social media, with many pointing out that liberal CA is far more accepting of diversity.
It would be curious if transgenderism turned out to be one aspect of life that is immune from social contagion. While short-lived mass enthusiasm for Pokémon or Peloton workouts are benign, other outbreaks can be far darker, reflected by, for example, the spate of suicides among young people in the Bridgend area around 2008.
In February, Nadhim Zahawi issued new guidelines for political impartiality within schools. In March, Stonewall issued Creating an LBGTQ+ Inclusive Primary Curriculum which ‘helps to embed your inclusion work into every area of the curriculum’, by for example using LBGT-inclusive statistics in maths.
Sponsored by Pearson, it is also funded by the government’s Equalities Office. The Jesuits were mindful of the young children’s impressionable nature: it must be questioned whether today they would be given such licence to influence our primary schools.
Trans advocates are often quick to seek to close down any debate around the issue by invoking ‘hate’ and ‘transphobia’, evincing the sort of intolerance which they seek to outlaw. However, those organisations wishing the taxpaying public to keep quiet and do nothing but acquiesce to their agenda should not be taking public money.