A response to openDemocracy: In defence of a gender-rational approach

Yesterday, we received an email asking us for comment on a piece in a UK outlet called openDemocracy. The piece made a number of allegations, and we intend to reply to these in full. Here is our response.

Dear openDemocracy,

Thank you for getting in touch. We are happy to comment on your piece, and correct some of its inaccuracies. We have also posted this email as an article on our website; we ask that you direct your readers to our full response.

You describe us as ‘gender-critical’. We would like to point out that gender-critical is a term used to describe criticism in the academic sense, arguing for a critical analysis of gender as a construct. Nonetheless, it is true that many of the parents, academics, medical professionals, educators, detransitioners and indeed trans people we work with have legitimate criticisms of the concept of gender, based as it is on regressive sex stereotypes.

However, we believe that a more accurate term to encompass all of our many members is ‘gender-rational’. Like our friend and colleague Scott Newgent, a transman who was appallingly mistreated by the healthcare system, and who describes himself as ‘trans-rational’, we believe in adopting a reasoned approach to gender issues. As fair-minded people, we reject the ostracising and insulting of trans people just as much as we reject your unjustified and ill-informed attacks on the coalition of educated, talented and decent individuals with whom we have the honour to work.

You evidently – and wrongly – believe us to be extremists. Unfortunately, there are extremists; fortunately, there are few. Some are extremists who encourage gender-non-conforming people to conform to outdated stereotypes, setting them on a lifelong pathway to medical dependence at a critically vulnerable point in their lives, and denying the benefits of the tried and tested gender exploratory approach. Others are extremists who deny the suffering that gender dysphoria can cause, and instead mock, berate, humiliate and dehumanise those who are questioning their gender, or who have undergone medical transition. We oppose both categories of extremist; we leave it to you to judge whether that statement applies to you. Neither of these two extremes will ever be central to the resolution of any conflict. Neither represents a truly progressive, sensible outlook.

In reality, most people reject these polarised positions, even if on instinct rather than on the basis of good information, and instead share our rational view of gender issues. While militants might make the most noise, the middle ground is where the numbers lie, and where free inquiry and mature, amicable, good-faith dialogue can thrive. This is why we prize the deftly written works of Abigail Shrier, Kathleen Stock and Helen Joyce; the compassionate and humane worldview of J. K. Rowling; the in-depth knowledge of figures such as Debra Soh and Heather Heying; the considered conversations between Andrew Doyle and Debbie Hayton; the razor-sharp analyses of Douglas Murray and Jordan Peterson; and the humour and open-spiritedness of Benjamin Boyce, Joe Rogan and Bridget Phetasy.

Moving on to some of the more specific allegations you make:

You are right to note that we had a key role in the now-cancelled conference at Great Ormond Street Hospital. It is highly regrettable that this event is no longer taking place: it would have centred moderate and well-informed voices at a pivotal moment in the UK, as the Interim Cass Report seeks to establish a more coherent treatment model for young people who are questioning their gender. Despite the fact that our organisation is only nine months old, we find that people are finally willing to listen to parents’ voices, and we are proud that we have made such in-roads in so short a period of time. We attribute this to our rational, well-informed outlook, and to the rejection of absolutist positions, as outlined above.

We are proud to work with our colleague Lisa Littman, who has helped many people to understand and contextualise their experiences. We are proud of the ground-breaking and tireless advocacy of Stephanie Davies-Arai, who continues to be an invaluable asset to parents and educators across the world. We are also proud of the many contributions of our Executive Director and Founder, Stella O’Malley, whose psychotherapeutic work focuses on compassion and reflection. And we would like to state, without a hint of reservation, how particularly proud we are of the courage of our friend Sinéad Watson, who was also due to speak at the event. Sinéad is – to use a word you misuse in your article – truly a ‘whistleblower’.

You may also wish to reflect on the fact that major UK outlets, from across the political spectrum, have taken a more nuanced and less hyperbolic stance than you, and have condemned the cancellation of the Great Ormond Street Hospital conference. Even the Observer – hardly an outlet known for paleo-conservative tirades – noted in a recent article that

[e]ven in the wake of the Cass report’s hard-hitting findings, some clinicians and charities continue in their efforts to shut down legitimate debate about the affirmative model. These adults must examine their consciences, because it is children whose care is compromised as a result of their ideology.

We believe that you would be well-advised to recognise the destructive consequences of shutting down debate between civil and mature parties. You might focus in particular on the impact on the rights of women, the rights of same-sex attracted people, the medical rights of detransitioners, and – critically for the thousands whom we represent – the rights of loving and engaged mothers and fathers who simply wish the best for their distressed children. We frequently communicate with journalists from major UK outlets, from the Guardian and the BBC to the Telegraph and the Times, and as such can wholeheartedly recommend the adoption of a more holistic view of this situation.

You also mention Our Duty, one of the many helpful groups listed on our site. Perhaps if you had been faced with a healthcare industry which had repeatedly failed your child, you might be in a better position to judge this organisation’s activities; as things stand, we do not believe that you have all the relevant information you would need to do so. We stand in full solidarity with Our Duty, and are thankful for the solidarity that Our Duty continues to extend to us.

On the topic of ‘conversion therapy’, we would ask you to examine your consciences. Vast numbers of young same-sex attracted people are suffering with internalised homophobia. Rather than asserting their right to be seen as valid members of their own sex, they are instead visiting the normative expectations of an increasingly superficial society on the canvases of their own bodies. In many cases, medical transition is conversion therapy: the conversion of healthy homosexuals into medically dependent facsimiles of heterosexuals. You may well be comfortable with supporting policies which reduce the number of homosexuals in society – a policy which has already been tried in the last century – but we are not.

You describe us, many times, as ‘boasting’. It is true that we try to shout very loud, as parents’ voices are being silenced; if you want to characterise that as boastfulness, that is your prerogative. However, the many parents we represent need us to keep shouting about the perils of making lifelong decisions at a formative age. This is something you can learn more about by watching our recently released #DetransAwarenessDay conference:

While we are being accused of ‘boasting’, allow us to direct you to – among other things – our appearances on major television networks; our previous conference on ROGD, which was well-received by many highly reputable clinicians; our daughter website Stats For Gender, which details many studies conducted by researchers who do not have a vested financial interest in the gender industry; and our other daughter website, Genspect Unheard, where parents speak in their own words about the complex comorbidities of their own children, whom you have never met. We are also delighted that you took the trouble to mention our guidance notes: we suggest your readers look over them in their own time, and make their own judgements about whether or not we treat gender dysphoric youth with compassion.

Finally, allow us to thank you for using your site to raise our profile. We believe that the surge in transgender identification, with all its complexities, has brought our society to a crossroads, and that now is a vital moment for those of us who are rational about gender issues to step forward, and reject the extremists on both sides. We hope that this statement not only answers some of your questions but contributes to that change.

With all our very best wishes for the future,

The Genspect Team

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap