Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Gender Non-conforming Young People

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 10:00 pm ar 15 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath 10:00, 15 Ebrill 2024

I will go back a step. Stonewall has pushed queer theory-based policies into every public body, including in policing, education, and health, and even on to the Floor of the House of Commons, where straight women tell gay men to get back in their closet. The decision by Stonewall to add the T and incorporate cross-dressing heterosexual males under the wide banner of “trans”, or the more recently added “Q+”, was directly responsible for the elevation of concern among LGB people, women and transsexuals.

The damage done by Stonewall has been immeasurable. LGB people, women and transsexuals have all been subjected to vitriolic attacks from queer-theory activists who hide their vicious and vindictive mob behaviour behind hashtags such as BeKind. I could give a roll call of those who have stood up to that mob, or been dragged through the media and the courts for vexatious purposes, but I would be on my feet all week.

I also want to put on the record that the Labour party leadership needs to come out of hiding on this issue. The shadow Health Secretary’s recent Damascene moment of realisation does not mask the continued silence from the Leader of the Opposition, nor quell the ideological contingent of the parliamentary Labour party. That is not good enough in a general election year. People across these islands need to know that this nightmare is coming to an end before they cast their vote. I am encouraged by the emergence of sex equality and equity networks—known as SEENs—across the public sector, which challenge this harmful ideological capture. Silence will not cut it.

This indoctrination is causing very real and lasting damage, but the impact on those of us who spoke up has been nothing in comparison to the evil of medical malpractice visited on many vulnerable young people. Many of them were just lesbian, gay or bisexual, or young people dealing with trauma, mental health issues or neurodivergence, or in the care system. As Sex Matters, now a recognised human rights charity, has highlighted:

“A false global consensus around a ‘gender affirming’ approach has emerged because of ideological actors putting their individual belief-systems ahead of the protection of distressed young people, many of whom are lesbian, gay and bisexual.”

The WPATH files shone a light on the lack of evidence to support so-called gender-affirming care, and the ideological bias of documents masquerading as clinical standards. Tragically for children in the UK, WPATH’s standards of care have been extremely influential in shaping NHS protocols since 2011. Young people and many others have been badly failed.

The Cass review must be the final nail in the coffin for a “gender-affirming” model of care for gender-distressed children. Dr Cass builds on the concerns set out in the WPATH files report, which lifted the lid on the culture inside the World Professional Association of Transgender Healthcare. The Cass report also criticises WPATH guidelines as lacking in evidence and developmental rigour, and emphasises the vital need for fully informed consent, especially for young people with mental health conditions or other diagnosable co-morbidities.

I would ask the Minister to consider, and discuss with colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care, an urgent package of investment in child and adolescent mental health services as a starting point. That WPATH’s unscientific standards of care guidelines have repeatedly been lauded by Governments as international best practice is another issue of deep concern, and I ask the Minister if he will commit to looking into the reasons why that was allowed to happen.

Dr Cass dismisses any notion that puberty blockers or hormones have any part in standard treatment for under-18s. The report explicitly states that the medical pathway will not be right for most young people with gender distress:

“the focus on the use of puberty blockers for managing gender-related distress has overshadowed the possibility that other evidence-based treatments may be more effective… clinicians have told us they are unable to determine with any certainty which children and young people will go on to have an enduring trans identity.”

Dr Cass decisively refutes the idea that suicide prevention is a reason for medicalising gender distress in youth:

“It has been suggested that hormone treatment reduces the elevated risk of death by suicide in this population, but the evidence found did not support this conclusion.”

Gender distress has been treated within the NHS in a way that is different from other sorts of distress, to the detriment of vulnerable children.

The Cass review definitively shows that young people with gender distress have been badly let down by those who claim to be protecting them. It substantiates what so many, including Hannah Barnes and Helen Joyce, have argued: that gender-affirming care is not underpinned by a credible or developed evidence base. It leads to sub-optimal outcomes and the diagnostic overshadowing of complex underlying health and social issues. Dr Cass emphasises that there has been undue ideological influence on healthcare decision making, specifically noting a suppression of evidence and a rush to medicalise vulnerable young people.

This has been facilitated close to home in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, too. Carolyn Brown, a retired depute principal educational psychologist for Fife Council, said in The Sunday Post this weekend:

“The same harmful ideologies identified in the Cass report have been happening across Scotland for years now as senior officials in health, education and social work failed to listen to concerned voices and adopted the ‘Three Wise Monkeys’ attitude while vulnerable children were harmed…

Many children going through puberty do question their gender, their identity and their bodies. That’s just part of growing up. The danger comes when officials affirm those questionings and tell a child they can change their gender. This is ethically and morally irresponsible as well as psychologically harmful and more likely to compound the mental health issues the child already has and reinforce the child’s self-perception that he/she really is trans.”

According to queer theory extremists, these children were born in the wrong body.

Once again, I commend the bravery and strength of those who have de-transitioned and have had the courage to tell their stories—Keira Bell, Ritchie Herron and Sinead Watson and those yet to find their voice. It is a double scandal that we do not know how many other young people have been affected, and whose lives have been irreversibly altered, by medical malpractice. These young people were exceptionalised and subjected to life-altering treatments without due regard for safeguarding, and they were denied the necessary follow up expected in every other sphere of clinical practice.

The cohort of Gender Identity Development Service patients was disproportionately made up of girls. Prior to the publication of the Cass review, Tavistock whistleblower Dr David Bell spoke of young LGB people, especially lesbians, having their sexuality “transed away,” yet it is women’s voices that have been sidelined the most, and none more so than the voice of lesbians.

It will not have escaped the few people left in the Chamber that I am not, and never can be, a lesbian, so I turned to lesbian activists in Scotland to give me their perspective on the impact that Stonewall’s queer theory practices have had on their life. These are their words:

“It has become very difficult to exclude men from lesbian spaces, especially if those spaces, events, or groups are advertised publicly. Males are demanding access to lesbians for dating, and to shame, bully or threaten lesbians who refuse. This has had the effect of driving lesbian culture underground, which means it is very difficult for young or isolated lesbians to make connections…

Young lesbians tell us that they are under a great deal of pressure to accept men in their spaces and as romantic partners. Some of the lesbians in the group have been pressured to identify as trans because of their same-sex attraction… The campaigns around Gender ideology legislation has emboldened homophobes, who make lesbians feel that there is something shameful or bigoted about our sexual orientation. Lesbians who assert their sexual boundaries are described as being obsessed with genitals or as having a ‘fetish’ or ‘kink’.”

This is undeniable and unacceptable homophobia.

In Scotland, the Sandyford clinic is continuing with these discredited hormone treatments, and to date the Scottish Government have persisted with the claim that this amounts to “international best practice”. That is a claim we now know to be manifestly false and worthless.

As highlighted by the LGB Alliance, Dr Cass found that 89% of girls and 81% of boys referred to GIDS were ultimately not trans but were homosexual or bisexual. That indicates an alarming pattern of misdiagnosis and inappropriate, unnecessary and irreversible medical and surgical interventions, and confirms what many have feared: that the NHS GIDS’ adoption of gender affirmation as a model of care has led to their, whether inadvertently or not, practising medical and surgical gay conversion therapy. It is incoherent to put sexual orientation and gender identity under the same conversion therapy umbrella. Parliament should not legislate in this area until sound clinical evidence on the best model of care has been properly developed and validated.

In a letter to First Minister Humza Yousaf raising my concerns about so-called “trans-inclusive conversion therapy”, which we now know is gay conversion therapy, I made the following point:

“Legislating to compel belief in gender ideology runs counter to provisions in the Equality Act 2010 put beyond doubt by the Maya Forstater v CGD Europe and Others ruling. Forcing an ideology or belief on others...would transform the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscals Service into a pseudo-theocratic enforcement agency and would thus preclude any notion of receiving a fair trial. ”

The Scottish Government, under Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf, have abandoned any pretence they are upholding their public sector equality duty, putting women, children and LGB people at risk. They have been warned repeatedly, but they called such concerns invalid and went ahead anyway. This place must not do the same.

Both First Minister Humza Yousaf and Ms Somerville have defended the introduction of non-statutory schools guidance, enabling non-expert teachers to affirm and enable the so-called “social transitioning” of minors in the absence of parental involvement or consent, but in a landmark legal opinion, human rights barrister Karon Monaghan concludes that schools and councils using such an approach are very likely to be in breach of equality and human rights legislation, and at risk of being sued by excluded parents. As Joanna Cherry noted recently, both the Equality Act 2010 and Human Rights Act 1998 are reserved matters, so the same risk of litigation should hold true in Scotland. There is little personal or professional protection for an activist teacher, given that this guidance is non-statutory, so the personal repercussions could be significant if they are pursued directly by excluded parents.

All of those warnings were stated long before the Cass report was published, but the virulent opposition to reason fostered and facilitated by Stonewall’s ideological capture across our public sphere has kept too many silent about the unfolding tragedy. Last week, I wrote to the Clerk of the House setting out in detail the legal and political incongruence and substantiated risk of harm from ropey ideologically-driven legislation. Therefore, I am seeking confirmation from the Minister that any such legislation will be excluded from the upcoming Criminal Justice Bill—I am referring to new clause 37—given the weight of evidence that Dr Cass has published about the dangers of embedding such practice in statute.

When I read the Cass Report and contrast its findings with the meticulous follow-up so carefully developed and provided to the children and young people I cared for during their cancer journey, it makes me furious and ashamed that clinicians could ever behave in such a cavalier manner. The LGB and other vulnerable young people who went to GIDS were subjected to life-altering treatments, only to be cast aside without follow-up. That must never be allowed to happen again—it is unethical and unprofessional, and the damage inflicted is, frustratingly, unknown. The evidence contained in the Cass report and the WPATH files is incontrovertible: in more than 80% of cases, gender-affirming “care” is gay conversion therapy.

Ending the routine prescribing of hormone supressing treatments is very much to be welcomed, but I wish to press the Minister further on the steps the Government will take to ensure that clinicians operating in private clinical practice and online pharmacies adhere to the NHS clinical guidelines issued by NHS England. This is a matter for the Department of Health and Social Care, the Ministry of Justice and the equality hub to work on in concert.

What further steps will the Government take to ensure that private clinics and online pharmacies are not able to circumvent these clinical guidelines? What sanctions and enforcement measures will be put in place? Will the Minister make it clear that never again will services for children and young people be exceptionalised in the way that they have been, and that Dr Cass’s recommendations will be implemented in full so that healthcare, clinical practice and equalities will be based on evidence, the best interests of every child and young person, and clinical expertise?

In closing, I agree with Dr Cass that LGB and gender non-conforming young people “deserve very much better”. Members of this House no longer have any excuse to look the other way or to hide.