This is a post by Sarah Phillimore
I was delighted to be asked to speak on July 27th 2019 by Make More Noise.
As the organisers say:
There has been a surge of Feminist activism across the UK in the past year. Women are agitated and organised. We are finding our voice and our voice is saying NO.
Make More Noise are one such group, created to provide a space for women to talk freely and address uncomfortable truths.
Why am I interested in this?
I am a woman. I am a disabled woman. The delusion of self ID as a cure for unhappiness is shown to me, and every other disabled person in the world, every single day. We cannot identify out of ourselves. Every day the people around us and the hostile environments we have to navigate tell us what our reality is. To claim another’s identify is a choice for the privileged – a black woman cannot self Identify as white but Rachel Dolezal can claim to be a black woman and take a Nigerian name.
But I am also a lawyer. Who has worked in child protection for 20 years. I have been campaigning since 2014 for greater openness and honesty in our debate about the family justice system.
So it would seem that my experiences both personal and professional have led me to this moment. There is so much to worry about when we face the erasure of biological sex as a category of identification that I have decided to focus my concerns on the implications for children.
My central hypothesis this: people would rather cause pain than feel it.
We have a lack of mature discussion in our society about issues of grave importance to us all. I am quite sure that social media is partly behind this. I see the law being increasingly used as a weapon to silence people who step out of line, the rights of a few achieving dominance over the rights of many others. I see the efforts of some groups and individuals to push back against this – such as Fair Cop and Maya Forstater – but the fact that such groups have felt compelled to take action is an indication of what a strange place our public discourse has reached. People are sacked for expressing ‘wrong think’, the police are used to enforce one person’s feelings against another person’s Article 10 rights to freedom of expression.
And who suffers most in such a scenario where a legal system is used to prioritise the rights of one minority above others? Those at the very bottom of any pyramid power structure – children.
So what supports my hypothesis?
- High court decisions only 3 years apart about transitioning pre schoolers
- The NSPCC debacle and the intervention of Prostasia
The shifting position of the High Court
The case of Re J in 2016 involved a 4 year old, who his mother claimed ‘disdained his penis’ and wished to be a girl. The High Court did not agree and ordered that the child lived with his father. Mermaids supported the mother and issued an angry press release after the judgment saying they would appeal – they did not. I wrote about this case here which contains links to the judgment and press release.
However, only three years later came the case of Lancashire County Council v TP & Ors (Permission to Withdraw Care Proceedings)  EWFC 30. This involved foster carers who had two unrelated children in their care who decided they wanted to transition – the youngest aged 3 years old. [EDIT apologies – youngest was transitioned at FOUR YEARS OLD. Doesn’t make any difference to my argument] The LA were applying to withdraw care proceedings, so it was a different situation from re J. But even so, its interesting to see how the Judge framed this issue of transitioning pre schoolers:
Notwithstanding even the Guardian’s caution in respect of the openness of [the foster carers] to the possibility of an alteration in the children’s attitude to their gender identity I conclude that Dr Pasterski’s evidence demonstrates that it is obvious that neither of these grounds would meet threshold. Taken together with the panoramic evidence of the child focused approach of [the foster carers] it is overwhelmingly obvious that neither H nor R have suffered or are at risk of suffering significant emotional harm arising from their complete social transition into females occurring at a very young age. The evidence demonstrates to the contrary, this was likely to minimise any harm or risk of harm. The evidence does not support the contention that it was actively encouraged rather than appropriately supported.
How on earth is it ‘overwhelmingly obvious’ that a 3 year old will experience no harm from a decision to transition from male to female? I have a difficulty here with such an uncritical acceptance of the evidence of Dr Pasterski. Not merely because I find it extremely hard to accept that any 3 year old has the understanding or the language to communicate a desire to change sex, but I note the approach of Dr Paterski in an earlier case.
Jay v Secretary of State for Justice  EWHC 2620 (Fam) (08 October 2018) considered a man in his 40s who wished to become a woman. While Dr Paterski opined without any reservation that this was a genuine case of gender dysphoria, Dr Barrett struck a more cautious note, given that some of Ms Jay’s reported history was ‘directly at odds’ with documentary records.
“… If collateral corroboration is not convincingly elicited I would have grave doubts and wonder whether [Ms Jay]’s somewhat dependent personality had caused her to unwisely latch onto a change of gender role as a seemingly universal solution to both why her life had gone wrong and how it might be rectified.”
It is worth contemplating, with considerable unease, just what would happen if Re J was being heard and decided this week. Would the High Court have been able to protect a little boy from the mother who was telling everyone he ‘disdained’ his penis? Or would he have been sacrificed to what appears to be compulsive drive to be seen as ‘woke’ and ‘inclusive’ ?
The NSPCC debacle and the intervention of Prostasia
All of you I am sure are familiar with the NSPCC’s public response to people who raised concerns about one of their employees who allegedly filmed himself masturbating at work and published a video online. I am pleased that, belatedly, they had the sense to realise that telling people who raised concerns that they were bigots who should be reported was not an appropriate response and they have referred themselves to the Charity Commission. I await with interest the outcome of that.
What happened to me on Twitter after that was also interesting.
I was discussing that people should consider not making further charitable donations to the NSPCC but consider smaller local charities. An organisation called Prostasia popped up and suggested they might be a worthwhile beneficiary. Which was odd as a quick google showed them to be based in California and advocating ‘sex positive’ child protection, whatever that means.
What I suspect it means is support for men who want to have sex with children. This suspicion was confirmed when another Twitter user found a copy of a mug shot of a man who was active in the conversation and on the Prostasia website. This stated he had been arrested in 2012 for sexual conduct with a child under 13. Prostasia then blocked us all and then tried to blackmail me, which is a whole other story I don’t have time for now – but is a clear indication of the murky ethical waters in which this organisation swims.
What does this show me?
The inability or unwillingness of both pro-trans activists and pro-paedophile groups to distinguish teenagers from pre-schoolers.
Because what Prostasia has in common with the views of the legal adviser for Mermaids is a persistent refusal to identify what they mean by ‘a child’.
- A child is defined as a person aged 0-18.
- The majority of children under 12 are unlikely to be considered ‘Gillick competent’ to make important decisions about their own lives.
- We have a difficult and grey area around 13-16 where children may well as individuals have greater capacity than the law allows them. But we have to draw a line somewhere.
- And for children, sex and the criminal law, that line is firmly set at 13 years. See the Sexual Offences Act 2003. A child under 13 cannot consent to sex. It is rape.
I therefore consider myself on firm ground to say that the vast majority of children under 12 neither want nor need exposure to adult sexuality. It is important that they are allowed the time and space to develop their own identities and their own sexual preferences; free of the coercion or manipulation of an adult. And once they cross that threshold into adulthood they should be free to live and love as they wish, according to the boundaries of the existing laws. Sexual activities between consenting adults is none of my business or concern.
What I have witnessed developing over the last year or so has caused me increasing concern about the extent to which some men wish to re-frame the discussion about the sexuality of children. They wish to push back the boundaries regarding age and consent. This seems clear to me because of the extent to which they are often coy about stating exactly how they define ‘a child’. The difference between – for example – a typical 9 year old and a typical 16 year old is vast and in every domain; physical, sexual, social.
And what is the problem with this?
I was alerted to a blog post in March of this year by the Mermaids legal adviser. The author remained anonymous but was arguing that
….someone’s gender identity, at any age, must be respected. A child identifying as trans, whether it has been submitted this is as a result of harm or not, is identifying as trans and that must be respected throughout proceedings…More often than not, if a child says they are trans, they will be trans.
I commented at the time
As I hope I have made clear, any such assertion made without attempting even the barest of analysis of the vast gulf in understanding and capacity between a 6 year old and a 16 year old is an assertion of no value. Worse than that, it is an assertion which attempts to pave the way to leave young children entirely unprotected from their parents.
Most parents love their children and want to do what is in their best interests. A small minority of parents fail to do that. The courts absolutely must be ready, willing and able to step in and to protect such children.
Anyone who is unwilling or unable to see the difference between a child of 6 and a child of 16 is someone who wishes to blur the boundaries around child protection and safeguarding. Why would anyone wish to do this? I can only assume it is to make it easier to secure the eradication of the rights of children to be protected from the imposition of men’s sexual will. And what is worse, their rights will be eradicated at the same time we are told WE are the villans, WE are the bigots.
The facts are always friendly. That was and will remain my rallying cry. Lets have proper discussion . Not all who wish to transition do so out of realistaion of their ‘essential self’ – a self that no one apparently can define. Some will do so because they are predators. Predators predate. That is what they do. For example, the recent trial of convicted paedophile Carl Beech revealed that he had volunteered at the NSPCC between 2012 and 2015 .
The wolf is no longer at the door. The wolf Is in the kitchen and claiming a legal right to be there. And I am now too old and too fed up to do anything other than speak up. This will not be done in my name.
"abusers will exploit bad laws and poor safeguarding" – this is the nub of it. I cannot understand why this simple, obvious fact, proven time and time again throughout history, is denied by so many people.
— John Stepek (@John_Stepek) July 23, 2019
Jessica Yaniv is hosting a topless LGBTQ swimming event for girls (“people”) 12 and up where parents and guardians are not permitted to be present. pic.twitter.com/WCN2MUbo32
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) July 22, 2019