Euan McColm: If the Tavistock is not fit for purpose then neither is the Sandyford

Those seeking help with broken bones do not, as a rule, book an appointment with their local philosopher.

Anyone with the misfortune to develop cancer will seek the advice of an oncologist rather than a sociologist. If you have a headache, you’ll take two paracetamol before reading a self-help book.

By and large, we know that medical matters are best dealt with medically. Solid, tested, peer-reviewed science is what we need.

But this truth does not universally apply. When it comes to the controversial and sensitive matter of gender identity, the views of theorists, academics and well-intentioned “allies” are so often given more weight than the opinions of medical experts.

The decision to close the Tavistock should have implications for gender services in Scotland, argues Euan McColm

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The mantra is “be kind” and the intention is to make it as easy as possible for someone to change their gender identity.

This is seductive stuff. Which of us is opposed to kindness? Which of us doesn’t want those struggling with their gender to be able to live a peaceful and fulfilling life free from prejudice?

The problem of this approach, however, is that it is not free from consequences. And grave ones, at that.

The decision - after an investigation - to close down the children’s gender identity service run by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in London shows us what happens when ideology is allowed to trump medical fact.

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Dr Hilary Cass

Dr Hilary Cass, the senior paediatrician who led a review of gender identity services in England, has raised serious concerns about the use of puberty-blocking drugs in the treatment of young people who wish to transition.

Cass reports that there are “critically important” unanswered questions about the prescription of such medication. There remain uncertainties about the long-term outcome of puberty blockers with concerns that brain development may be disrupted - perhaps permanently - by their use.

Cass’s findings expose the claim of sundry trans activists, queer theorists, and online virtue-signallers that puberty-blockers are safe and reversible as the bald assertion it is.

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We should not mourn the impending closure of the Tavistock. It was found unfit for purpose and the safety of those seeking its services must be paramount.

Troubled teen

The decision to close the Tavistock should have implications for gender services in Scotland. So far, it has not.

The Sandyford clinic in Glasgow provides the same services as the Tavistock, yet ministers see no urgency to act.

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The Scottish Government has said, merely, that it will “consider” the findings of the Cass Review, while NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s position is that the Sandyford will “continue to offer a range of gender services in line with national frameworks”.

Perhaps we should be unsurprised by what seems, on the face of it, to be the most remarkable display of complacency. The SNP and its partners in Scotland’s nationalist government, the Green Party, have committed themselves to reform of the Gender Recognition Act. They wish to make it easier for people to change the gender under which they live and part of this is the removal of existing medical intervention in the process. Why, they demand, should someone have to convince a doctor that they were “assigned” the wrong gender at birth when they, themselves, know the truth?

Feminists who complain that the rights of women to single-sex spaces will be undermined by changes to the law are frequently dismissed - sometimes by the politicians pushing for change - as bigots. Anyone who dares raise questions about puberty-blockers or about the soaring number of young women wishing to live as men should expect to be vilified as a transphobe, committed to nothing less than the total eradication of some of society’s most vulnerable people.

Why, ask many MSPs, can’t people just be kind?

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These politicians are entitled to their views.

But we should balance the opinions of, for example, Green Party cranks with the views of those who actually know what they’re talking about.

David Bell, the psychiatrist and former governor at the Tavistock who blew the whistle on the scandalous way it operated, has called for the immediate closure of the Sandyford. Furthermore, Bell has warned that the Scottish Government’s stance that gender transition should be routinely affirmed is “likely to make it more difficult for them to see the damage that is being done to children by inappropriate, experimental treatment”.

For the time being, then, puberty-blockers will continue to be prescribed to Scottish children who wish to transition. What is considered an unsafe option for children in England is seen as perfectly healthy for children in Scotland.

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Both of these things cannot be true and I prefer to believe the evidence of experts who have forced the closure of the Tavistock to the claims of clueless MSPs.

With trans-activist groups such as Stonewall providing committed and vocal opposition to anyone who dares question the contemporary orthodoxy that affirmation without question is the way forward, it is now controversial to suggest that there may be a problem with using untested drugs on children.

This is madness. It is not, no matter how loudly ideologues insist otherwise, transphobic to believe that children should be encouraged to discuss why they feel they are living in the wrong gender before prescribing them life-changing drugs which have not undergone significant trials.

Encouraging children to explore the reasons for their discomfort is not “conversion therapy”, no matter how often some activists insist it is.

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Of course, we must encourage kindness. And, yes, we should do all we can to ensure those who change gender are free to live as they choose.

But there is nothing kind about allowing sentiment to take precedence over scientific fact.

If the Tavistock is not fit for purpose then neither, I'm afraid, is the Sandyford.

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