Telegraph article: Cass has been clear.  The Government must act

This article was first published in the Telegraph

I have long been concerned about the pernicious influence of extreme gender ideology on public policy. I saw it all too clearly when Boris Johnson appointed me Minister for Women and Equalities and I inherited a legacy that included proposals to allow people to self-identify as whichever gender they wished, without medical checks. Politicians desperate to curry favour with fashionable ideology were claiming trans women were women and that women could have a penis.

Meanwhile, we have had the absurd situation where biological males are storming to victories in women’s sports competitions while prisoners who were born men are demanding to be put in women’s jails.

As a Minister I was pleased to be able to junk the plans for gender self-ID, but during the past few years gender ideology has nonetheless gained increasing credence in our public institutions, in the NHS and – most worryingly of all – in our schools.

This is why the report from the leading paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass into how the NHS deals with children presenting with gender dysphoria is so important. I hope it will ensure once and for all that children’s welfare is put above the whims of dubious ideology.

Dr Cass has laid out clearly the scale of the damage being done to young people through misguided inclusion policies which, in her own words, were “built on shaky foundations” and “remarkably weak evidence”. Children have been taking drugs such as puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones that could change their bodies in irreversible ways, meaning that they may never be able to experience the joy of having children of their own. She is also clear that even treating a girl as a boy or vice versa – so-called “social transitioning” – may have significant effects on a child’s psychological functioning and set them on a path to making irreversible physical changes.

Claiming a child can be a different sex is simply a lie. Condoning this belief and leading children on in this way is clearly hugely damaging. It undermines trust and denies truth. And as I have heard from mums in my constituency in South West Norfolk, teenage boys have been exploiting the situation to gain access to what should be exclusively girls’ spaces, such as school toilets, at a vulnerable age.

Too many people have gone along with this falsehood for fear of being on the “wrong side of history”, or because they lacked the courage to take on the extremist bullies. Others have feared for their livelihoods or jobs and were too scared to speak out. It is essential, therefore, that the Government step in.

The Prime Minister rightly says that the wellbeing and health of children must come first and he trumpets the guidance that the Department for Education has issued to schools on trans issues and how NHS England is stopping the routine use of puberty blockers. But, sadly, we know that this will not be enough to stop militant ideologues pushing their agenda.

The guidance released in December is just that – mere guidance. This is why activists have recommended schools “do not implement” it, describing it variously as “legally unworkable” and “upsetting and scary”, with seemingly no regard at all for the safeguarding of children.

It is clear that a change in the law is necessary to introduce badly needed protections. That is why, when I was successful in the Private Member’s Bill ballot, I put forward the Health and Equality Acts (Amendment) Bill.

My Bill addresses these issues – defining sex in law as biological sex to protect single-sex spaces; banning the prescription of puberty blockers to under-18s, both on the NHS and privately; and preventing official recognition of social transitioning. This is the protection parents expect and our children deserve.

Shamefully, when my Bill was due for debate last month, Labour MPs filibustered the previous business so it could not even be debated. It now needs Government time and support if it is to make any progress.

This Parliament has almost certainly no more than six months left to run before the general election. If the Government is serious about addressing the warnings that Cass lays bare today, it should adopt my bill forthwith and get it passed into law before the election. What better legacy could today’s MPs leave than to stand up for children against an appalling woke ideology that is ruining lives?

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Launching 16th April 2024


In Ten Years to Save the West, Truss, who as Prime Minister sought to champion limited government and individual freedom, will argue that the rise of authoritarianism around the world and the adoption of fashionable ideas propagated by the global left give us barely a decade to preserve the economic and cultural freedom and institutions that the West holds so dear.