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The Stakes Are Far Too High To Stay Silent
I was fired for speaking out in favor of child safeguarding, and now I'm suing them.
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One afternoon in May of last year, as I was sitting at my desk, an email notification from my university course appeared on my screen. “Termination of Contract” was the subject line.
I crumbled into pieces on the floor. I was fortunate to be at my mother’s house at the time, and she comforted me. But the truth was that I was inconsolable. I had devoted four years of my life towards training to become a psychotherapist and spent tens of thousands of pounds in the process. But all it took was a single email for my hard work and future aspirations to come crashing down. The question going round and round inside my head was “Why?”
It soon became clear. The truth is that this happened to me because I hold and express so-called “gender critical” views. For instance, I believe that all available evidence indicates that biological sex is binary and immutable, and that children should not be taught otherwise. I also believe that children expressing confusion about their “gender” should not be immediately “affirmed” down a potentially irreversible pathway of medical transition and life-long medical dependency.
These beliefs, which are founded in science, ethical therapeutic considerations, and common sense, were enough to cost me my vocation.
I first realised that I wanted to pursue a career in psychotherapy in my mid-twenties, while I was working as a criminal barrister in London. To dip a toe in the psychotherapy waters, I took a volunteer position as a counsellor with a charity named Childline. One night a week, after finishing in the office, I would head over to Childline for a shift that involved speaking to distressed children suffering from all manner of issues. After spending nearly six years counseling with Childline, I felt so inspired helping these children that I decided to make it my life’s work. Pursuant of that goal, I undertook a Foundation Certificate before enrolling on what was supposed to be a five-year Masters programme at Metanoia Institute—a west-London specialist institute for psychotherapy and counseling. I found the course extremely fulfilling, and before long I began to see clients weekly for private therapy with the mental health charity Mind.
Over the years at Childline, I began to notice an increase in the number of children contacting us to discuss feeling “trapped in the wrong body.” My role wasn’t to advise, but to merely listen and explore. I listened to children as young as eight tell me they were certain they were trans—though it was clear their understanding of what “trans” meant was extremely limited, as one would expect from children so young. Some were desperate for drugs to delay their puberty, but didn’t appear to know what puberty involved. Many spoke of joining online communities where their trans identities were celebrated and encouraged. Most (but not all) were girls who wanted to be boys. Some were already using breast binders, a device that compresses their breasts and can cause serious damage when not used properly.
Confused at what I was witnessing, I decided to immerse myself in the literature and research on the topic—and what I found shocked and horrified me.
In the UK, children are sometimes prescribed drugs that block their puberty. Advocates often describe these drugs as a fully reversible “pause button” that can be taken to give children more time to sort out their gender confusion. But this portrayal appears more reflective of what is desperately hoped for than what evidence actually suggests. Given the lack of long-term data, the efficacy of puberty blockers for treating gender dysphoria is far from clear.
Common sense would dictate that any experimental treatment that artificially halts the body’s natural development should be approached with extreme caution and skepticism, especially when it involves children. And that’s exactly what the UK’s High Court ruled last year when they said that children under 16 are “unlikely” to be able to give informed consent for puberty blockers. But that ruling was unfortunately overturned by the Court of Appeal.
Studies indicate that starting puberty blockers all but guarantees a child will proceed onto cross-sex hormones, which can bring about irreversible changes to a young person’s body and impact fertility and sexual functioning.
For those who eventually seek to surgically transition, this may culminate in a double mastectomy (removal of both breasts) or orchiectomy (removal of the testicles). The gravity of these life-altering surgeries cannot be overstated; they remove the healthy tissue and fully functional organs of children, and it’s difficult to imagine any child having the capacity to consent to such procedures. Speaking to those concerns, I have met many “detransitioners”—people who began to transition only to reverse course after realizing they’d made a mistake—with deep emotional and physical scars who harbor the feeling that they were encouraged down such a precarious path.
Prior to transitioning physically, many children are first transitioned socially, which usually involves wearing clothes associated with the opposite sex and adopting a new name and pronouns. This is often seen as a harmless and noncommittal way to begin one’s “gender journey” because it doesn’t involve medical treatment. However, there is good reason to believe that social transition may itself be a form of psychosocial intervention that makes it difficult for children to change course once they’ve started down that path.
I’ve even had children who identify as trans tell me they would secretly like to detransition but that they’re too frightened of the social consequences, such as being labelled a liar or attention-seeker.
In light of these facts, I expected vigorous debate on this issue within my community of therapists. But instead, I found silence. There was very little engagement at all with the issue of gender dysphoria—the serious mental health condition one must be diagnosed with in order to legally or medically transition. But gender dysphoria is often accompanied—and preceded—by a host of other mental health diagnoses such as autism, anxiety, depression, and many sufferers have experienced previous trauma. But instead of viewing gender dysphoria as potentially being a result of these myriad background conditions, many therapists now obsessively focus on treating dysphoria as though it were the root cause of all their mental distress.
The suggestion coming from the powers that be within the therapeutic profession is that if a child tells us they have a cross-sex identity and wants to transition, we should simply “affirm” them. To challenge, question, or explore the issue with them could be seen as “transphobic” or perhaps even a type of “conversion therapy.”
Frustrated with the lack of open dialogue, I co-founded Thoughtful Therapists, a group committed to discussion of these important issues. Questions around transitioning are complex, nuanced, and can have serious ramifications. We shouldn’t pretend otherwise.
Matters came to a head in early 2021, when the UK government brought forward plans for its long-discussed ban on “conversion therapy.” Conversion therapy is usually understood to refer to (misguided) attempts to turn gay or bisexual people straight. It’s usually not carried out by a trained therapist, but rather within a family, or in a religious setting. I’ve always found the practice to be immoral and abusive, and I’d happily see it banned.
However, the government initially sought to include “gender identity” within the remit of this legislation, causing me and many of my colleagues to worry that the government’s proposed new law would also criminalize any attempt to openly explore issues with a child who has gender dysphoria. We have seen similar legislation passed abroad, including in Canada, New Zealand, and Ireland, often with extremely ambiguous language and without clear safeguards for trained mental health practitioners. I have spoken to therapists in these countries who say they will no longer work with children who have gender dysphoria, as they fear being wrongly accused of carrying out conversion therapy and possibly even criminalized. But this only cedes the field to therapists taking the affirm-only approach.
Following the government’s legislative announcement in early 2021, I started a public petition calling on the government to safeguard essential explorative therapy for children struggling with gender dysphoria as part of any ban, and to recognize that most children with gender dysphoria will eventually settle into their bodies if left alone. My petition quickly garnered more than 11,000 signatures, and eventually a response from the government, which said: “We … are clear that this ban must not impact on the independence and confidence of clinicians.”
But my intervention was quickly met with abuse from trans rights activists on social media. I was slurred as a “transphobe” and a “bigot.” I am neither of those things. Despite my attempts to engage them in good-faith discussion, nobody seemed interested. They only wanted to attack me and destroy my reputation.
A few weeks after launching my petition, I received an email from the Deputy CEO of Metanoia Institute telling me she had received a handful of complaints about my petition and asked whether I could come in for an “informal” chat two days later. Of course, I agreed, but I felt extremely anxious. What had I done wrong? What did the complaints say? The meeting never came.
Fewer than 24 hours later, I received another email from the Deputy CEO, summarily expelling me from my course for bringing both the institute and the entire profession “into disrepute.” The email was only two paragraphs long, and I was provided with no evidence, no policies, no right of appeal, and not a single opportunity to defend myself. It was all the more confusing given that just weeks earlier I had been signed off by my institute to set up a private therapy practice.
When I tried to reply and ask for details, I found that my university email had already been disabled. I then tried to login to the university intranet to check their policies on expulsion—but again, I’d already been booted off. I was blacklisted within a matter of minutes. That same evening, Metanoia took to Twitter to publicly announce my expulsion, damaging my reputation even further.
It felt truly horrible and humiliating. I was being discriminated against for my beliefs about the proper safeguarding of children. Given how tight-knit the psychotherapy community is, the negative impact this ordeal has had on my future career prospects is absolutely tremendous.
Then, within just weeks of my expulsion, Childline, without warning, informed me that they were terminating my volunteering contract with them, on similar grounds. Having devoted six years of my life to this organization and supporting young children in need, this was extraordinarily painful.
After writing about my story on the Crowd Justice website, I feel extremely fortunate to have so far raised over £100,000 from the generosity of complete strangers, money I’m now using to take the Metanoia Institute and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) to court. I have also received thousands of messages of support from parents, teachers, doctors and lawyers, too scared to speak out for fear of being cancelled, as I was.
A three day preliminary hearing in my case took place from June 14 – 16, and I am currently waiting for the judgment of these preliminary issues before we can set a date for trial.
I was extremely relieved to see the recent Queen’s Speech announcement that the proposed ban on conversion therapy would not include gender identity. This vindicates everything I and colleagues have been saying for the last year. However, there is something painfully ironic about the fact that the beliefs I lost my vocation for have now been formally been adopted by the UK Government.
While I am seeking personal justice due to the damages inflicted upon my life, this case is not just about me. It’s about setting a new precedent for the fundamental importance of free speech. It’s also about emboldening those too afraid to speak out. But, most importantly, it’s about protecting and providing the necessary support to vulnerable children.
The stakes are far too high to stay silent.
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Reality’s Last Stand is a reader supported publication aimed at keeping you informed on the issues and news surrounding the troubling rise of sex denialism and gender ideology throughout society.