Last month, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust asked midwives to stop referring to “breastfeeding” and instead to call it “chestfeeding”, to avoid the word “mother” in favour of “birthing parent” and to call “breast milk” “human milk” so as not to offend women who have given birth who identify socially as men, of whom there have been two in this country since 2017. They are suggesting that the word “woman” is used sparingly on maternity wards which are now to be called “perinatal wards” to be more understanding to trans people. “Women don’t matter; people who have renounced being women do,” wrote Lionel Shriver in The Sunday Times.
The people who wrote these guidelines at this trust are clearly deranged. They are being driven by a tiny minority of trans activists who do not reflect what most transgender people want, which presumably is to be left alone and out of the limelight. One transgender person wrote on Twitter: “This isn’t what the majority of transgender people ask for and it hinders our rights.”
This is clear to me, but it is sadly and worryingly not clear to everyone, something which I learned about ten years ago while having dinner with some girl friends at university. About half way through the evening, someone announced that a former pupil of her school in Canada who had gone on to change his or her sex had recently been celebrated by appearing on the front cover of the school’s annual magazine. “Isn’t it fantastic?” she said, and everyone else nodded earnestly. “Amazing!” “Wonderful!” they all said while I stared awkwardly into my wine glass.
I remember going home that night feeling very confused. The unenlightened Catholic girl that I was, I had not given trans rights much thought at this point, but something seemed very wrong with the way they had all reacted. What exactly was it that was so fantastic about this poor person, who is so unhappy that they have felt the need, and no doubt been encouraged, to have a series of major medical interventions to change their sex, being paraded in public for doing exactly this? Why were they all so excited? Surely, I thought, the kind thing to do would be to leave this person alone to try to lead as normal a life as possible.
Around the same time a friend’s younger sister had become pregnant in her final year at a Catholic boarding school. She had been encouraged to keep the baby and allowed to continue with her A-levels, but was asked to keep her pregnancy a secret from other students. While the arrangement suited the school who did not want a scandal, it also suited the girl, who was able to finish her studies without scrutiny. Her family and close friends supported her throughout the pregnancy and afterwards, and she emerged not only with a healthy baby but also with her mental health intact. She was not subjected to bullying and gossip because she dealt with her predicament quietly and with modesty.
Now I realise that my university friends were not truly concerned with the transgender person’s wellbeing, as the Catholic school had been, but rather celebrating the great political statement that had been made. Teenage pregnancy has in its favour that it is not a glamorous cause, of course, but nonetheless, ten years on from that dinner party, this political statement has entered into the realms of ridiculous and it has helped precisely no one in the process. In fact, it is well known that nine in ten transgender people have contemplated suicide while one in four have made an attempt. Furthermore, four in five have been victims of verbal abuse, a number which is likely to rise now that the people driving their cause are trying to eliminate the existence of women entirely. No one likes having a cause of any kind, let alone such a tyrannous one serving so few people, rammed down their throat.
Sadly, my old friends, like many people today, were unable to see what was happening for what it really was, largely because they did not have the tools that Christians have, which is the confidence in the knowledge of what is true and what is good. Drawing attention to a marginalised group of people, such as those with gender dysphoria who need our compassion not mindless activism, to prove a point, is not kind to anyone, least of all them.