Lessons from Bailey & Tavistock: Australia must follow UK’s lead in gender ideology pushback

Lessons from Bailey & Tavistock: Australia must follow UK’s lead in gender ideology pushback

A couple of weeks ago we wrote a piece about how the tide of gender ideology is turning in the UK, touching on positive developments like Maya Forstater winning her discrimination case against her former employer who had fired her for her views on biological sex, British Triathlon restricting trans athletes from women’s sporting events, and several British prime ministerial candidates signalling their support for women’s sex-based rights. Since then, in a win for women’s sport, England’s Rugby Football Union and Rugby Football League also confirmed that women’s competitions will be restricted to females.

Based on further recent UK developments, it would seem a strong cultural shift against the harms of gender ideology – the view that gender should trump biology – is very much underway. Part of this cultural shift is the downfall of LGBT charity Stonewall, the ideology’s principal champion.

Last week, two monumental things happened. Allison Bailey won her discrimination case against her barristers’ chambers and the NHS announced it will be shutting down its children’s gender identity clinic.

Allison Bailey wins her discrimination case

The employment tribunal found that Garden Court Chambers had victimised and discriminated against Allison Bailey for expressing ‘gender critical’ beliefs (including criticising Stonewall’s ‘trans-extremism’ and calling out the absurd belief that lesbians who refuse to date trans-identifying males are transphobic). Like Forstater, Bailey rejects gender ideology, and believes in the reality and immutability of biological sex, as well as the right of women to female-only spaces, services and sports. So oppressive was the chambers’ behaviour toward her, that the tribunal awarded her aggravated damages of 22,000.

Her win was widely celebrated by women’s advocates and those who hold firm to the reality of and importance of biological sex, including her friend author JK Rowling who tweeted, “Allison Bailey is a heroine to me and innumerable other feminists for refusing to abandon her beliefs and principles in the fact of intimidation and discrimination. Congratulations, [Allison]!”

Bailey also sued Stonewall for causing the chambers to discriminate against her after a senior Stonewall staff member warned the chambers about its association with her, but she did not win this part of her case (the chambers is a member of Stonewall’s Diversity Champion scheme and paid it for advice and training on LGBT inclusive workplaces). However, as multiple commentators –  including Bailey herself – have noted, Stonewall has not come away unscathed.

“She lost this part of her case, but the judgment far from vindicates Stonewall,” writes Sonia Sodha for The Guardian. “The tribunal ruled that Garden Court was acting independently when it discriminated against Bailey, but that the Stonewall letter could credibly be read as a threat to terminate its relationship with Garden Court unless the chambers expelled Bailey.”

“Stonewall and its supporters, including Owen Jones and Pink News, are celebrating. In their blinkered view, she has lost,” writes Julie Bindel for UnHerd. “However, this is to disregard the consequences of interrogating the extreme ideology and methods perpetuated by Stonewall. Bailey’s tribunal has tracked the ideological trajectory of what was once the foremost activist for gay rights, and put the absurdity of its activism under the spotlight.”

“I did not win everything, but I won the most important thing: I have brought Stonewall’s methods into the public eye, and I have shown them for what they now are,” said Bailey after the tribunal decision was released. “[Stonewall played a] role in creating the environment in which discrimination against gender critical women and lesbians has been allowed to flourish.”

Like Forstater’s case, Bailey’s case is a win not only for employee rights, but for freedom of speech, and in particular, the freedom to express beliefs that sex and biology are real and that this reality matters, particularly when it comes to women’s sex-based rights.

Since the decision was handed down in Bailey’s case, pressure has been placed on public sector bodies to leave Stonewall’s controversial Diversity Champions scheme, an outcome that appears to be supported by both prime ministerial candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. “Stonewall has been taking the taxpayer for a ride for too long. They act as judge, jury and executioner of equality policies which they write then enforce,” said former UK children’s minister Tim Loughton on the matter. The calls to withdraw from Stonewall follow the swathe of high-profile employers who left the scheme last year, including the BBC after its damning investigation of Stonewall’s undue influence on public bodies, including on the BBC itself.

The Australian Government should stop funding ACON and Australian workplaces should withdraw from its Pride in Diversity scheme

The downfall of Stonewall and exposure of its pervasive influence and aggressive methods should prompt Australian workplaces to reconsider their membership to the AIDS Council for NSW’s (ACON) Pride in Diversity scheme, which is based on Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme. The Australian government should similarly review its extensive funding of ACON.

Like Stonewall’s, ACON’s scheme helps employers comply with ‘diversity’ requirements in order to create ‘LGBT inclusive’ workplaces. And like Stonewall, the promotion of LGBT inclusion has been the excuse for ACON to embed a nationwide incentive structure in our private and public institutions that rewards compliance for enforcing gender ideology in the workplace, and penalises the non-compliant. The upshot is that – like Forstater and Bailey both experienced – workplaces become hostile for those who maintain the reality of biological sex.

ACON’s ‘Pride Inclusion Programs’ (which includes the Pride in Diversity scheme) have been effective in embedding gender ideology throughout sport, health, education, government and across the private sector. For example, the problems that arose from Stonewall’s influence on the BBC are mirrored in ACON’s excessive influence on the ABC. The infiltration of ACON throughout our social, cultural and political institutions has had grave implications for the sex-based rights of women, as trans-identifying males are ‘included’ in their spaces, services and sports, as well as for the welfare of children on whom gender ideology is foisted in education, health and so on (you can read more about ACON’s pervasive influence and similarities with Stonewall here).

Another win: Tavistock gender clinic ordered to shut down

The day after Bailey’s victory, another victory was announced – the UK’s Tavistock children’s gender clinic (the world’s largest children’s gender clinic) has been ordered to close its doors, “after a review that found it failed vulnerable under-18s”. The clinic is to be replaced by regional centres offering a more holistic approach. The Times reported:

“Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) clinic has been accused of rushing children into life-altering treatment on puberty blockers.

The paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass, who is leading a review of the service...found that the Tavistock clinic was “not a safe or viable long-term option” and that other mental health issues were “overshadowed” when gender was raised by children referred to the clinic.

Cass, former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the current model of a sole provider for gender services should be scrapped as it failed to meet the holistic needs of distressed and vulnerable teenagers.”

“Over the past decade, the service has been overwhelmed by a sudden increase in the numbers of young people in distress over their gender,” wrote journalist Lucy Bannerman in The Times. “No matter that a significant proportion of these new referrals were on the autism spectrum, or suffering eating disorders, or were in care, or had complex histories of trauma or abuse - the [Tavistock] GIDS leadership pursued an “affirmative" approach that critics said in effect treated a child's declaration that they were born in the wrong body as sacrosanct, and treated all their other complex problems through the prism of gender.”

The clinic’s closure is vindication for all those, who often in the face of extreme abuse and vilification, have sought to raise the alarm about harmful and irreversible ‘affirmative’ gender treatments for children. This includes former patient Keira Bell, a detransitioner who brought a case against Tavistock arguing that at age 16, she was incapable of giving informed consent to the puberty blockers they prescribed her. “I just hope that what this [closure] means is the end of medicalisation of children,” said Bell. Dr Cass has raised concerns about the uncertain long-term impact of puberty blockers on neurocognitive development and has recommended that their availability should be subject to a formal research programme that follows children into adulthood.

The decision was welcomed by children’s and women’s advocates, with feminist researcher Julie Bindel calling it a “massive relief”. Bindel writes of her own desire to be a boy when she was younger, “not because I was trapped in the wrong body, but because I was trapped in a patriarchal society that punishes girls for not adhering to sex stereotypes, otherwise known as “gender”.”

“In recent years, more and more children have been directed towards a life of potentially harmful medical intervention as an answer to feelings of unhappiness and distress. Last year, more than 5,000 under-18s were referred to the Portman, compared to 250 a decade earlier. Whereas it used to be far more common for males to present as gender dysphoric, in recent years the number of girls and young women have skyrocketed. What is it, I wonder, about being female in a world full of misogyny, violent pornography, and sexual assault have to do with wishing to opt out of girlhood?

“GIDS has failed our most vulnerable children, and I, along with many, will be glad to see it go.”

That vulnerable girls were hugely overrepresented in those presenting with gender dysphoria at Tavistock is a pattern that has also been observed in Australia.

It is time to undertake a review of gender clinics in Australia

Australian children’s gender clinics, like others around the world, are modelled on the Tavistock clinic. The largest of these in Australia is the gender clinic at the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) in Melbourne. Journalist Bernard Lane argues that the RCH is arguably more of a threat to vulnerable children than Tavistock in that unlike Tavistock, it has “campaigned for trans mastectomy” for female patients, has used “disturbing (but low-quality) statistics on suicide risk for emotive promotion of medicalised gender change”, “has championed nationwide adoption of puberty blockers” for children as young as 10, and has run “a successful campaign to persuade Australia’s Family Court that it should radically cut back its supervisory role over paediatric gender medicine”, making it easier to access cross-sex hormones (it is worth checking out Bernard's piece on 'The Fall of Tavistock' in full).

Since the announcement of the Tavistock’s closure, Australia’s gender clinics, which also follow a ‘gender affirmative’ approach, are facing calls for an independent review of how they treat children with gender dysphoria. “The concerns that have been raised with the UK Tavistock Clinic translate directly to the same concerns that can be applied to gender clinics here in Australia,” Queensland paediatrician Dr Dylan Wilson said.

“The fact that Dr Cass noted that there is insufficient evidence to recommend puberty blockers but they have been used by gender clinics in Australia is of huge concern.

“They are now only going to be used in the UK as part of research trials with significant ethical oversight which is the same pathway that Sweden has followed, but the gender clinics in Australia continue unabated to prescribe them on a regular basis without any oversight or scrutiny whatsoever.

“The concern is that children are, as the Cass report found, instantly socially and medically ­affirmed without any exploration of any other diagnoses or contributing factors to their gender identity being considered, which means as soon as they are ­affirmed as children that are transgender, they are placed along a pathway which leads them to medical treatment, and medical treatment pathway leads them to lifelong medicalisation.”

According to The Australian, the National Association of Practising Psychiatrists (NAPP) – "which has adopted a cautious, psychotherapy-first approach to treating gender dysphoria – is also calling for a review of gender clinics in Australia. “The longer-term studies of what happens to children and ­adolescents when they’re treated with puberty blockers is not known. The evidence base is lacking,” said NAPP president Dr Philip Morris.

State health ministers are however resisting calls for an independent review, with health ministers from Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania maintaining that their gender clinics operate to “stringent safety standards” and are “consistent with national guidelines” (however, the whole point is that such standards and guidelines require a review in light of developments in the UK as well as countries like Finland and Sweden). Federal Health Minister Mark Butler has refused to comment. This is an entirely inadequate response to serious and legitimate concerns raised about the safety and welfare of vulnerable children in this country.

Women’s Forum Australia calls on the Australian Government to follow the UK’s lead in pushback against gender ideology

In the UK, there has been a further blow to the institution that has been embedding gender ideology throughout British society and a fatal blow to the institution that embraced this ideology and caused irreversible harm to vulnerable children. Women’s Forum Australia calls on Australia to follow the UK’s lead in pushing back against the regressive ideology that has captured our institutions, and has for too long, been allowed to induce great harm, particularly to women and children. As one British commentator has noted, “a course correction is long overdue”.

As noted, a good place for our government to start would be investigations into the influence and harmful impact of ACON’s ‘Pride Inclusion Programs’ and Australia’s gender clinics. As for what individuals can do, business owners can withdraw from ACON’s Pride in Diversity scheme, parents can avoid gender clinics like the plague, and everyone can challenge ‘Pride Inclusion’ demands when they conflict with one’s own rights, wellbeing or conscience.

Indeed, it is with individuals that positive change begins. It is brave individuals who have been turning the tide of gender ideology in the UK and it is brave individuals – of whom there are already many – who will do the same in Australia.

Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.

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