How is it that a small number of organisations have achieved so much influence, in such a short period of time, over public policy regarding trans issues? How is it that we have been expected to affirm non-binary gender identities, support transition, provide gender-neutral toilets, and use language (pronouns, especially) in new kinds of ways, when we feel that we were not asked for our opinions about these things?
How is it, in other words, that the trans agenda seems to have overtaken us?
James Kirkup (The Spectator, 2 December 2019) draws attention to a report produced by Dentons, which claims to be the world’s biggest law firm. The report is called ‘Only adults? Good practices in legal gender recognition for youth.’
The aim of the report is to help trans groups across Europe and beyond to bring about changes in the law so that children would be able to change their gender without the approval or adults or any kind of authority.
The report states that:
‘It is recognised that the requirement for parental consent or the consent of a legal guardian can be restrictive and problematic for minors.’
As Kirkup comments:
‘You might think that the very purpose of parenting is, in part, to “restrict” the choices of children who cannot, by definition, make fully-informed adult choices on their own. But that is not the stance of the report.’
Even more chillingly, the report goes on to say that:
‘states should take action against parents who are obstructing the free development of a young trans person’s identity in refusing to give parental authorisation when required.’
The report then outlines certain ‘techniques’ that have been found to be effective in progressing ‘trans rights’:
1. ‘Get ahead of the Government agenda’
‘In many of the NGO advocacy campaigns that we studied, there were clear benefits where NGOs managed to get ahead of the government and publish progressive legislative proposal before the government had time to develop their own. NGOs need to intervene early in the legislative process and ideally before it has even started. This will give them far greater ability to shape the government agenda and the ultimate proposal than if they intervene after the government has already started to develop its own proposals.’
This was a tried and tested approach of Sir Humphrey Appleby in the BBC sitcoms ‘Yes, Minister’ and ‘Yes, Prime Minister’. How easy it is to hand a busy and harassed politicism a piece of paper, saying, “Here you are minister, I’ve already done the hard work of drafting the policy for you. Just sign here, please!” But what works well in comedy doesn’t necessarily pass muster when applied to real-life issues, such as gender identity in children.
2. ‘Tie your campaign to more popular reform’
‘In Ireland, Denmark and Norway, changes to the law on legal gender recognition were put through at the same time as other more popular reforms such as marriage equality legislation. This provided a veil of protection, particularly in Ireland, where marriage equality was strongly supported, but gender identity remained a more difficult issue to win public support for.’
The emphasis in this quotation has been added by Kirk, whose suggests that these are very telling phrases. I agree, and it seems that this tactic is no less deceptive and manipulative than the ‘This is a good time to bury bad news’ tactic that caused such uproar in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
If you cannot hide the truth, then try suppressing it:
3. ‘Avoid excessive press coverage and exposure’
‘Another technique which has been used to great effect is the limitation of press coverage and exposure.’
The rationale for this tactic is that in certain countries, such as the UK, information on gender recognition had been ‘misinterpreted’ in the mainstream media, and this had led to opposition. Accordingly (it is concluded) public campaigning may be ‘detrimental to progress’. Better to take the stance adopted in Ireland, where ‘activists have directly lobbied individual politicians and tried to keep press coverage to a minimum.’
Why take the trouble to try to convince people of the strength of your argument, when you can achieve better results by hiding it from the public gaze?