The few days since the publication of the Cass report – the probe into ‘gender identity’ services for young people – have been a revelation. The report, compiled by Dr Hilary Cass, has at long last, and so publicly it couldn’t be ignored, blown some of the gilt off the trans gingerbread, confirming that medical interventions on minors weren’t backed up by solid research. This has woken up some of the great and the good, who have finally realised that parroting phrases like ‘trans women are women’ might not have been such a wise idea.

It must be galling for Rutherford, the foremost science communicator, to have missed such a big medical scandal

One of those who used those four words beloved of activists was Education Secretary Gillian Keegan. Back in 2020, Keegan told her constituency LGBT Forum in Chichester that ‘trans women are women’. For that stance, PinkNews praised Keegan as a ‘rare LGBTQ+ ally in Rishi Sunak’s cabinet’. But following the report’s publication, the Tory minister sounded a more sceptical note: ‘We must not let the gender ideology of a small but vocal lobby push their agendas at the expense of young people’. I couldn’t agree more – but it’s a pity it took Keegan so long to wise up to what unfolded under a government of which she is a part. At a recent select committee on the subject, Keegan seemed breathtakingly lightly-informed, uninterested, and apparently thinking longingly of knocking off and getting the train home. ‘Damn, now I’ve definitely missed the 15:35 – but I could still catch the 16:02 …’

Then there’s pop science rent-a-sceptic and the president of UK Humanists Adam Rutherford. In response to a tweet from women’s rights campaigner Maya Forstater suggesting that he could use his role to educate those criticising the methodology of the Cass report, Rutherford meekly replied, ‘It’s not something I know much about’. It must be galling for Rutherford, as the foremost communicator for science and a critic of bad research and quackery, to have – somehow – missed the big medical/scientific scandal story of the age.

Keegan and Rutherford aren’t the most egregious examples of people who appears to have been woken up by the intervention of Cass. Under the watch of Ruth Hunt, Stonewall was transformed from a gay rights charity into a organisation that focused on ‘trans inclusion’. In doing so, the concerns of lesbian and gay people were pushed aside. For her troubles, Hunt was made a life peer by Theresa May in 2019. Now, from her perch in the House of Lords, Hunt insists she is ‘absolutely someone who has always been working in the middle ground, trying to build consensus’.

Really? That stance comes as a surprise to gay folk who felt excluded by Stonewall’s near obsession with the T in LGBT. It is also hard to square the view of Stonewall as an organisation seeking ‘consensus’ with what Hunt said in October 2018 to a petition asking Stonewall to acknowledge there was a conflict around transgender rights and sex-based women’s rights. She wrote back then: ‘We do not and will not acknowledge this. Doing so would imply that we do not believe that trans people deserve the same rights as others. We will always debate issues that enable us to further equality but what we will not do is debate trans people’s right to exist.’

Hunt now seems to be trying every tactic in the ‘wriggling on the hook’ book; ‘I think there was a responsibility [regarding puberty blockers etc] on the NHS, schools and social services. So it wasn’t in my gift to either make this better or worse … I trusted the experts, and I think we all did that. And that is something we regret.’ But Miss, everyone else was doing it, Miss!

Stonewall’s former boss should come clean about what really unfolded under her watch: the Times reported over the weekend that the charity tried to suppress early warnings to schools about the shaky evidence base for medical transitions for children. Back in 2018, campaigners sent out resource packs to schools warning teachers there was little medical evidence to support puberty blockers. Stonewall’s response was to brand the pack ‘dangerous’ material, ‘masquerading as a professional, ‘evidence-based’ advice’.

The days of NHS England handing out puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to children are thankfully at an end

Hunt has denied that Stonewall suppressed debate around transgender healthcare. But something doesn’t quite add up. Perhaps we should welcome Hunt’s reaction to the Cass report. This, after all, was someone who said in 2020 that ‘bad-faith transphobia manifests itself by presuming that trans women are inherently out to deceive, and that trans women are men’. But even if Hunt has changed her tune, I am wary of declaring that this battle is over.

If Cass is at least the beginning of the end of this madness, I think what we need to talk about and learn from is fear. I strongly suspect that these three, and many others, were afraid, and reasonably so. I think they saw what was happening to people who did speak up – the intimidation and career/financial ruin wrought on Allison Bailey, Rosie Kay, Christian Henson, Graham Linehan – and they were terrified of that happening to them. So they went along with something that was obviously horrific.

Unlike Hunt, Linehan, Bailey and the other critics of the trans movement haven’t landed a cushy seat in the Lords. And what about those young people who ended up going down the medical route in the mistaken hope that it would alleviate their gender-related distress?

The days of NHS England handing out puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to children are thankfully at an end. But in order for any proper lessons to be learned from this gender scandal, those who failed to call out the trans mob – or even ended up parroting their words – should take some time to properly consider where they went wrong.

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