The conversion therapy bill is a thoroughly bad idea

I was disappointed to learn that Rishi Sunak has reconsidered his opposition to a bill banning conversion therapy. Not because I’m in favour of it, obviously. The baffling thing about Sunak’s change of heart is that conversion therapy, as commonly understood, has been banned in this country for years. As the government’s own briefing on the subject put it in 2021: ‘Our existing criminal law framework means that conversion therapy amounting to offences of physical or sexual violence is already illegal in this country.’ If a girl who believes she’s a boy is urged by her doctor to see a therapist, that doctor would be breaking the law So what

Right-on Kew

We must all hurry down to the Temperate House at Kew Gardens next month to enjoy Queer Nature After Hours, an evening of drama, music, comedy, drag acts and ‘a sprinkling of queer joy’. If, like me, you have never previously been sprinkled with queer joy, here’s your chance to find out what it’s like. There will be a performance by Trans Voices as well as a chap, or maybe not a chap, called Bi-Curious George. Here’s what George will be doing: ‘Within the splendour of the Temperate House, Bi-Curious George (he/him) will broadcast immersive parody-monologues, set to soaring classical scores. The audience becomes George’s parade of beautifully queer creatures

Should trans women be banned from women’s chess?

The arguments for keeping trans women from participating in women’s sport are well rehearsed. As the former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies wrote in this magazine in June, the simple truth is that men on average run faster, jump higher and are stronger than women. Their biology gives them irreversible advantages.  Even the world of chess has been pulled into the debate. Last week, the International Chess Federation banned trans women from participating in women’s matches. The English Chess Federation, on the other hand, refuses to exclude trans women. On first inspection, the decision to ban makes no sense. After all, the usual arguments of unfair physical advantages in women’s games

Trans activists don’t help themselves

I’ve tried to stay out of the trans-rights conversation, honestly I have. There are a number of reasons for this, and not all of them are laziness and cowardice. The main thing is that – though it bears on some important points of principle – it directly affects a relatively tiny proportion of the population and it already gets more coverage than almost any other issue up to and including a major European war.   Gee whiz, holding that centrist line gets harder And for most of the people who get involved in this conversation as journalists, commentators and activists, it rapidly becomes a full-time job. There are a lot

Katy Balls

Penny Mordaunt’s trans problem

The Tory leadership contest is yet to officially begin, but things are already turning nasty. As well as reports in the papers of dirty dossiers on candidates, Tory grandees have come out to call for a ceasefire in which Boris Johnson loyalists stop attacking Rishi Sunak. Now a row has broken out over Penny Mordaunt’s candidacy. The former defence secretary announced this weekend that she will be running for leader – storming into second place on MP support. On announcing the news, Mordaunt took to social media to try to address one of the biggest criticisms facing her when it comes to the contest: that she is too ‘woke’. The

In defence of Howard Donald

The mob has claimed another scalp. This time it’s Howard Donald’s. The Take That star has been found guilty of likecrimes. That is, he liked some ‘problematic’ tweets, including a tweet that said – brace yourselves – ‘Only women have periods’. For this, for giving his approval to a statement of biological fact, he’s been damned as a vile bigot and dumped from July’s Nottingham Pride Festival. Next time someone tells you cancel culture is a myth, point them to the unpersoning of Howard Donald. For here we have a good bloke, a veteran of the boyband era, being publicly shamed not even for anything he said but simply for

Barbie Kardashian and Ireland’s trans madness

Why are politicians so incapable of answering basic questions about biology? Yesterday it was Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s turn. A journalist asked him a yes or no question: ‘Do you believe that Barbie Kardashian is a woman?’ Barbie Kardashian, whose birth name was Gabrielle Alejandro Gentile, is a violent man who identifies as a woman. Last week he was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail – a women’s jail – for threatening to torture, rape and murder his own mother. He is, as the journalist who cornered Varadkar put it, ‘a violent biological male with a penis’. So what was Varadkar’s answer to this easiest of questions? This was a straightforward query

Corbynista MP backs down after attacking ‘transphobic’ Tory

Lloyd Russell-Moyle is no stranger to controversy. The Labour MP previously said sorry to JK Rowling after accusing her of using her own sexual assault as ‘justification’ for her views on trans people. Back when Jeremy Corbyn was Labour leader, the Brighton MP said those who quit the party were ‘scabs’. This week, Russell-Moyle has been busy in the Commons blasting a Tory MP. The Corbynista MP lashed out against Miriam Cates after she expressed concern that the Scottish gender bill would make it ‘vastly easier for a predator to get access to children’. ‘The idea of linking trans people with predators is disgusting and you should be ashamed,’ he told Cates, before

Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill is an open goal for unionists

Having just squandered a quarter of a million pounds on her fruitless Supreme Court independence challenge, Nicola Sturgeon’s government could be headed back to Little George Street sooner than they might have expected. If the UK government deems the hugely controversial Gender Recognition Reform Bill unlawful, a Section 35 order blocking the legislation from going to royal assent could be invoked by Scottish Secretary Alastair Jack. This would oblige Sturgeon’s government to take the matter to court. Is this what the First Minister wants? Many have been perplexed at her stubbornness in pursuing this contentious legislation, warts and all. (She wouldn’t even countenance a few common-sense safeguarding amendments, such as

Is sanity returning to the trans debate?

At last, Mermaids, the UK charity for, in their own words, ‘gender variant and transgender children’ is under the spotlight. Following investigations by the Telegraph and Mail newspapers, as well as demands from critics concerned about child safeguarding, the Charity Commission has launched a regulatory compliance case and have said that they have written to the organisation’s trustees. The investigations found that Mermaids has been offering breast binders to girls reportedly as young as 13, and despite children saying their parents opposed the practice. Binding can often cause breathing difficulties, back pain and broken ribs. It was also uncovered that kids have been ‘congratulated’ online for identifying as transgender by

Why are lesbians no longer welcome at Pride?

The lesbian group Get The L Out UK, founded to protest gender ideology and the pressure on same-sex attracted women to date trans women, joined Pride Cymru yesterday to make their voices heard amidst a sea of hostility. Ever since the trans movement decided that lesbians who reject sleeping with trans women are somehow morally deficient, same-sex attracted women have been harassed, defamed and abused in the name of trans equality. Get the L Out represent those old-fashioned lesbians that reject the penis and all that is attached to it. As a lesbian that came out in the Life on Mars days of the 1970s, when I was told, on

The gender debate is getting nastier

Elaine Miller is one of the grown-ups. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, with a specialism in pelvic health. She also jokes about it. Her comedy show, Viva Your Vulva: The Hole Story is currently playing at the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s a good one: the production has won awards and a five-star review. Miller is forthright – her audiences are warned about ‘strong language and swearing’ – but her performance is more than mere entertainment. In Miller’s words, The aim of the show is that the audience leave knowing what a pelvic floor is, what it does and where to take theirs if they think it

Why the Tavistock clinic had to be shut down

There are many reasons why what is sometimes crudely called ‘the trans issue’ is important. One is the political failure that left the legitimate views of many women (and men) ignored by decision-making individuals and bodies, who instead prioritised the views of interest groups and campaigners. Another is the multiple failures of governance that have seen numerous public bodies fail to deal properly and responsibly with questions of real public interest, because of their enthusiasm to follow the subjective agenda of interest groups rather than amass and act on objective evidence. Simply put, organisations that are supposed to make decisions on the basis of facts have sometimes chosen to proceed

Is Labour changing its mind on trans issues?

Amid the noise of the Tory leadership fight, some significant comments in the papers could be missed today. Here’s the quote, from a Sunday Times interview with an intelligent, ambitious female politician in her forties: Biology is important. A woman is somebody with a biology that is different from a man’s biology. We’re seeing in sport sensible decisions being made about who cannot compete in certain cases. Could it reflect a new approach to trans issues from the Labour leadership? She says she would ‘have a problem’ with someone with male genitals identifying as a woman and using a female changing space, and isn’t entirely sold on the use of gender

Ricky Gervais is an achingly conventional Millennial posing as a naughty maverick

Just how edgy and dangerous is Ricky Gervais? There is no one more edgy and dangerous, we learn from no less an authority than one R. Gervais. He keeps reminding you of this at intervals in his latest stand-up special, for which he was reputedly paid $20 million (to go with the other $20 million Netflix paid him for its predecessor). Every few sketches, he’ll announce to his live audience that this one was so offensive there’s just no way Netflix is going to broadcast it. But Netflix has done just that – and yet, quite incredibly, neither it nor Gervais has been cancelled. Funny that. What this suggests to

Why does the City still use quotas?

It sometimes feels like every regulatory body in Britain today misuses its influence to advance progressive causes. A welcome exception is the Financial Conduct Authority, which last week decided to allow firms to choose whether they use sex or gender as the definition of ‘woman’ for reporting on their representation on corporate boards. It is clearly not the role of a financial services regulator to attempt to define ‘man’ and ‘woman’. Out of 540 responses to a consultation on the matter, all but one said they did not want trans women to be automatically included in the targets and data. As the group Sex Matters has pointed out, there is

Why we need an inquiry into gender treatment for children

Sajid Javid is right to worry about the way the NHS has treated children who identify as transgender. The Health Secretary is reported to be preparing an urgent inquiry into the issue, and planning an overhaul of how the health service treats young people with gender dysphoria. He is the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, so it is his job to be concerned. But for too long ministers have shied away from what future generations may consider to be a scandal of epic proportions. In England, children presenting with gender dysphoria are referred to a single NHS provider – the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) operated by

Who governs Britain? Not ministers, it seems

Who governs Britain? It’s a dangerous question, as Ted Heath learned half a century ago. But while he was concerned with untrammelled unions, ministers today must contend with another unelected cadre calling the shots. The difference is that now, like in so many horror movies, the calls are coming from inside the house.  The Telegraph reports that the Ministry of Justice has appointed a ‘transgender employee support officer’. That in itself is hardly surprising. What does stand out is the reason for the appointment. According to an email seen by the Telegraph, prison service director general Phil Copple wrote to staff last Friday to say: Following the decision last year for

Care about the trans debate? Ask yourself this question

J.K. Rowling is talking about sex and gender again, which means a lot of people are getting angry. It’s striking how the prospect of a woman eloquently stating her opinions and refusing to stop stating them – even when she has been told to shut up – seems to make some people unhappy. Because Rowling admirably refused to do as she’s told and be quiet, this is becoming a familiar story. ‘Famous author wades into trans row’ is good copy. And it gets angry clicks on social media. None of this changes the minds of people already immersed in this stuff, of course. Those people remain a minority. Politically speaking, the most

Sex, trans rights and the Scottish census

It takes some doing to make a census interesting. So congratulations to the National Records of Scotland (NRS). NRS, which administers the decennial survey, is facing a judicial review over its guidance on the document. On the question of sex, it states that ‘if you are transgender the answer you give can be different from what is on your birth certificate’. That is, something other than your legal sex. Feminist group Fair Play For Women will challenge this guidance at the Court of Session on 2 February. If this sounds familiar, it’s because similar guidance for last year’s census in England and Wales was challenged at the High Court and found to