#177 Protecting Children is Not Bigotry: Vindication for Stephanie Davis-Arai!

July 06, 2022 FiLiA Episode 177
#177 Protecting Children is Not Bigotry: Vindication for Stephanie Davis-Arai!
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#177 Protecting Children is Not Bigotry: Vindication for Stephanie Davis-Arai!
Jul 06, 2022 Episode 177

In this episode of the FiLiA Podcast, FiLiA spokeswoman, Raquel Rosario Sánchez, talks to Stephanie Davies-Arai, the Founder and Director of Transgender Trend about her campaigning work to protect children from unnecessary medicalisation and sexist stereotypes.

She created the organisation after speaking with a group of parents based in the UK, who were concerned about the current trend to diagnose ‘gender non-conforming’ children as transgender. On June 1st, 2022 she was included in the Queen’s Birthday Honours and received a British Empire Medal for “services to children” as a recognition of her vital work.

Stephanie is a communication skills trainer and the author of Communicating with Kids. She has worked with parents and teachers for over twenty years, including eight years at a primary school in East Sussex in various roles including parent governor. She is an experienced speaker on parenting, feminism and ‘transgender’ children. She has spoken at events around the UK, including in the House of Commons and the House of Lords and has been interviewed across the media, including Good Morning Britain, BBC Woman’s Hour, The Today programme and Newsnight.

You can learn more about Stephanie Davis-Arai and her ground-breaking work on behalf of children on her personal website and about Transgender Trend on their website. You can support their work by donating to the organisation.

You can follow Stephanie on social media at @CWKnews and @Transgendertrd.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of the FiLiA Podcast, FiLiA spokeswoman, Raquel Rosario Sánchez, talks to Stephanie Davies-Arai, the Founder and Director of Transgender Trend about her campaigning work to protect children from unnecessary medicalisation and sexist stereotypes.

She created the organisation after speaking with a group of parents based in the UK, who were concerned about the current trend to diagnose ‘gender non-conforming’ children as transgender. On June 1st, 2022 she was included in the Queen’s Birthday Honours and received a British Empire Medal for “services to children” as a recognition of her vital work.

Stephanie is a communication skills trainer and the author of Communicating with Kids. She has worked with parents and teachers for over twenty years, including eight years at a primary school in East Sussex in various roles including parent governor. She is an experienced speaker on parenting, feminism and ‘transgender’ children. She has spoken at events around the UK, including in the House of Commons and the House of Lords and has been interviewed across the media, including Good Morning Britain, BBC Woman’s Hour, The Today programme and Newsnight.

You can learn more about Stephanie Davis-Arai and her ground-breaking work on behalf of children on her personal website and about Transgender Trend on their website. You can support their work by donating to the organisation.

You can follow Stephanie on social media at @CWKnews and @Transgendertrd.


Raquel Rosario Sánchez from FiLiA in conversation with Stephanie Davis-Arai from Transgender Trend.

My name is Raquel Rosario Sánchez and I'm the spokeswoman for FiLiA. Today, we are over the moon to be able to speak with Stephanie Davis-Arai. Stephanie Davis-Arai is a communications skills trainer and the author of Communicating with Kids.

She has worked with parents and teachers for over 20 years, including eight years at a primary school in East Sussex in various roles, including parent governor. She's an experienced speaker on parenting, feminism and ‘transgender children’. Stephanie has spoken at various events around the UK, including the House of Commons and the House of Lords and has been interviewed across the media, including on Good Morning Britain, the BBC's Woman's Hour, the Today Program and Newsnight. Stephanie Davis-Arai is the founder and director of Transgender Trend.

Transgender Trend is a group of parents based in the UK who are concerned about the current trend to diagnose children, or gender nonconforming children, as transgender.

 In early June, 2020, so 10 days ago, it was announced that Stephanie Davis-Arai would be awarded the British Empire Medal for services to children.

First of all, Stephanie, how are you? 

Stephanie: I'm very well, thank you. It's great to be here. 

Raquel: We're going to get to the news or your BEM – British Empire Medal - for services to children in a little bit. But I was wondering if we could go back to the very, very beginning, your big thing aside from being a campaigner on things relating to women and girls, your big thing is communicating with children.

So how did you go from being very focused on child development issues to noticing this issue with the transing of children? 

Stephanie: Right. So, yes, my work has all to do with communication, and I'm really interested in culture and society that a generation of children is growing up in and the kind of messages they get both verbal and visual messages around them in their culture.

And also from the very youngest age. So teenage girls, what messages they pick up but also children, what they're seeing, what they're hearing and what they're learning about the world and reality. 

So when I first started seeing stories about so-called transgender children being transitioned at very young ages in schools, I was immediately alarmed because they're being told at a developmental stage, where they're not able to understand, that they are the opposite sex, and it's being presented as affirming a child's gender identity, but that's not how a child understands it. 

A little boy will just understand that mummy's telling me I'm a girl and the teachers are telling me I'm a girl, and therefore I'm a girl and the child has not yet learned that sex is a stable category. It's immutable and the difference between boys and girls is biological sex.

At that age, a child is basing what is a boy and what is a girl and it is really superficial stereotypes. And they don't really learn how to understand what the real difference is about the age of seven. So there were lots of red flags for me about this being a child's safeguarding issue, which is my main concern.

And then teenage group different set of issues. The time of life, when you are really searching for an identity and how the whole movement taps into that need of adolescents to find their identity and the way that identity is now being presented to them in terms of their gender, which again, really essentially means stereotypes. Children are encouraged to explore and question their gender identity, which is a made up term. It doesn't have any basis in science. 

I felt that for teenagers, that's a very unhealthy way of analysing your own behaviour, your own interests, constantly looking at, does this make me a girl or a boy? And it's all based on an ideology that some people believe in and have a right to believe in, but we shouldn't be teaching it to children as facts.

And I don't think it’s a good model of understanding the children. In fact, I think it's the most harmful model of understanding yourself and perhaps your nonconformity or your feeling of being left out of the crowd or your oddness that you feel compared to others. But to understand it as evidence that you are the opposite sex and that you can get your body medically altered to solve that problem, is the least healthy way of understanding yourself.

Raquel: You are the founder and director of Transgender Trend. Tell us a little bit about how you came up with the name of your organisation. Why call it Transgender Trend? 

Stephanie: Well, it's a very simple reason. I was working with a group of parents, global group, and they said, that's the search term that they were putting into Google because they wanted to find real information.

All they were finding online was sort of political lobby groups like Mermaid, Stonewall who were all telling them, they must affirm their daughter as their son or their little boy as their girl. And so they wanted real information. That's the search term we put into Google and I thought also it sort of does what it says on the team.

It's a trend that's emerged seemingly from nowhere. Suddenly calling children transgender. We never used to. Suddenly we're out talking about gender identity. Suddenly there's a huge trend of teenage girls being referred to the Tavistock. And what I do is I look at that trend and I analyse it. So it says what we do and I've been criticised for that for calling it a trend, but those things are trends.

They're very recent trends and we need to look at them in those terms. And it doesn't mean trendy, it doesn't mean that it's trendy to be trans, but it reflects what my concern is that this is a very recent trend. And normally when there's a new trend, we examine it. We find out reasons why it's happening.

And when I started that wasn't happening at all in the world of parenting in the world of children, I couldn't find any information anywhere. Nobody was saying anything about it. And that is a huge warning to me because usually when there's a new thing happening, trends happening in children's education, for example.

And when that happens, everybody has a different opinion and is allowed to express that opinion and very strong opinions and disagree. And in this area there was radio silence. So it's an issue that I felt a responsibility to say something about and start the conversation. And it's one of my biggest aims from the start that in this area, we need to have open and transparent debate. 

Raquel: So where do you think this is coming from? Why start lobbying for the idea that children have an innate gender identity? 

Stephanie: I think there are lots of reasons. I come from the sort of parenting advice world, and I know there is a sort of fertile ground for this ideology to be implanted.

The child knows themselves. They are fully formed and our job is to just help them express themselves. So the child adult relationship has sort of become reversed in quite popular and quite widespread parenting advice and it really taps into that. 

But also, we know that the trans lobby has been working behind the scenes for a long time with policy makers and establishing that very strong sort of narrative that everybody has a gender identity. You must respect other people's gender identities. And that is the distinction between men and women, boys, and girls. 

So that had become really established behind the scenes I think for a long time, but it's being led by an adult campaign and really the aims of that campaign are to change or to replace sex with gender identity in policy and legislation. That's the sort of widest aim of the campaign.

 I mean, I've never seen a sort of adult civil rights movement that has targeted children like this one. So the youngest children, the picture books for early years in primary schools, and I've never seen a campaign that silences debate like this one. We’ve been called transphobic and a bigot and a hate group while I've been doing this.

And I think what I'm seeing is perhaps like on one side they’re indoctrinating a generation into believing trans women are women because all of the policies in schools’ sort of reinforce that idea. But also I think the reasons behind it don't really want to speculate, but I don't think they're good reasons because they treat children as adults and they have a one size fits all for everybody. 

So let's say the four-year-old boy who loves playing the dolls, who's most likely to grow up to be gay. The teenage girl who's perhaps on the autism spectrum, perhaps a lesbian struggling with mental health issues and the middle-aged man who's been married, fathered his own children and has a lifetime of cross dressing for his sexual thrills, are all are treated in the same way. 

And the approach towards all of them is to affirm their gender identity. So those categories probably got very little in common and we're failing to distinguish between them and we're treating children and adolescents in exactly the same way as a cross dresser and using the umbrella term transgender to cover all of them.

Raquel: You mentioned that you had never seen a social movement, target children so directly. We are having this conversation in June 2022. We're not having this conversation in maybe 2017, 2016. Do you think that we have reached some sort of peak of how far this was going to go? And now it's a waning period? Or do you think that we're still going to see more targeting of children? 

Stephanie: It's difficult to say. I mean, everything's moving. I think the house of cards is falling over the last two years and will continue to. The trajectory is really clear now. And that's happening globally with different countries, looking at puberty blockers, for example and writing new guidelines and even the real pioneer gender affirmative doctors in the US are speaking out about the dangers of just affirming children without enough exploratory therapy beforehand.

And in this country, we've had the Cass interim report, which is so damning of the current system and Sajid Javed announcing an urgent inquiry into these hormone treatments and children.

 I think what's happening in education as well, there is an understanding in the Department for Education that gender ideology in schools, they haven't said it quite clearly, but part of that sort of political indoctrination that the government has issued guidance on, they've brought out a statement in their guidance about children not being taught that their bodies or personalities are wrong. So we see movement across education and health.

 And I think I knew that when we started to make gains that the backlash from the trans lobby would be very strong, it would be more extreme.

And I think we're seeing that in a way. It's difficult to say so many times over the years, I felt this must peak everybody, and this must be the end of it, but it does, it peaks some people, rapist in a female prisoner estate, for example, and then it goes on. And it's not really dealt with properly.

I wonder what the tipping point will eventually be, but I suspect it will be a series of things. I think sports at the moment is a huge issue. That's drawing more public attention to the rights of women and girls being erased through this movement. So, you know, maybe it will be sports that do it, but I certainly think the issue of children and puberty blockers has come into the public consciousness that the wider public are more concerned about that now.

So who knows? I always think this must be the peak and then it isn't. 

Raquel: I also thought that too. And then you read that the next big story, the outrage, and it's worse than before. Like the fact that there are babies who are being ‘breast fed’ chemicals and substances to replace breast milk done artificially, you think this is a harmless baby who cannot defend itself in any way against these chemicals and it doesn't peak people. It is celebrated as some sort of achievement. So that for me was like, I'm sure everyone is going to realise that there's something really harmful to children going on here. And then you realise that it doesn't. 

And I think that our capacity to be outraged and sensitive to what is happening to children has become sort of neutralised or we've become desensitised to a lot of the really harmful stuff that is happening. So it's hard to tell.

 I'm concerned because in the UK there's a lot of progress being made in this topic, reaching levels in government, in the state, people are making all of these pronouncements, but I wonder if this is one of those situations, phenomenons in which the countries that created the problem, like countries in the global north, like the US and the UK, they go through this phase in which it becomes very normalised to medicalise children. 

And then once the public wakes up in these countries, then it goes to the global south, like, look at what’s happening in India, there's massive pressure there to medicalise children. So I wonder if it's one of those things that once the UK is sort of over the hill on this topic, then it's going to go really into overdrive in countries that have less democratic principles or rights by the public to opposing positions from governments, is less strong.

Stephanie: It's interesting isn't it? I'm hoping that what happens in the UK will have an influence. So Kiera Bell's judicial review and what was revealed from that, has had global reverberations, but in the States, there are some countries that remain immune to that.

Whether the UK has that much influence, Westminster doesn't have much influence in Scotland. Scotland is one of the most extreme countries so it's very difficult to tell.

 What I'm hoping is that there'll be a number of countries. We’ve got the UK, we've got Sweden, Finland, Australia, France, Florida. So enough countries will start questioning and that will tip the balance that it's not just one jurisdiction that's saying this, and other countries will have to take that into account and start looking more closely at what's happening. That takes time. And of course, there'll be countries that want to do it their own way, that won't take account of what other countries would do.

And what's happening in India. Then again, you can say what's happening in the United States. It’s out of control, it's just taken over to a real extreme, and you wonder how you can pull back from that situation particularly because of that narrative that's been created that this is a human rights issue and the idea that transgender people don't have full human rights and that we need to do all this stuff in order to give them human rights. So that's the story that's been created. I think that's quite difficult to pull back from. 

Raquel: And speaking about the UK, a lot of people, myself included, felt very surprised at the news of you receiving a BEM. You are amazing. And obviously you deserve every award that is out there. If they want to give you an Oscar, I’m all for it, this seems like it is a very mainstream recognition from the establishment of the British State. So what are your thoughts on this? 

Stephanie: It's a, BEM, which is a British Empire Medal as founder of Transgender Trend for services to children.

So, yeah, it's an honour in the Queen's Jubilee birthday honours list. Nobody more surprised than me. I would never in my life have imagined that I would get an honour, it would never have occurred to me, but particularly when you've had seven years of being called a transphobic bigot and that my organisation is a hate group.

I hope that this is a sign of a shift in the UK that people are listening and people have understood that actually, what I'm concerned with is a child protection issue, a child safeguarding issue. And that's what my work has been about and that the vilification of me or the defamation of me has been wrong, it's a misrepresentation of what I do, because everything I do is designed for the protection of children. 

Raquel: Tell us about it and how it all happened. When did you find out about it? Did they ask if you wanted it? Tell us we want to know. 

Stephanie: I got an email over a month ago. And I had gone to my old email address that I don't check every day. When I checked it, it had to be returned that day to say that you accept. So I just got it in time. So that's how I found out from the Home Office. I think. Yes, it came as a complete surprise. I couldn't quite believe it. I'm not sure that it sunk in now actually, but I wasn't allowed to tell anybody, I think that's treason or something.

So I couldn't tell anyone.

Raquel: Not a single soul, not even your best friend? 

Stephanie: I'm not telling you. I was so busy. It's been nonstop, just so much news, so much work that I actually forgot about it. It came up then got near to the announcement time and then it became more, I must respond to it.

I must think about what to say and it became a bit more real, but I don't think it's quite real for me yet actually. It's still something that as a young woman, I would never have imagined getting an honour like this. 

I think the biggest thing for me is that it's for services to children and that's been recognised and my work has been vindicated sort of at the highest level. For me, that vindicates all the parents who have found Transgender Trend and have, like me, wanted information and wanted evidence and wanted the best healthcare for their children and have also been vilified as bigots and unsupportive parents for being thoughtful and not just jumping onto all of this without question. Those are the parents that normally we would see as good parents.

They've had nowhere to turn, no one that will help them or support them. I think it's vindication for them as well. And that's sort of the biggest thing for me. So I know parents going to schools and schools would say, well, Stonewall says that Transgender Trend is a hate group. And now all a parent needs to say is well, the founder has been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to children, and that's all they need to say.

So for me, that's the biggest thing really. It's sort of not about me. It's about the parents who support me and support my work and feels the same as I do about this. 

Raquel: Do you sometimes wonder if you're sort of shouting into a void and then you realise that this recognition is coming from established institutions, like the same with Kathleen Stock who was recognised for services for education.

This was at the time that you were both under siege, constantly being accused of being the most horrible women on the planet. And then someone comes along and says, well, actually they're doing important work for children. They're doing important work.

Stephanie: Yes, and I remember how I felt when Kathleen got her honour a year ago, how much it buoyed me up and so many women.

 It wasn't an honour just for Kathleen. It was for all of us. Everybody felt wonderful with that honour to Kathleen Stock. And I'm hoping that's the same with me, that particularly with parents, that they feel the same way as I did a year ago. I think it's probably only over the last two years, possibly three, that I've been listened to really by people who have influence and some policy makers. Before that I was used to facing this kind of war of hostility when I was meeting with the Equality and Human Rights Commission or some other MP or whoever that going to a conference and speaking, and having to face that room full of that hostility.

You feel how hard it is to speak without being on the back foot, without trying to defend and justify yourself or apologise. To be confident and speak when you're facing that, is quite hard, quite challenging. And then that started to change and I started to be listened to. So that's been the sort of trajectory that I've been on and this Honour is like a culmination of that, it's recognition and respect that's developed gradually. 

But I think and I hope that it's indicative of a shift in society that actually what's going on needs questioning. My work is validated by that honour. 

Raquel: And it’s validated by women and parents who support your work, who are so grateful that there's someone out there talking about children.

And I just wanted to ask you: you and I met on the 8th of February 2018, you were a speaker at a feminist event WPUK A Woman's Place is Speaking Out in Bristol. How has your life changed in this past four years?  

Stephanie: Gosh, you know, my work now is so much behind the scenes work and sort of consultancy role.

It's still as busy as it was. I think I've become more confident of the results of my work. I think I went for a lot of times where I felt like giving up. Oh, yes in the early years, sometimes the bullying of the silencing or things became so extreme that I thought I'm not making any difference or that this is not good for me. It's too stressful and I need to stop doing it. 

And I think over the last few years become more like, yes, it is making a difference. And I think just that the conviction that it's the right thing to do has got stronger and stronger. I mean, it always was actually right from the start, but it could be knocked and I don't think it can be knocked anymore.

I've got a much more philosophical attitude to it that no matter what happens, no matter what other peak moment that happens, my job is to just keep doing what I'm doing day by day, and it will make a difference. 

Raquel: What are you hearing from parents nowadays? 

Stephanie: That's one area actually, where I think, gosh, it is getting worse and worse because we are contacted by parents and the material that's going into schools and the number of groups that are getting gender ideology into schools through the RSC curriculum, it seems as if a new group is springing up every week. 

It also shows that more parents are aware of materials that are going into schools. So I'm willing to challenge it. I always see it as turning around a tank and that takes time and that when you start to make gains, the other side will fight back in more extreme ways than before. And I think we are seeing that happening.

 But there's so much more awareness now that people are concerned about material going in schools and the more people that speak out, it's permission giving for other people, so it becomes less scary in some ways I think is still a risk, particularly for women, but the path we're on, I can only see that getting easier and easier for people to speak out, including parents in schools.

 It's one of the things that we need to talk about it. We need to be allowed to talk about it. We need to be allowed as women to talk about the impact on women's rights. We need to be able to talk as parents on the impact on our children. 

Raquel: We have spoken about what is happening to children, this concept of what is happening to children with the medicalisation of children who are diagnosed and identified as trans.

So can you tell us a little bit about what is it that you mean when you talk about the medicalisation of children, you have a six-year-old or a four-year-old who has been hearing all of these ideas that if he doesn't like playing basketball or blue, then maybe he's a girl what's happening?

Stephanie: I think the whole of the new approach, which is an activist-led approach, it hasn't been reached by clinical evidence or anything like that. So first of all, you tell that five-year-old, six-year-old boy. Yes, you are a girl. And that sets in motion a whole cascade of inevitable consequences that lead to medical transition. And it may not do so in every case. In fact, there was a recent study, came out to show that children who were socially transitioned before puberty only 6% desisted in their trans identity or opposite sex identity.

The approach before was called Watchful Waiting, which might involve some developmentally appropriate therapy or family therapy, but otherwise children were left alone and the desistance rate on the 12 studies we have under that approach was 80% desisted. There's a clear contrast between the affirmation and social transition approach and the watchful waiting approach.

When we didn't call children transgender, we saw transsexual as being an adult outcome, but we understood that actually the most common outcome was being gay, mostly young boys at that time, that approach that is a really an ideological and political approach to children. It politicises children. It puts them into a category of a political group when you call a child transgender, because it has no diagnostic meaning or any biological scientific meaning or legal meaning.

In fact, once we start on that the child becomes so disassociated from their body. And this is another thing that really concerns me, that you are creating a mind body split. Which is not good for mental health, but the child's existence becomes separate from their body when they get to puberty. In their younger years, you can't tell the difference between girls and boys.

It's very easy for a boy to look like a girl or a girl to look like a boy. But when you hit puberty, that's when reality hits. And I wonder whether the kind of mental health issues and suicidal ideation that is sort of trumpeted so much is down to the fact that the child realises, the little boy watches all the other girls start to develop. He is developing in a completely different way and that's when you realise sex is real. And nobody told him that. He then is desperate for puberty blockers is to stop his body developing in a male way, but making him so clearly separate from the girls. 

Raquel: Well he doesn’t understand what puberty blockers are or what they can do to him in the long term.

Stephanie: I think the judgment in the Kiera Bell judicial review was right, that children are not able to give informed consent. The Tavistock won that case on appeal, that was on the basis, that it's not the court responsibility to make those decisions, its job of the clinicians and health clinicians. The evidence in the original case still stands.

And I think it's absolutely right that children can't because they're not at the life stage where they understand the consequences. It's the life stage thing. It's not anything to do with the child's level of maturity. Once the child goes onto puberty blockers, we know, and this is replicated in studies worldwide, but the Tavistock’s own study of the puberty blockers trial showed 98% go on to cross sex hormones at age 16. That was the study of 44 children. Only one didn't go onto for sex hormones. 

So once you start the medical pathway, and I think you prevent puberty from happening at a critical stage in development, physical and psychological development, where a child is really going through process of becoming an adult, the child needs those sex hormones that start a whole series of changes in the body. So not just secondary sex characteristics, but bones, skin, organs, brain that needs those sex hormones, but the child's not getting any, the child remains a child and the brain continues to develop, but not with the sex hormones. So the child is in a state of suspended childhood while other children develop sexually into adolescents.

And this is why there's a huge push from the lobby groups that cross sex hormone should be offered earlier. And this is the inevitable consequence once you start. Those children then have opposite sex hormones. So they have hormones that their bodies doesn't need, the wrong ones for their body and they never go through puberty, not real puberty.

The opposite sex hormones do create cosmetically the appearance of the opposite sex in certain ways, but they don't put the child through the opposite sex puberty. The girl will not develop sperm or grow her penis. And the boy won't develop ovaries. 

I see that as a basic human right, that children go through puberty. There's adults in the world who have never gone through puberty. It's just unimaginable to me that we can do this to children on the basis of inadequate evidence, that it has any beneficial effect, in a completely experimental way. 

Raquel: What happens to a child's brain and bones and heart and body when they don't get cross sex hormones? 

Stephanie: The quick answer is we don't know fully that puberty blockers for normal puberty time have not been tested on animals before being given to children.

They're not approved for this treatment for gender dysphoria. So they're unlicensed. But ongoing trials on sheep that show that some cognitive changes don't change back when you stop taking puberty blockers. So the sort of facial awareness and memory and various things. So those studies that are ongoing, but the fact is we do know that puberty is a window and if you don't learn skills or those changes don't happen at the right time in puberty, you can't go back and change them. 

There have also been studies done on IQ that show drop in IQ points. And we know from studies on men with prostate cancer, which is also what these drugs are used for, have significant effects such as memory loss, but we don't know the effect of this on a child who's had their puberty stopped because that's the point of development where if those cognitive changes don't happen, will they come back or develop later? The evidence so far is showing that some things don't come back once you've lost them. 

It's just hugely worrying for so many reasons. Bone density is another thing. Bone density is supposed to be laid down in puberty and it doesn't happen with child on puberty blockers.

 There’s an awful case in Sweden. I don’t know if you saw Trans Train, a child got terrible osteoporosis and spine fractures from puberty blockers, girls going onto puberty blockers at some stage through adolescence would be put in the stage of menopause with all of the symptoms of menopause. They're sort of being made into older women in their bodies through these drugs. 

Raquel: And at that point, you think to yourself, damages to bone density, don't know what's happening to that girl or that boy's brain, you don't know the repercussions long term and the very little that we know so far is not positive. 

How come it is parents then who are encouraging their own children to go through these life changes that are irreversible and harmful? 

Stephanie: I think there are different reasons for different parents. I think some parents accept what the lobby groups say and also what the kids are doing. That they accept that this is the professionals doing this and they trust them. I think there are parents, and this is the sort of the worry of some of the clinicians, that they’re child structured, that some parents are homophobic and would rather have a girl than a gay boy. I think there will be some with Munchausen by Proxy parents who found a perfect way of keeping their child medicated and having sort of medical problems for life.

Raquel: Could you explain that to our audience? What does that mean? 

Stephanie: The parents who maybe use their own children in order to take their child to hospital. And it's a sort of reflective glory on them that they are the centre of attention because their child is ill. So that's called Munchausen by Proxy.

It's one of the areas that invites that because it's a non-evidence based healthcare and you're allowed to question it, say, my child is trans and nobody can question you or there's no evidence for it. So they can't test your child and say, well, actually your child's not trans. So it's a perfect vehicle for those kind of parents.

And it's one of the safeguarding issues. It can be used in that way, but where is the protection for the child? Because there is no way of being able to say which parents are doing that. I think there are a lot of reasons why different parents will go along with it. 

I think the other thing is definitely that the message is put out that if you don't, your child's more likely to commit suicide.

So that's the most awful emotionally manipulative thing you could say to a parent. That's the biggest fear. So of course, they'll go along with it. There isn't any evidence to support that, that if you affirm your child and allow them to go onto puberty blockers, they're less likely to commit suicide. There isn’t any evidence to back up that claim.

But the other thing I think is that parents like to have certainty. So if they're worried about their child's behaviour and perhaps it's a parent that's very invested in those gender stereotypes, how a girl should behave, how a boy should behave. And they're worried that the child is the opposite of how they should be. And the child's confused maybe and in distress. A diagnosis, it's like parents who want a diagnosis of autism for their child or a diagnosis of oppositional behaviour because it's certainty and the parent can then say, it's not my fault. And that's a very understandable human parenting thing. It's not my fault my child's like this. My child has this condition.

 But again, transgender is not a diagnosis. It's not a word that means anything. You can't prove it, but it gives parents certainty. Okay. My little boy is actually a girl and that's why he's having problems. 

Raquel: And then at that point, you wonder, okay, so those are parents and they have conflicting reasons why they think they have to encourage this path for their children.

But then you wonder, where are the broader institutions who are supposed to be working for children's rights and health? 

Something that really surprised me was Save the Children, an organisation that does so much important work for children. I found them in the Dominican Republic intervening on all of these gender policies and advocating for gender identity policies in some random country, tiny island in the Caribbean. And then I looked into what they were doing on this topic and they are in fact encouraging the idea that children have an innate sense of gender identity and advocating for the medicalisation of children. 

And you wonder, where are these broader groups of people or organisations? Where is the United Nations? Where are all of these conventions that are there to protect the rights of children? 

Stephanie: There’s been a total ideology capture of all groups. I mean, even NSPCC, who's supposed to be there to protect children and save our children. I can't find any sort of established charity or children's group that is not just going along with this. And that amazes me that any health body will go along with it, the government or organisations. but yeah, the children's charities and this is why parents have nowhere to go for support. They can't go to any of the established charities and ask for help because they're seen as unsupportive parents in need of re-education.

There's an absence of protection for children in this area and a lack of concern about it. And I think the reason again, is because it's such a political issue. Children have become seen as adults if they're trans, because they are treated as a political group. As soon as you say a child's transgender, they would become a member of a political group of rights, rather than a child, rather than a troubled adolescent child. They're not viewed in that context anymore. And that takes away all protection of children once children are seen as adults, I've never experienced anything like this, the viciousness of the bullying of this movement, I think has really created fear and people think, oh, it's easier just to go along with it.

Raquel: So you have the parents who have a number of motivations, why they would encourage this for their children. The organizations that are supposed to protect children's rights are not stepping up and on the contrary, they are encouraging the opposite, what their values claim to be. So then at one point, Stephanie says: it's up to me I have to do something about it. Because your campaigning before was on like No More Page 3, this is the sexualisation of women, you did work on communicating with kids, all of that. 

At what point did you decide I will launch an organisation? And I will put my voice out there, my face out there. I know that this is a big lobby group, but I will do it. When did that moment came for Stephanie? 

Stephanie: When I was working on the No More Page 3 campaign, that was when I was starting to see these newspaper articles about little children being transitioned, immediate alarm bells for me, I wanted to write about it, but as a member of the campaign, we weren't allowed to write about any wider issues, particularly controversial ones. We weren't even allowed to write about wider porn industry because the campaign was single issue, Page 3 in the newspaper. I didn't write about other things that I really wanted to write about, but as soon as we won that campaign, I very quickly published a blog on my parenting blog which is called Is My Child Transgender? That was my first sort of dipping my toe in. But I think the idea and I'd begun to want to write about this issue every time I saw a newspaper report or something on the TV or something on the radio, that's all I wanted to write about. 

Raquel: What was the reaction to your first article? 

Stephanie: I was ostracized from the No More Page 3 campaign. I lost all of my friends. 

Raquel: But you were fundamental to it.

Stephanie:  I know. Yeah, it was awful. It was horrible, but what I understood then was that if it was difficult for me, how much more difficult would it be for a teenage girl or a young woman for whom that group that acceptance by peer group is the most important thing in life.

You cannot risk being ostracised from your peer group when you are teenager. 

Raquel: You were ostracised when you already had your own children.

Stephanie: Yeah. And you know, I was a lot older, but it was still really hard. You know, I know a lot of women have experienced that and have lost friends and it's painful. 

Raquel: They shut you down instead of saying, oh my God, this great campaign that I have worked so hard for, you were instrumental to, there are so many pictures of you advocating for the No More Page 3 campaign against the sexualisation of women in the media.

How do you go from, I have been ostracised and I'm not going to go silently, Instead, I am going to go way bolder and launch an organisation, just dedicated to this topic? 

Stephanie: It was so interesting how I overnight became a bigot, but hang on a minute, you know me, you know I'm not a bigot, you know I'd only be coming from the best place. You know my work with children, with parents and with teachers, don't you know me? you know, we've worked together for two and a half years and they were like young and suddenly overnight, I was a bigot, it was so interesting, like how that happened. So it's completely illogical. I mean, I've made such great friends since then.

Raquel: Did any of the people who ostracised you come back to you? 

Stephanie: One or two occasionally sent me a message. But actually not the ones I was closest to. It's interesting. It's part of this whole subject, how that happens, how you are judged instantly. Even people who know you really well, the power of this movement and this ideology that once you believe in it, you cannot accept any questioning. You cannot assume good motives of anybody who questioned it. And it was so strong. 

I think it was another thing that if anything made me sort of think, oh, well, I've lost that, you know, so what does it matter? 

The idea of Transgender Trend had been there for a long time.

 I got together with Fourth Wave Now in the States who contacted me and I put together in an email group with the parents.

So I learned a lot from that and understood the real struggles and pain that these parents were going through and how there was nowhere for them to turn. I'd started working on gathering, at least a year gathering information, reading all the studies, finding out, researching started to make the decision, I must make another website, an organisation because this is the subject I want to write about. And I can't keep writing about it on my communicating with kids blog. It'd be the only subject on there and I wanted it to be a resource for parents who were looking for evidence based information and put it all in one place for them as a useful resource. That was my only idea. 

And then Denise from Fourth Wave Now said, you know, let's make it an international website. I said, okay. It actually started as an international website, but it took so much work to do it, to get it set up. I made that website and I'm not a web designer, it was very amateur to start but very quickly I realised that there was no way that I could do that.

I don't understand what's happening in the States. I don't understand the law, the federal law, the State law was so much more complicated in the United States, but I think we had one article up written by a lawyer initially on the website from the States. And I thought people in the UK won't be interested in it.

And there was so much happening in the UK at that time because the trans inquiry had just happened. There was so much in the media on particularly the BBC on the radio, on the TV so much to respond to and write about what was going on in the UK. Professional had contacted me, who'd also found the site by Googling Transgender Trend and said to me, you know, that you have to make this a UK site if you're going to be taken seriously in the UK. I contacted Denise and said, sorry, I can't do it. 

I was the spokesperson, I was named and people could research me, find out who I was. I couldn't risk, we were thinking, well, we can have a spokesperson in the States as well. It's so important to me, how we communicate and how the message gets across and at that time, because nobody was saying anything, I couldn't just launch to the world, screaming child abuse. That wouldn't work. So I had to go in very carefully and the message had to be spot on and I couldn't trust any spokesperson in the US to do that. I'd made the website, I'm very controlling, which is partly why I've been successful.

I'm a controlling perfectionist, which is, I think what you need to be if you want to make something succeed, actually you don't give it over to other people and say, oh, that'll do, you actually have to be really strong on the message and make sure that the message is right. So I couldn't give up that control and let somebody, I didn't really know, speak on behalf of Transgender Trend in the States, when they might get it wrong. 

So for all sorts of reasons, very quickly, I realised this is not going to work. And it was massive job to make it. I really respect Genspec for doing that now, but they have a whole team and I didn't have anybody. 

Raquel: So on, on June 4th, you wrote for the Mail on Sunday, about the increase of children being referred to clinics for gender dysphoria, who were uncomfortable with their sex, with their bodies.

And you wrote, I am a mother of four and a communication skills trainer by profession. I have worked with parents and teachers for more than two decades before starting Transgender Trend. I have also worked in a primary school for eight years, so I understand safeguarding, but the advice given by transgender groups that if a boy says he's a girl, parents are told to affirm him as a girl is the worst parenting advice and goes against all common sense.

And you wrote: now, as soon as a child says they are trans, they become a member of a political group rather than being treated as children. But as more people become concerned about the risk involved, I think the tide is turning. 

And then you talk about the de-transitioners. So can you explain to our audience who de-transitioners are and what do you think the future holds for them?

Stephanie: I hope that the de-transitioners will find solidarity and support with each other, which is definitely happening now. They are a new group. This is uncharted territory and that they are at the forefront of it. So they are the ones who in very many cases, didn't get their emotional, mental health issues dealt with. They got medicalised instead.

 Frequently, those issues are still there, plus they've got the changes to their bodies they have to deal with for the rest of their lives. And we’ve placed this extraordinary burden on this group of young people. And again, mostly young women because 75% of teenage girls have been referred to gender clinics. And that's not just in this country. 

They've been so let down by not only the gender clinics, but by the whole of society who gone along with it. And de-transitioners blaming themselves saying I should've known. And I think you were too young, but it was not your responsibility. If the clinicians, if the teachers, the government were going along with this, how could you possibly have been able to, as a teenage girl, question it, you know, I place the blame squarely on the whole of society. 

They have a struggle that is absolutely unique. We haven't placed this burden on any young person before.

What I hope is the ones like Kiera Bell who had such courage in speaking out, because it's very hard to admit you made a mistake. She knows, and de-transitioners know that they will get abused and vilified and bullied on by the trans lobby because they don't suit the narrative. They've got a really sort of unique position.

My hope really is that the ones who are speaking out, Sinead Watson is speaking as well. And so many now on Twitter, on social media platforms, that they will not only gain solidarity with each other, but they will also feel that they are making a difference that they can use what's happened to them to make a difference to others because I do think that it's the de-transitioners who when you really turn this around will be an influence on policy makers, we need to listen to de-transitioners as the other side of the story.

 And I just hope that that is a comfort. They are doing something to make a difference from this position that they found themselves in, which has created a struggle that nobody else can really understand or has not experienced before that they can turn that around and feel good about themselves because they are making a difference to make sure it doesn't happen to anybody else. And that they will be influential in making change. They're the group we need to listen to.  

Raquel: You know at FiLiA, we care very much about the effect that this is having on young women. And I wonder if, for example, if there's a young woman who is listening to this podcast and she's concerned and worried about that she hates her sex, she doesn't like being a girl, she doesn't like living in a world where girls' bodies are sexualised at younger and younger age. There's so many burdens and oppression that is being placed on girls. If you have a girl who is considering transitioning or who is rejecting her sex, who thinks that everything would be easier if I were a boy, or if I were a man in a patriarchy, as opposed to a girl, what would you say to her?

Stephanie: That's exactly the position I was in when I was a child, I was a boy, as far as I was concerned, I wasn't just a tomboy. I was a boy. And then when I hit puberty, it was really difficult. And I think it's more difficult now with porn culture this generation of girls growing up in, it’s even worse and high rates of sexual harassment and abuse even in schools, none of us should be surprised that it's mostly girls who want to transition. 

My empathy is all with these teenage girls. I feel great connection with them because I felt the same. Puberty and adolescents were extremely difficult for me. I went through the eating disorders and girls find many ways of trying not to become women like an anorexia eating disorder, self- harm. It's a difficult time, which I think has become more difficult. 

So what I would say is those struggles are all part of what makes you who you are. And they're not easy. I would say that looking back, I'm really glad that time's over, but what you gain from it, you always gain from struggle. It's hard to remember that if you've had to struggle for something you gain in strength, you gain in wisdom and knowledge and self- knowledge, and you become a more sort of complex and wise person and you get the rewards for it if you face the struggle. I think that's always the case rather than running away from the struggle and finding an easy answer to it.

And I know that when you are that age, you are still living very much in the present. You can't really see the future and think about what it's like to be an older woman. Just the fact that you are growing through something that is a struggle. To be able to sort of step back from it and have empathy for that young woman who's struggling and to step outside it and look at it objectively and understand that the struggle itself is not a bad thing.

We can make our struggles much worse and get depressed and feel guilty about them. But actually it's part of life. And we grow through it. I think you become a more interesting person if you go through struggles, unfortunately, you become a more sort of complex and interesting person.

And I think a more empathetic person and that actually is good for your life. I think you have a richer experience of life when you've been through struggles. But seeing it as the Pearl within the, can I say shit? I'm not sure, whatever. I think with all suffering, there is a Pearl inside that will reveal itself that once if you face it and having the courage to face those struggles, honestly, and head on is something worth doing.

Raquel: Stephanie, thank you so much for speaking with us. And we just wanted to give quick congratulations on your amazing recognition. We've always recognised you though. We've always been on your side. FiLiA loves you. You are our hero.

Stephanie: And I love FiLiA. You do amazing work. 

Raquel: So I wanted to say thank you on behalf of the whole team and best wishes for the future.

I am so grateful that your work has now been officially recognized, and I hope that's a protection for all of the attacks that you received.