In recent months, a sense has emerged that the tide might finally be starting to turn in the gender debate: Things that most everyone believes to be true, but that no one has been allowed to say, are now increasingly being said by writers, lawmakers, and litigants.
Look for any mention of Mermaids today on the NHS site, and you’re likely to find the pages are gone. The BBC, too, seems to have wiped away references to Mermaids from its list of “Gender Identity” “Information and Support” resources, which listed Mermaids prominently until last month. This has unfolded during the same period when the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation, which provides mental-health services to children, is facing a lawsuit from a former patient who says she was rushed into an aggressive, and ultimately destructive, program of hormone therapy. A former psychiatric nurse at Tavistock is making related legal claims, alleging the provision of drugs to children as young as nine. Numerous clinicians have resigned in protest at such policies. And it may be the case that lawyers at the BBC and NHS are simply seeking to protect their clients from legal exposure.
BBC Woman’s Hour has reported that much of the language on the NHS website referring to gender dysphoria was removed or entirely reworded last week, so as to more accurately reflect science instead of ideology. Crucially, the NHS no longer repeats the fiction that puberty blockers such as Lupron are “reversible,” since there are few studies on the physical or psychological effects. (It has been known since 2017 that trials of peripubertal GnRHa-treatment, i.e., hormone blockers, in sheep reveal “permanent changes in brain development [and] raises particular concerns about the cognitive changes associated with the prolonged use of GnRHa-treatment in children and adolescents.”) Also removed from the NHS site: Emotionally loaded references to suicide, which had previously served to terrify parents into seeking rapid treatment, lest any delay lead a child to end their lives. The association of “gender identity” with regressive stereotypes also is gone. And the website no longer suggests that sex itself can be changed. Instead, we get more accurate language to the effect that “some people may decide to have surgery to permanently alter body parts associated with their biological sex.” That the NHS now uses the term “biological sex” at all is itself a huge win, even if such language is obviously appropriate on the level of science and medicine.