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The Spectator Podcast: should we educate children on transgender issues?

5 October 2018

5:07 PM

5 October 2018

5:07 PM

The debate over rights for transgender people rumbles on in the wake of proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. Is there a so-called ‘trans orthodoxy’ shutting down debate on this issue? Meanwhile, across the channel, French socialist Jean-Luc Mélenchon is aiming to unseat an increasing unpopular Emmanuel Macron. Does Mélenchon have a chance of becoming president?

In this week’s cover piece, James Kirkup argues that there is no room for dissent within what he calls the trans orthodoxy, that concerns over changes to the Gender Recognition Act are too quickly labelled ‘transphobic’. Madeleine Kearns adds – teachers are now at the frontline of the transgender politics, being given new guidance on primary school children’s gender identity, telling them to avoid ‘outing’ a trans pupil to their parents. Madeleine joins the podcast with India Willoughby, a transgender activist, newsreader and television personality. The bottom line, for Madeleine, is that children often don’t know their minds:

‘I’ve worked as a nanny, I’ve worked with special needs kids. I think children are confused about what they want for breakfast, never mind what gender they are. And I think it’s important that we do recognise that children are children and playing around with boundaries is a normal part of childhood.’

But India makes the point that gender dysphoria – the phenomenon of being severely uncomfortable with the sex of your biological body – is often hard to understand for people who don’t experience it:

‘All the people who complain, or try and insinuate that transgender people are a threat or confused in some way, are not transgender… The charities involved – Mermaids being the most well known for services to children – you have people in there who have families, who are ordinary people, they lead normal lives, they have an unhappy child who, through being helped and supported by the parents, become happy. And what business is it of other people on the outside?’

Also on the podcast: Jonathan Miller takes a look at French socialist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon, now polling as Emmanuel Macron’s strongest opponent. He argues that Mélenchon has no hope of becoming president, calling him a ‘career socialist hack’ and citing his party’s poor electoral performance. Jonathan joins the podcast with Olivier Tonneau, a Cambridge academic. Fair to say that Olivier and Jonathan agreed on little more than Madeleine and India. Olivier says:

‘Well I would really love to have Jonathan Miller’s crystal ball, because in our times of very great political uncertainty, I really don’t know how he does have certainty over who can win the presidency. In my opinion, Mélenchon has had a very coherent career and he does want to be leader.’

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