Imagine having an illness and being presented with a choice between two medical doctors for advice and treatment. Physician number one is either incapable or unwilling to recognise the biological distinction between men and women and also uses dehumanising and degrading language whenever he or she refers to women. Physician number two, on the other hand, has no difficulty at all in recognising the distinction between men and women, and refrains from referring to women in a way that reduces them to a subhuman object. Which one would you choose for your healthcare?
For those of us who have not been captured by the contagion of misogynistic extreme gender ideology, it would surely not be a difficult choice. When we are dealing with something as important as our physical health, and are being treated for what might be a serious and even life-threatening illness, any rational person will hope that their clinical treatment will be guided by someone with the intelligence and integrity to have allowed himself or herself to be informed only by objective scientific reality and evidence. Not by an enforced political ideology that denies fundamental reality and tries to shut down scrutiny and doubt as bigotry and merely the doings of nefarious social conservatives.
The gradual capture of every esteemed institution by extreme gender ideology continues apace. Yesterday, The Lancet – which has been in publication for 200 years and has been one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world – decided to trumpet its descent into idiocy and utter contempt for women when it displayed in a tweet the cover of its new issue to be published the following day, which proclaimed:
“Historically, the anatomy and physiology of bodies with vaginas have been neglected.”
Disgracefully, the phrase “bodies with vaginas” that this hitherto globally-respected publication chose to use, has been selected as though it were an appropriate synonym for the word “woman”, and it has been lifted from the Lancet piece in question, which was written by one Sophia Davis, who is The Lancet’s Senior Editor for Child and Adolescent Health. The professional credentials of a senior editor at such a prestigious publication would, I thought, be easy to find, and I was keen to know whether she was a medical doctor: yet despite several Internet searches, the best I could do was to refer to her Twitter bio, which merely refers to her senior editor position with The Lancet, displays a little rainbow flag, and gives her pronouns as “she/her”.
The two-page article in question, from which that despicable and insulting reference to women was lifted, is a review of an exhibition called “Periods on Display” presented by the Vagina Museum. As the report in Russia Today on The Lancet’s “bodies with vaginas” reference correctly states, Ms Davis does in fact use the proper term “women” several times in the piece, as well as another phrase that is woman-erasing: “people who menstruate”. To me, it feels as though the “bodies with vaginas” reference was chosen deliberately to virtue-signal obedience to the Sacred Ideology That Must Never Be Questioned.
Is The Lancet a modern-day Abraham that even goes a step further than its Biblical counterpart, with an unstoppable determination to despatch the precious asset of a 200-year old reputation in the ultimate act of woke virtue-signalling?
The Lancet’s double standards in singling out women for degrading language whilst not daring to insult its male readers in the same way, or in lacking the political interest and motivation to do so, couldn’t have been more evident. As recently as 20 September, The Lancet declared on Twitter that
“about 10 million men are currently living with a diagnosis of prostate cancer – making it a major health issue”.
Notice that men have retained their usual description of “men”: no hint of any reference here to “bodies with penises”.
The Child and Adolescent Health section of The Lancet has form. On 1 June 2021 (Vol 5), it published an editorial entitled “A flawed agenda for trans youth”: and to me, far from being a piece worthy of publication in a medical journal, it read like a political tract written by an outraged teenager, advocating the kind of gender ideology with which we are all so familiar.
Do you think The Lancet might be in self-destruct mode as far as their 200-year-old reputation is concerned? Is this some kind of reckless reputational sacrifice to signal unconditional political obedience? Is The Lancet a modern-day Abraham that even goes a step further than its Biblical counterpart, with an unstoppable determination to despatch the precious asset of a 200-year old reputation in the ultimate act of woke virtue-signalling?
The Lancet’s “A flawed agenda for trans youth” editorial begins with a reference to “a flood of new bills to curb the rights of transgender and gender diverse (trans) youth in the USA” and specifically references Arkansas as the first state that has forbidden doctors from providing to young people under the age of 18 years “gender-affirming treatment: puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and gender-affirming surgery”. The piece refers to the fact that 20 other US states have also introduced similar bills and says that 31 states “have introduced bills to limit trans youth participation in sport”.
“Gender-affirming treatment” … “limit trans youth participation in sport”. Sound familiar? But this is The Lancet. Just look at the loaded, politically-biased language – in an editorial, no less, of a prestigious medical journal. Are we seeing scientific reporting here, or political polemic? If the medical profession continues to allow itself to be captured by extreme gender ideology, the public will lose confidence in it. When we are ill, or when we want to keep well, we want science: not religious dogma – imposed by compulsion where necessary on physicians who don’t believe it. This is not the Middle Ages.
The piece goes on to accuse the American bills of aiming to protect what appear to be “traditional gender norms, using a vulnerable group in a protracted culture war”. There is a reference to these bills having “socially conservative advocates” who “create fear by focusing on emotive issues”, and an attempt to draw a parallel between the dialogue of protecting women and children in the context of transgender ideology, and the dialogue of protecting women and children “that was used in earlier campaigns against abortion and same-sex marriage”. The final sentence in that paragraph is, “As clinicians, it is important to use evidence to debunk the false claims being made.”
Yes: this is what The Lancet seems to have become.
It is indeed very important for clinicians to “debunk false claims” on the basis of evidence. A serious problem arises, however, when those who challenge the false claims made that promote extreme gender ideology see ourselves silenced, no-platformed, excluded, vilified, misrepresented and threatened with the loss of our livelihood. The fact that such consequences occur so widely is evidence that we are involved here in challenging a political ideology that is based on something far more akin to a fundamentalist and zealous religious belief system, than to a search for ethical medical truth based on verifiable and falsifiable scientific reality.
The Lancet’s piece goes on to claim that “disproportionate emphasis is given to young people’s inability to provide medical consent”. It also claims that the “consent narrative” is driven by an anxiety that is encouraged by “focusing on the minority who regret transition”. We are advised that “more fear is stoked by rhetoric about a malevolent threat to children”. Who is supposedly guilty of whipping up all this unfounded anxiety about children who might be making rash, life-altering decisions based on their perceived gender identity? None other than the wicked “social conservatives” again.
Not a hint of a mention is given to the immense pushback against this kind of gender ideology, including for the harm it causes to children, from thousands and thousands of left-wing radical feminists, and indeed, from people – men and women – across the whole political spectrum. As the editorial itself states, “(I)t is important to use evidence to debunk the false claims being made”: and the evidence of immense opposition to extreme gender ideology coming from left-wing feminists is as overwhelming in reality as it is invisible in the editorial. Inclusion of the radical feminist and indeed of the wide-spectrum political opposition to the transitioning of children would, of course, detract from the pitch that attempts to slur and undermine by association with social conservatives. In my view, this is a commonly-deployed and lazy strategy of “guilt by association” that is often very well-received on the political Left, and regarded as making obsolete the need for any real evidence. The tacit maxim is that, if conservatives agree with you on anything at all, then you must be wrong in that specific belief, and if you persist in asserting that belief, then you are deliberately aligning yourself with conservatives, which is axiomatically a bad thing and makes you a bad person. The fact that there are some issues on which both conservatives and socialists can both agree and both be right – such as, for example, that the sexual abuse of children is evil – proves how imbecilic it is to base one’s political belief system on automatically supporting everything that conservatives oppose, just because conservatives oppose it.
The editorial goes on to defend puberty blockers as “falsely claimed to cause infertility and to be irreversible, despite no substantiated evidence”. It refers to a dominant “infertility narrative” that, it claims, tends to be focused on “child-bearing ability”, and it makes a further attempt to undermine objections to puberty blockers by again asserting an association with conservatives’ putative “commitment to women’s role as child bearers”.
One of the most important elements of scientific enquiry, and indeed, of intellectual enquiry in general, is a recognition of how important it is not to begin with a dogmatic conclusion and then select any possible evidence, arguments and hypotheses to justify it, whilst disregarding, or straining to discredit, all the evidence and arguments against that conclusion. That is the approach of religious fundamentalism.
In this world of cherry-picking conceptual scraps in order to half-bake an indigestible fantasy-pie, facts about the sterilisation of children by means of puberty blockers that almost always lead to cross sex hormones, are notably omitted. What about mentioning the objections from so many people on the Left: and particularly from radical feminists? And what about an exploration of how a young person under the age of eighteen can have the capacity, especially when suffering psychological distress, to make a properly-informed decision that will have such potentially devastating irreversible outcomes with regard to their own future fertility, their capacity for future sexual pleasure, and their future preferred physical integrity?
One of the most important elements of scientific enquiry, and indeed, of intellectual enquiry in general, is a recognition of how important it is not to begin with a dogmatic conclusion and then select any possible evidence, arguments and hypotheses to justify it, whilst disregarding, or straining to discredit, all the evidence and arguments against that conclusion. That is the approach of religious fundamentalism. It is also prominent in child thinking, not adult thinking. And our captured universities today are producing a new and particularly distinguished strain of people – sometimes themselves even becoming professors – who are, in my view, self-indulgent, narcissistic educated idiots, who have been trained in presenting indefensible positions as though they were valid and credible, characterised also by a lack of capacity to empathise with the people being caused serious harm by their ideology and the way it is being socially enforced.
The Lancet’s piece even goes so far as to proclaim: “Gender transition involves many decisions over a long time, and those who take hormones do so because they are trans.” A bold and patently false statement, given the existence of detransitioners and their accounts of the suffering and medical negligence they have experienced: accounts that deserve to be listened to and acknowledged, rather than ignored and dismissed as politically inexpedient. Indeed, such is the poor intellectual quality of this Lancet editorial that there is even a reference to detransitioners in it: and yet it still makes the claim that the people taking hormones “do so because they are trans”.
For anyone with the stomach for it, and ten minutes of their life to waste, there is more along the same lines in that execrable Lancet editorial, including the assertion that “Challenging the current social construction of male–female will undoubtedly ease trans youths’ lives, reducing the pressure of rigid definitions”. It is the usual, predictable stuff we hear from the gender lobby. This is politics – and harmful politics. It is fundamentalist religion. It is not medicine. It is not science.
The Lancet seems to have decided to become a mouthpiece for a political movement that many of us regard as very harmful to women, to children, and to lesbian and gay people. However, if the construction of the totalitarian gender ideology state gets stopped in its tracks – and the opposition to it is fierce and growing – then The Lancet has decided to embark on a journey of irreversible reputational self-sabotage. In view of this risk to the good name of what has in the past been such an august publication, and of motivation that appears to me to be blatant political opportunism in this new Age of Woke, I suggest that “The Lancet” immediately changes its name to “The Chance-It”.
Gary Powell is a gay man and has been active in gay politics since 1980. He is the Research Fellow for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity at the Bow Group and the European Special Consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture.