Recently we were asked to contribute a short piece on our origins and aims to the Scottish Union for Education (scottishunionforeducation.substack.com). Convenor John Higgon explains the history and rationale:
Dr John Higgon is a clinical neuropsychologist.
A few years ago, a group of concerned gender-critical clinicians, mainly medics, set up the Clinical Advisory Network on Sex and Gender – CAN-SG for short. It has been, and continues to be, a useful voice for gender-critical clinicians throughout the UK, but perhaps unsurprisingly, its focus has tended to be on Westminster rather than Holyrood. (We Scots, whether adopted or homegrown, will know that UK institutions tend to default to the English perspective, which simply reflects the population figures of the various countries that constitute the UK.)
Some of us CAN-SG members who are based in Scotland found ourselves talking about the situation in Scotland and the need to engage with Scottish institutions, most obviously the Scottish government, about gender healthcare. This became more pertinent following publication of the interim report of the Cass Review, which has set England on a course that looks to be very different from the pre-Cass ‘assess and affirm’ model that seems to have characterised the Tavistock’s approach. Sadly, there has been no Scottish equivalent of the Cass report, and as far as we can see, the Sandyford Clinic has not chosen to take on board any of the learning points from Cass on a voluntary basis. (We tried to ask them about this, but they didn’t get back to us.) The need for a group with a particular focus on Scotland therefore became more pressing, and to that end a few of the Scottish-based CAN-SG members began to meet informally to discuss the situation north of the border.
We soon recognised the advantages of setting up a Scotland-based group in a more formal manner. Our group, which we have called Scottish Professionals Advising on Gender, or ScotPAG for short, came into being early in 2023. You can find our website at www.scotpag.com and on Twitter @ScotPAG.
One difference between us and CAN-SG is that we decided quite early on to open our group up to professionals with backgrounds in education and social work as well as in health. We believe that gender ideology needs to be addressed in all of these settings, because they are in practice so closely interrelated. For example, children who experience gender dysphoria need to be given a ‘trans narrative’ before they will take that further step of seeing themselves as trans.
We take the view that the educational upper echelons have not done their homework about the potential harms that can be caused by gender ideology. Schools are at the forefront of either safeguarding children from this ideology or not. As far as we can see, schools have abdicated their educational responsibilities. Schools have invited activist third-party organisations to develop policies and guidance which promote gender ideology in schools, and they have given the green light to teach students that gender ideology is a truth. These organisations are never gender-critical and always promote gender ideology viewpoints, thereby providing the trans narrative (highly contested though it is) while claiming to ‘help’ children make sense of their dysphoria. In addition to promoting effective teaching and learning, schools really should be focused on supporting pupils to become resilient and emotionally stable individuals. Instead, they are at risk of creating highly damaged individuals and a ruinous impact on families (see the ScotPAG article ‘Is There Evidence of Gender Ideology Indoctrination in Scotland’s Schools?’).
These children then present to healthcare settings where the same narrative has been adopted, and thus adolescent unhappiness becomes gender dysphoria, and gender dysphoria is seen as evidence of ‘being trans’. From there, it is a short step to puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. We know that care-experienced children are greatly overrepresented in the gender-dysphoric population, so the narratives (again, these are essentially gender ideology narratives) that are found in social work settings are also relevant. So, ScotPAG is keen to see a step change not only in the area of health but also in the areas of social work and of school education – and, for that matter, education of healthcare, teaching and social work professionals. It is hoped that, by working on these three areas at the same time, we can see real change in the way gender and gender dysphoria are conceptualised.
We are a newly formed group and still feeling our way to some extent, but our initial aim is to get a clearer picture of what is happening in Scotland in the areas of health, education and social work. We intend to do this through the simple expedient of keeping our ear to the ground and fostering contacts with relevant people, but we may also use freedom of information (FOI) requests and letters to relevant authorities to try to build up a picture of gender ideology in Scottish public services. We will be publishing our findings on our website.
It looks like this is going to be an uphill struggle. An FOI request to the Sandyford Clinic in October 2022 was ignored, and we are still awaiting a response to our subsequent letter, sent in July of this year. We are, however, making useful links with journalists and MSPs, and interested parties will be able to visit our website, where they will be able to see letters we have sent and responses, or lack thereof, that we have received.
Once we have a clearer picture of how gender-related issues are being handled in the areas of health, education and social work, we plan to challenge poor practice, as we see it, and offer a gender-critical alternative based on evidence and science. We believe that gender-critical voices should be heard alongside gender ideologists when public policy is being formulated, and bringing about that change will perhaps be our most significant challenge.
I know that some trans activists will see ScotPAG as another ‘transphobic’ group that is intent on making life difficult for trans people. It shouldn’t need to be said, but for the record, I view myself as an ally of trans – or, perhaps more accurately, of gender-dysphoric – people. I appreciate the pain of gender dysphoria, and I hope that professionals in the fields of health, education and social work will always be sensitive to children and young people who struggle with these issues. Where I differ from trans activists is in the approach we should take to alleviate this distress. I have, of course, been described as transphobic for not sticking to the gender ideology line, and that is simply par for the course in the current climate. Despite this, I’ll be continuing this work, not to make life more difficult for gender-dysphoric individuals, but quite the opposite – to ensure that they receive evidence-based care and treatment that will give them the best possible quality of life.