No Time To Think: How The Cult Of The 'Trans Child' Took Over At Tavistock
A review of 'Time to Think' by Hannah Barnes
Hannah Barnes, Time to Think: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Tavistock’s Gender Service for Children. Swift Press, 2023. 557 pages. (Amazon) (Barnes & Noble)
When Bernard and Terry Reed, the founders of GIRES, lobbied for parents to have faster access to drugs and surgeries to sterilize their gender nonconforming children in 1997, they put suicide risk at the center of their argument.
Unless children received puberty blockers on demand, they claimed, suicide was inevitable.
The Reeds presented no evidence for this claim — indeed, no one ever has, because the “trans suicide” myth is purely a form of emotional blackmail. It has zero validity. Suicide rates among “trans kids” are the same as other gender nonconforming kids, and when such a tragic event does happen, it can be at any stage of “transition.”
In other words, hormones and surgeries are categorically ruled out as a “cure for trans suicide.” Otherwise, suicide rates would go down. In fact, our best long-term study out of Sweden suggests suicidality can be 19 times higher in the adult population of transitioned people.
But facts be damned, because the child sterilizing cult was never about facts. It has always been about desires: the childish desires of children, the adult desires of adults, and the false promise of a magic pill to solve all their problems.
Terry Reed maintained that opponents of sterilizing prepubsecent children “are hoping that during puberty the natural hormones themselves will act on the brain to ‘cure’ these trans teenagers,” reframing the adolescent stage of the human life-cycle as a form of “conversion.”
We can’t let these special kids grow up the normal way human children did for 230,000 years, otherwise they will die, because reasons. So went the argument, not from the clinicians, but from the would-be consumers. Susie Green, now-former CEO of Mermaids, is better-known today than the Reeds or their organization. The Reeds were also members of WPATH, an organization of endocrine quacks that changed its name to assume the identity of a medical “gold standard of care.” It has been a remarkably successful scam, a British iteration of the American frontier tent revival and patent medicine show.
Together with another lobby organization called Gendered Intelligence, a constellation of Munchausen parents and transgender crusaders became a sort of mafia, subtly threatening parents and clinicians into playing along with the belief in gendered being-ness and its supposed risks: Nice kids, would be a pity if something happened to them.
In her new book about the scandal which unfolded at Tavistock, Time to Think, BBC Newsnight reporter Hannah Barnes does not refer to the community which spawned the scandal as a cult. Here at The Distance, however, we understand that the “trans child” is only a modern take on the ancient phenomenon of esoteric, sanctified children — and now Barnes has become a star witness in our case that the “trans child” is a cult.
Far from giving children “time to think,” as they have been sold to the public, puberty blockers are the absolute end of all thinking.
In the words of Dr. Hilary Cass, “trans identity” became the panacea for a cluster of unrelated problems — depression, anxiety, autism, same-sex attraction, homophobia, abuse history, attachment — through “diagnostic overshadowing.”
Salvation in a singular explanation, a convenient escape for family and social pressures by way of sterilizing drugs and surgeries.
The emerging cult believed in the “trans child” with patently religious fervor. Gendered being-ness was more real to them than a child’s body. Any number of children could be sacrificed on this holy altar of gender identity. Creating the god-children has been a goal in itself for this blinkered ideology. Their bodies are the tablets on which the new, transhumanist faith has been inscribed.
As Barnes acknowledges, pediatric transition is a faith project. Doctors are not sure about any of this. Contrary to the pronouncements of the cult, “the science is not settled, and this field of healthcare is overpopulated with small, poor-quality studies,” Barnes writes. “It’s often not possible to draw definitive conclusions on the benefits or harms of these treatments.”
No one has ever done any real science to prove the “trans child” exists. What happened at Tavistock was antiscience. More than a thousand children were referred to GIDS and hundreds of them treated without any follow-up, or until the very end, almost any data collection. Nevertheless, in time, the clinicians knew that something was wrong. "Despite the idea that blockers were being administered to provide children and families with more time to think, it was becoming clear that they were all thinking in exactly the same way.”
Another profitable, monolithic explanation for childhood distress had come along, and finally won the market. The “trans child” enjoyed growing political potency and social status, a cult becoming a culture.
Culture war was always a stated objective of the cult. During a 2017 interview with the national Lottery director, Polly Carmichael, head of the Tavistock clinic, said that “the Mermaids approach is more aligned to the American model” than the “Dutch model” which started the pediatric transition fad.
Although she could not be bothered to share critical information, Carmichael reportedly wrote staff memoranda on “post-structuralist ideas…postmodernist, high-level theoretical ideas and stuff.”
Likewise, a former assistant director of the GIDS (Gender Identity Development Service) at Tavistock told Barnes that from its inception, the program was “a justice project as well as a therapeutic project,” for it “aspired to widen the circle of people whose experience of the self is listened to with respect.”
The term “justice-based approach” is from the revolutionary language of the American left, in which "lived experience” replaces objective evidence. “Experience of the self” is the language of self-help pseudotherapeutic woo.
Money played a big role in the development of the trans child cult, but “belief” was the more powerful force, according to whistleblower Dr. David Bell. A clique grew up inside of Tavistock GIDS that embraced belief in the trans child and impressed it on others in the organization, using “transphobe” as a term of abuse to bring people into ritual alignment.
Bell says “they’ve swallowed the ideology that’s edgy,” for the clinic was “seen as being the greatest thing we have.” Conformity became a culture, and “no doubt could be allowed in.”
Trans kids exist on faith alone, and by faith in them alone are we saved.
Dr. Sue Evans saw “undue influence of patient support groups on GIDS clinical practice.” Following the advice of Mermaids, they stopped including birth names on clinical letters. Another GIDS staffer saw the workplace “becoming really political,” with the Dutch model treated as a competitor rather than a guide, and Mermaids pushing for ever-faster resort to puberty blockers.
Barnes writes that “pressure groups and service users whose focus was on the need to modify the body” agitated for the earliest possible interventions. Staff observed Carmichael “bending over backwards to try and please” Susie Green.
During this time, staff pointed out that, for example, boys subject to puberty blockade during Tanner stage 2 of their development will never develop enough penile tissue to form a neovagina, requiring gruesome procedures using part of the child’s colon. A pamphlet was prepared, approved by the suggesting surgeon, and then tabled by Polly Carmichael.
After all, Susie Green had her own son Jackie put through that exact regimen, bragging in a now-deleted TED Talk that he had “little to work with” as a result of the puberty blocker installed at eleven years old. In that same presentation, now archived at The Distance, Green flatly admits that her husband’s homophobia drove her decision to sterilize and castrate Jackie.
On these two issues especially sensitive to Susie Green, Polly Carmichael lacked the courage to risk offending her, leaving patients and families without proper knowledge of what lay ahead. “Informed consent” was a cruel joke. Almost every child put on puberty blockers was locked into their new “identity,” proceeding to cross-sex hormones and surgical interventions, traipsing merrily along a dubious path.
Everyone knew something was wrong, but nobody stopped. “Evidence from within GIDS showed blockers weren’t providing time and space to think and reflect as they had been told, and as they had been telling children and their families,” Barnes writes. “Some young people’s health appeared to deteriorate while on the medication. And yet almost no one stopped the treatment.”
As the social contagion of the “trans child” spurred new demand, far outpacing available appointments, Will Crouch found Tavistock was “crazily busy,” and he soon felt like a “gatekeeper” to puberty blockers.
Rather than children in confusion and needing time to think, he encountered “a fundamentalist frame of mind. If you can imagine you’re talking to somebody who’s saying, ‘This is what I believe,' and you’re sort of invited to disagree with them. And if you question in any way, then you’re a bigot, or you don’t understand.”
By the time they showed up at GIDS, “their views were often so deeply entrenched as to what needed to happen — largely, puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones — that doing any kind of exploratory work became extremely difficult.”
Whereas the Tavistock was famous for emphasizing talk therapy, GIDS had become a factory where caseworkers handled more than one hundred patients at a time. So many new staff were hired that it became impossible to challenge the “business model,” in the words of Anastatis Spiliadis.
All training came on the job, new hires being paired with more experienced clinicians. As new hires eventually came to understand what was happening, however, turnover meant the loss of institutional memory and the ability to identify problems. Questioners left, believers stayed.
No one felt empowered to say “no” to a child demanding blockers.
It is an objective fact that young people are not good at stopping and thinking before they act out. Craving status, the young seek it through absurd and often dangerous actions. Social media has monetized the dopamine thrill of status with likes and followers, but the kids have not really changed.
What has changed are the medical and therapeutic professions which created the new market for medicalized teen angst. What has changed are trans YouTubers coaching children in how to say the right things to get puberty blockers and begin their glorious gender journey into iatrogenic harm: osteoporosis, cancer, heart failure, diabetes, and the manifold health risks of treating puberty as a disease.
During a series of international meetings in 2004, Dutch and American clinicians pressured royal medical institutions to provide puberty blockers to children under 16; Dr. Richard Green, an adult gender medicine specialist, held a rival conference to the Royal Society of Medicine in 2008 in protest of its age limits on puberty blockers. The pressure worked. That year, blockers were made available to children as young as twelve at Tavistock.
It would be too much to call this a medical experiment, since there was no effort to record results, much less make them scientific. Attempts to strengthen GIDS methodology in 2010 failed because GIDS leadership did not think children would agree to a randomized trial. They knew their market, and what that market demanded.
As evidenced by the internal report from Dr. David Taylor which languished for 15 years, GIDS was not even sure whether they were treating kids distress at being transgender, or identifying as transgender because they were feeling distressed.
Puberty blockers were held out as the cure-all for the distressed child or family, but they resolved nothing. As Hannah Barnes explains, GIDS used only one self-reported metric of success, “self-satisfaction.” Yet their own data showed increases in suicidal ideation, self-harm, negative body image, and mental health in children under 16.
“It’s worth remembering that the original study protocol had stated that ‘an improvement in mental states and overall wellbeing will support the view that the treatment is effective,’” Barnes writes. “By the authors’ own measure, then, the early blocking of puberty in these young people was not found to be an effective treatment.”
Money now provided momentum, as 21.8 percent of the income of the Portman and Tavistock Trust was coming through GIDS. Being a monopoly provider in the NHS England health care system, the clinic had no incentive to “pause” like they were repeatedly advised to do.
Many children and families found the questions of staff “pathologizing,” so the normal “talking cure” method at Tavistock went by the wayside. Comorbid mental health issues went unaddressed. Clear cases of abuse were reported, including FII (Fabricated or Induced Illness), formerly known as Muchausen by proxy. Clinicians were overruled and these children were approved for puberty blockers anyway. Children presented with transracial identities, “usually East Asian,” and got puberty blockers.
Anna Hutchinson wanted a child taken off the blockers after a mental health crisis and suicide attempt. “It was a mess. They were so lacking in ability to function that they couldn’t attend appointments with us,” Hutchinson says, concluding that what GIDS did was “mad.”
Recalling his time at GIDS, Crouch theorizes that “organizations helping a certain group of people will develop symptoms that are related to the work that they do.” At Tavistock, one of those symptoms was homophobia.
Gender dysphoria had always been understood as temporary in most cases, with most boys simply being gay as adults. According to former staff, themselves homosexual, heterosexual colleagues did not seem to understand that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth often display extreme gender nonconformity. Discussions of sexuality were actively discouraged. GIDS was “institutionally homophobic,” in the words of one witness.
For too many families, puberty blockers and sex change were “conversion therapy for gay kids.” Staff witnessed daily homophobia from parents who preferred a “trans girl” to a gay boy or a “trans boy” to a lesbian girl. Children had internalized these attitudes.
According to research that has been available since the 1980s, LGB children are “impacted by gender dysphoria at a much much higher rate,” with some 90 percent of trans-identified females being same-sex attracted or bisexual, and 80.8 percent of males. Of the 33 females involved in the original “Dutch study,” all were lesbian or bisexual, and only one of the males was heterosexual. Barnes interviews former Tavistock patients who fit the bill.
No test exists to know which children will persist in a cross-sex identity and which ones will abandon it. Once the transgender explanation takes over, “the only thing that matters is transition.”
By medicalizing all of the “trans children,” GIDS was doing permanent harm to children who would otherwise grow up to be happy and healthy gay and lesbian and bisexual adults. LGB children are being de-sexed by the cult of the trans child.
Difficult questions on this topic met with hostility in staff meetings, where words like “vagina” and “sexed bodies” were deemed transphobic, and children were to be described as “assigned” a sex at birth in order to obfuscate reality.
The influence of the culture outside the clinic was also clear. Between June 2016 and February 2017, eleven percent of children coming into GIDS “identified” as nonbinary. Homosexuality and gender nonconformity had been re-pathologized for profit. Profitable new identities were under discursive construction.
More than half of the children referred for blockers showed clear signs of autism or ADHD, but no diagnosis was offered and no further investigation took place.
Executive staff explicitly included autism and other vulnerable populations in their marketing. “We have carefully extended our programme to offer physical intervention to those who have a range of psychosocial and psychiatric difficulties, including young people with autism and learning disabilities, and young people who are looked after,” i.e. in foster care.
Despite claims to the contrary, Barnes uses GIDS receipts to show that children received puberty blockers in as few as two appointments, sometimes three or four, rather than the five or six that had been the supposed standard.
After listening to heartbroken clinicians, most of whom would only meet him off-site for fear of retaliation, Dr, David Bell cited “pressure within the institution to not think,” deplored the “pressure to process referrals quickly,” and objected to the “climate of fear in what was meant to be a care setting.”
The reception that Bell’s report received from Carmichael’s office, and then the bitter denials her office made when the report was leaked to the press, were typical of their approach. Governors of Tavistock were consistntly blocked from seeing staff interview transcripts reporting problems to leadership. Internal reports were buried. A “siege mentality” took over.
Tavistock head Paul Jenkins was still calling puberty blockers “reversible” on BBC Radio 4 long after everyone in the clinic knew it was false. Too much was at stake for the normal rules of evidence to apply.
“I’ve been struck by the fact that no one speaking favorably of GIDS has been willing to put their name to their comments,” Barnes notes.
Thanks to a still-vital press, including BBC Newsnight, Tavistock did not escape scrutiny. A formal review by the national safety regulator gave them the lowest possible rating, and the GIDS is now closing. Dr. Hilary Cass proposes to replace it with regional centers focused on the actual causes of distress, rather than offering one patent medicine panacea for all childhood distress.
No child will be able to receive puberty blockade without being part of a proper study protocol. Actual science is now required. Adults have intervened, at last.
However, other than Susie Green, who was apparently forced out for being terrible to her own staff, no one has been punished. Some number of children has irrefutably been harmed. Kids were medicated who did not need the medicine, and it has harmed them.
We only await an understanding of how many. As Barnes explains, what evidence exists from the Tavistock experiment shows that detransition is real. So far, the only survey of this population shows that health concerns and an adult mind, but not some nebulous “transphobia,” are the chief reasons for desistance.
Anyone who has spent a little time in the gender trenches will know that denial runs deep: the trans child cult does not want to admit that detransitioners exist; forced to acknowledge them at all, the “activist” explains the detransitioner away. This population is marginalized within their former “community,” treated as apostates of the cult.
Gender nonconformity has always existed. Past cultures have accommodated this trait, even sacralized it. But now a global cult of the “trans child” frames itself as emancipation for these children, based on ambiguous, “low quality” evidence that puberty blockers are a magic cure for every form of social or personal distress in a youngster.
Hannah Barnes has written a highly readable acccount of a very complex disaster. Her prose is littered with evidences of the role that faith played in all of it. Those of us contending with this gnostic confession must recognize it for what it is, and call it out, for we cannot be obliged to share in the magical beliefs of other people, even if they are popular.
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The most damning evidence I have read, but the truth shouts out.
This is great, Matt, thank you.