The United Kingdom long has been on the progressive end of the transgender issue, so when it pumps the brakes, America should pay attention, says Nicole Russell, a contributor to The Daily Signal.
A high court in the United Kingdom recently ruled that children 16 years old and younger cannot be treated with puberty-blocking hormone drugs, unless a court specifically rules otherwise.
Russell writes extensively on the transgender issue and joins the show to discuss her recent piece breaking down the U.K. court decision. She also explains the media’s response to actor Ellen Page, who now wishes to be called Elliot, coming out as transgender, and how the internet plays a big role in encouraging young people to transition.
Plus, Dr. Kevin Pham, a visiting policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, joins us to explain how we can safely date during COVID-19. And as always, we’ll be crowning our “Problematic Woman of the Week.”
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: I do want to give our audience just a quick heads up that some of the content of the following interview is sensitive and may not be appropriate to children. So you may want to skip ahead and come back and listen to this interview later if you are currently with young children.
I am joined by Nicole Russell, a journalist and a contributor at The Daily Signal. Nicole, welcome to the show.
Nicole Russell: Thanks for having me.
Allen: So, one of the issues that we try to really consistently cover on this show is the transgender movement and specifically how that movement affects children and women. Nicole, as a journalist, you cover this issue pretty extensively.
Of course, over the past several years, we have seen a really major spike in individuals and particularly young women coming out as transgender, taking hormones, puberty blockers, and even in some instances, having those physically-altering surgeries.
You recently wrote a piece for The Daily Signal titled “UK Issues Landmark Ruling Protecting Kids From Life-Altering Hormone Replacement Therapy.” Can you explain this lawsuit in the U.K. that you wrote about and what that landmark ruling was?
Russell: Absolutely. So, in the U.K., there is a gender clinic called the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust. They’re the only clinic in the U.K. that facilitates transitions, I guess you could call them, to another gender. And there was a young woman named Keira Bell who went to the clinic when she was about 16.
She told them that she wanted to transition to male and they helped her start that process. So she did some hormonal replacement therapy where she started taking cross hormones, she started taking testosterone, and I believe she also had a mastectomy. And so she could begin this quote-unquote “medical transition” … toward male.
And then over time she decided she did not want to be a male, she did not want to live that way, and she regretted the transition that she had done. She regretted the changes she’d made through puberty blockers and hormones and through surgery.
So she actually sued this gender clinic and the case, eventually, as cases do here, worked its way up to their High Court. And the High Court found last week that what the gender clinic had done in facilitating her transition was wrong.
They basically ruled that going forward, this clinic cannot help children under the age of 16 do transitions like this anymore because they used her testimony, they reviewed her testimony, and basically came to the decision that children under 16 cannot understand the ramifications of taking testosterone, or estrogen, or puberty blockers, or anything else.
So they don’t know what they’re doing to their bodies. They don’t understand that these choices are, in most cases, life-altering and unable to be reversed. And so they decided to basically ban them. They would ban that clinic from being able to do them.
Now she said about the ruling, and I wrote this in my piece, that she was very pleased with their decision and she feels like it will help young people as they kind of navigate these waters.
So I think as far as it relates to the United States, the U.K. has always been slightly ahead of us in terms of the culture war, in terms of the transgender issue. They’ve been very sort of welcoming to the concept of people transitioning. And so I think this is a huge step toward protecting children from making decisions that would alter their bodily chemistry for life.
Allen: … It’s definitely incredible to see the U.K. make this decision. And I really hope that the U.S. is paying attention because in some states in America, kids can start receiving these drugs without parental consent, as young as 15, even 13 years old. They can begin taking these drugs that will literally alter their body potentially for forever, do irreversible damage.
Russell: Yes. It’s been really frustrating to observe. The transgender movement as a whole first began, I think, just as a frustration maybe among adults, and you watched adults transition slowly. And I think now it really has moved to teenagers and it has become, as Abigail Shrier talks about in her book, kind of a contagion.
It’s really spread almost as like the cool thing to do. And so teenagers are making these choices and doctors are often letting them make decisions to change their bodily chemistry in a way that can’t be undone.
There’s hundreds and hundreds of detransitioners out there. In fact, there was a piece in a London newspaper a few weeks ago, maybe a few months ago, about detransitioners who have decided, “We tried to transition and we realized it was a mistake,” and now their body is somewhere between male and female. And so I think in the United States, it’s definitely something we want to look for.
I know there’s been legislation put forth to try to put caps on at least these age ranges so that we can protect minors from doing something they will regret, because we’ve found as we’ve researched this and as time has gone on that often, teenagers, if they receive therapy and if they just don’t do any of the transitioning, the medical transitions, that they often sort of come out of this phase and they realize in their 20s, OK, they don’t want to live like that anymore.
That’s what we want to try to prevent here in the U.S. and I hope that we can look at the U.K. as an example and hold firm on this issue.
Allen: I think that that’s what made Keira Bell’s testimony so incredibly powerful is she raised that. She said, “I just wish that doctors, people around me would have pushed me a little bit more of like, ‘OK, why do you actually want to take those steps?’” But she brought up that one of the things that really motivated her to keep going down this path of transitioning was encouragement that she received from the internet.
And you mentioned Abigail Shrier. We had her on this podcast back in July. She authored the book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.” And Abigail spoke about the power of social media in this issue, that when a teenage girl who already feels awkward and uncomfortable, when she’s celebrated on social media for coming out as trans, you get that feeling of affirmation that you’ve been looking for for so long and it keeps you walking down this path.
Russell: Mm-hmm. Yes, absolutely. I think that is a really powerful connection. And I think in terms of parenting, something that all parents of teenagers and especially teenage girls need to just keep an eye on is who are they talking to, what are they doing online?
I know there’s Reddit threads that are just this sort of vortex of the transgender craze. It has gone from an issue that was maybe sort of awkward and unspeakable to very hip and very cool. And I think it is kind of sucking in a portion of the generation that, like you said, is already a little bit awkward or maybe girls that don’t fit in.
And so I think it is something for parents to consider working through … in therapy, but not necessarily going as far as the actual transitions. And I think the real problem is it feels like doctors or even just parents should be aware of that and they should know that, but for some reason on this issue, everybody tends to give in.
There are a few people in the medical industry that are willing to hold the line and say, “Look, if your arm was hurting, you wouldn’t chop it off.” But when a teenage girl comes to a doctor and says, “I just feel like I want to be a boy,” they’re like, “OK, let’s do a mastectomy.”
It’s so extreme and it’s so traumatic. And I can really pin it back to this whole concept of kind of this craze being accepted societally and with the progressive media and with Hollywood, and it’s made it really difficult to combat.
Virginia Allen: It’s really disturbing that, like you say, on so many other issues, it feels like we can have a reasonable conversation—two sides can present, you can look at the medical facts, you can look at the science—but specifically on the transgender issue, it really feels like logic got thrown out.
And maybe it’s a little bit of a natural pendulum swing where, like you say, it used to sort of be this taboo issue and now we’ve swung all the way to the other side to where if you speak out, if you speak against someone that has come out as transgender, and if you question them, right away, you’re shut down, you’re called a bigot. And it is just a little bit crazy of, how did we get to this place so quickly where professionals are willing to ignore science? Essentially, it seems like because of social pressure.
Russell: I think the way this happened is a lot due to Hollywood’s influence. Hollywood has always led the way kind of in tandem with a lot of the mainstream media in terms of progressive issues and the LGBT movement in general. And so I think you’ve seen a lot of Hollywood stars come out. First, it was gay and then gay marriage, and now we are doing the transgender craze as well.
I think they’ve really led the way and they’ve normalized something that typically, and you alluded to this, in medical circles would be questioned. And I think that their influence has played a significant role.
Allen: You recently wrote a great piece for The Post Millennial discussing actress Ellen Page, who now has been asked to be called Elliot Page, she’s changing her name. And Page [was] born a woman, biologically a woman, but now she identifies as a man. And it really took IMDb, Wikipedia, a whole slew of media outlets no time at all to get right in lockstep and begin referring to Page as “he.”
What do you think this says about the media? I mean, obviously, Page is a grown adult, can make decisions as she sees fit. But I think it’s one thing for an individual to personally say, “OK, now I identify as a man. My name is Elliot.” It’s a whole other thing for society to turn on a dime and say, “Oh, yep, that’s the truth.”
Russell: Absolutely. I think you nailed it. I think the real issue with transgender adults is exactly what we saw happen with Page. Page has lived for 33 years, not only as a female, but she came out, I believe it was 2014, as lesbian. She is married to another woman.
And when she made this decision last week and announced on her social media that she was now going to be transgender, she was now going to be addressed as a “he” and a “they”—[those are] Page’s new preferred pronouns—and like you said, changed her name, there was not one person, I think, probably outside of the center-right media that stopped for a minute and said, “Now, just wait a minute. How is it possible that you can just decide one day,”—or perhaps for Page, it was a period of time, but according to her announcement, it was, like you said, kind of on a dime—“how is it that you can go from living as a female and being a lesbian, married to a female, and now you’re changing to male?”
I think the problem with doing that and with the media kind of just almost coming to her rescue and deciding, “OK, we’re going to use different pronouns,” is this concept of compelling other people to use a specific type of speech that is typically used accurately and when describing real things.
What you have happening here is a real collective attempt to gaslight your average American person into buying into this concept, that if one day you decide to go from female to male, everyone should just join in and everyone must refer to you as whatever thing you’ve chosen.
And I think it’s so dangerous to fall into this or to walk alongside the media and someone like Page, who clearly, I think should be treated with respect and with dignity. She’s a human being like anyone else. But to buy into the lie that you can change your biological reality is really a slippery slope.
Like I said earlier, it’s really not done anywhere else. If a 5-year-old said, “I want to be an Avenger. I am an Avenger, and now you must call me … ,” you would laugh and go like, “OK, sure, but you’re also a little boy.” If someone said, “I’m a 30-year-old woman and now I identify as a dolphin,” I mean, you would laugh because it’s just not possible.
And yet when it comes to this, when a movie star says, “I’ve been a woman my whole life. I love women, I’m married to a woman, and now I’m going to be a man,” everyone goes, “Oh, OK, no problem.” It really defies logic and you’re asking the collective public to engage in this deceptive use of language and I think it’s really a dangerous path to walk down.
Allen: And where does this path take us? I mean, ultimately, if at some point common sense, science, truth doesn’t get put back into this debate and discussion, where do we end up if we just keep walking down this road?
Russell: Well, I think for starters, you start erasing women. I’ve noticed this for the last couple of years as the transgender movement really picked up in the media that transgender males living as women [are] using women’s bathrooms, so you have women put at risk.
This is something J.K. Rowling talked about over the summer and really got excoriated for. And she was clearly not acting out of any sort of bigotry, but actual concern for women and children.
So I think you’ll have this kind of gradual erasure of women and I think that would be a sad thing to see. And I think you’re also having this constant kind of gender swapping. And so you’re removing the uniqueness of men and the uniqueness of women, their gender stereotypes, and you’re saying, “No, we’re not unique at all. We can totally swap and it’s no big deal because there’s nothing special about men, there’s nothing special about women, and so it’s OK to just switch back and forth.”
I think you’re going to see a gradual decline in just the celebration of the things men bring to the table and the things women bring to the table. And I think you’re also going to see even just maybe a moral decline in terms of people justifying all kinds of behaviors, sexual behaviors, that because, “Hey, if you can go from male to female, why can’t you do other things in terms of gender swapping or your sexual relationships?” I think you’re going to see people going down that path because we haven’t held the line where it is.
And I think it’s just an unfortunate thing to observe and particularly this celebration. There wasn’t one person when this happened last week that said, “Hold on a minute, that makes no sense.” And like you pointed out earlier, when you do say that, I know on YouTube, if you start referring to a transgender person by their former name or their former gender, you can risk being banned, you can risk being demonetized because of quote-unquote “deadnaming.”
And so kind of progressive parts of society have really banded together and kind of circle the wagons around these really harmful progressive concepts and acted like they’re normal when they’re actually really abnormal and they’re harmful. They’re erasing women and they’re kind of mixing up things that really should be separated and celebrated.
Allen: Yeah. So I guess that then kind of raises the question, whose responsibility is it to kind of, I guess, bring people back to earth on this issue, to bring some common sense back to this discussion?
I mean, I guess in some ways, it’s all of our responsibility, whether it’s in conversations just with friends, or obviously, we would love to see the medical community really step up on this issue and really speak some truth here, like we saw in the U.K., to see rulings at a judicial level that hold fast to truth, hold fast to science. But what do you think, Nicole?
Russell: Yeah. That’s a really good question. I do really wish the medical community would just observe what they’ve seen as professionals and really just gather up their own courage and start to just be the voice of reason because I do think some people would listen to that.
I know the reason Jordan Peterson really skyrocketed to fame here was because of his stance on compelled speech, as it related to this issue in Canada. I think he was kind of one of the first people to see this coming in a modern sense and to kind of go, “If you want to call yourself that, OK, that’s fine, but making other people do it is an issue.” And so I think he did shed some positive light and I think people have kind of maybe even forgotten that as he kind of became famous.
I think even, as we mentioned, Abigail Shrier, she came to write that book just as a journalist, just noticing that kids were struggling and their parents were struggling with how to handle it.
I think one of the good things about her, not only did she write the book, but then the book has gotten backlash. The book has gotten censored, it’s gotten banned. If parents try to put a billboard up of the book, that gets taken down.
And so I’m hoping that when people see, OK, someone’s trying to speak some truth, someone’s trying to kind of wave the flag of, “Let’s look at reality again and common sense and logic,” and people are panicking and pushing back against it, that that means something. It means that we’re onto something and that the commonsense crowd or just the science crowd really shouldn’t be ignored.
I do think, kind of bringing it back to your average person, if you’re a parent, it is important to kind of ask your kids what are they … I always ask my kids what their learning is, specifically in subjects that are really subjective and where this kind of thing can be snuck in.
So, like, English, science, history, those are subjects that if you happened to live in a really liberal area or sort of progressive part of the country, teachers could easily sneak in books and textbooks and movies that kind of touch on this and make it normal, make it feel like it’s normalized.
I think as parents and just observers, those are the types of things you should be talking about with your kids. I think calling it out where you see it, that’s another way because we can’t all do legislation, we can’t all write articles. Not everyone is in the public arena. But I think even just kind of holding your own in your own family and among your friends and having the courage to point out things that seem illogical and things that seem countercultural is, I think, even all those little steps are helpful.
Allen: Yeah. That’s such a good point. I find that it’s so helpful to … when you find yourself in those discussions, just to ask questions. Just get people thinking, like, “Wait a second, how does this logic follow?”
Russell: Yeah. Even, if I can add, I guess I wrote about this for The Daily Signal a few weeks ago, Netflix made a “Baby-Sitters Club” series based on the old books and I loved those books as a kid. And so they started watching them and we noticed in an episode about halfway through the series that they completely snuck in—the whole episode was about one of the babysitters watching a transgender kid.
So they went through the whole thing in fiction about this little kid deciding to go from, I can’t even remember, boy to girl or whatever, and the babysitter was super cool and hip and progressive about it and was totally accepting.
And so we all watched this, my daughters and I, and then we talked about it. I didn’t want to shield them from it because it was material at their age, at their level, but I wanted them to see it and then I was right there to kind of say, “OK, what do we think about this? Can this really happen? And what do you think?”
And then I kind of taught them what I think and tried to use it as a sort of teachable moment so that they weren’t completely getting an issue and they’re left in the dark to feel around. … I mean, you could shield your kids depending on their age, but I did want them to see this is out there and they are targeting kids.
Much of the media is targeting young kids that don’t have the capacity often on their own to think through this because kids are gullible and naive, and I think they’re kind of counting on that. And so I think, like you said, asking the questions and kind of planting some seeds of logic and doubt in their minds is another way to do it.
Allen: So important. Nicole, we really just appreciate your insight on this issue. How can our listeners follow your work?
Russell: I write, as you said, for The Daily Signal, I write for the Washington Examiner, I’m on Twitter: @russell_nm. You can follow all of my random insights there. Thanks so much for having me, I really appreciate it.
Allen: Oh, Nicole, thank you.