A woman feminises her son against his nature, subjecting his will, because of her own emotional disturbance. A court rescues him, and places him in his father’s care, where he develops normal boyish interests. These demonstrate the harmfulness of the mother and the rightness of the rescue. That is the story you get from Mr Justice Hayden, who ordered the new care arrangements. It justifies greatly restricting the contact the mother has with the child- they must be supervised.
How would the mother, referred to as “M” to preserve anonymity, get her child J to wear a pink headband and nail varnish, leave alone present entirely female, unless J is a trans girl? Why would she?
CAFCASS, the children and family court advisory support service, investigated, and recommended that F[ather] not have contact with the child, as it would cause M and J “potential emotional harm”. Social services had anonymous referrals saying M was mentally ill and that J might access the skunk M smoked in front of him. The social services child and family assessment, completed in January 2015, concluded that there were no evident concerns suggesting that [J] was at immediate risk of harm. [M] is very clear that she is supporting [J] with whatever choices [J] makes and she presents with a good understanding of [J]’s needs. There were no concerns from the social worker regarding [M]’s approach to [J]’s gender presentation, and had appropriately taken on board support from the charity Mermaids. Upon completion of the assessment, no further action was taken by Children’s Services.
The judge finds this irrational and unsustainable, and draws attention to the schools’ concerns, that [J] behaved no differently than the other children but they felt that [M] was unwilling to accept this and on occasions she reduced a teacher to tears due to her ‘forceful and confrontational’ manner…in class, [J] doesn’t display any differences to the other boys.
What constitutes “difference”?
Who judges, and what are their expectations?
If J tries to conform in any situation, rather than following his own unconstrained wishes, what will he do?
One referral to social services said M was unwilling to accept help from local child mental health services.
The judge condemns social services strongly, saying the cry for investigation went unheeded. Social services combine both naivety and professional arrogance. However, social services reported those concerns were in relation to [J] presenting as a girl rather than concerns in relation [J]’s welfare and the care that is provided to [J]….the manner in which [J]’s gender identity is responded to by professionals could also cause emotional difficulties, as had been evidenced in research around gender non conforming children cited earlier. It appears that [M] is genuinely attempting to protect [J] from the impact of this.
M has accessed support from the Tavistock Centre, the child gender identity service. The judgment shows no evidence from them, only from psychologists. The first, Jean Sambrooks, refers to J as “she”, but the judge dismisses this, though he says that It is entirely counterintuitive to suspect that a boy who is consistently presenting as a girl may not truly wish to do so and may have been forced or induced into performing such a role by his mother. He draws attention to her concerns about the way M communicated, though Ms Sambrooks considered that the impact of these concerns was most likely to have alienated professionals to the mother’s genuine concerns.
The judge finds M highly manipulative and controlling with strong opinions, prone to exaggerate and distort, even “oppositional”. A mother defending a trans child from disbelief might need such qualities. He says As I have heard this case I have noted that these illogicalities often characterise M’s evidence. Nobody has doubted that M is both articulate and intelligent and so the reasonable inference is that she must recognise some of the illogicality of her own statements. I consider that she has learnt that by creating ‘confusion’, to use Ms Sambrooks’ word, amongst the professionals, she generates a situation in which her own distorted beliefs gain greater traction and are able to prevail with less effective challenge.
There were delays, which the judge reports were caused by M’s unjustified challenges of lawyers involved, and refusal to communicate. The family court transferred the case to the high court because lack of information of the child’s whereabouts raised concerns for his welfare. In November 2015 Mr Justice Hayden made a variety of highly prescriptive orders, reinforced by a Penal Notice. J, then five, was living in stealth, all the time presenting as a girl and registered at the GP as a girl. M said the Tavistock centre had advised this, but the judge says Though I was by no means certain, I very much doubted that the Tavistock would have given this advice in respect of such a very young child. I am amazed no-one asked them. Instead, the judge sought their file.
There was a hearing before Mr Justice Hayden where he ordered that J be delivered to F. He portrays M as controlling. What was perfectly clear however and requires emphasis is that M was determined that J should live entirely as a girl. At only five years of age that did not strike me as offering J choice or even the opportunity to express any ambivalence or confusion. I was also entirely satisfied that whatever choices J made and however he presented, he would be loved and cared for and his choices respected in F’s care.
The February hearing was very stressful for M. However what struck me forcibly, both then and indeed at this final hearing, was that M spoke of J only in the somewhat opaque and convoluted argot of social work and psychology. She offered an impressive, intense and highly articulate evaluation of the problems faced by children with gender dysphoria but she conveyed no sense of J’s personality, temperament or enthusiasms, notwithstanding frequently being encouraged to do so. Repeatedly she struck me as a professional witness giving evidence about somebody else’s child.
I was also left in no doubt that M was absolutely convinced that J perceived himself as a girl. M’s case on this point has not always been either consistent or coherent, but my overwhelming impression is that she believes herself to be fighting for J’s right to express himself as a girl. She has told me how J ‘expressed disdain for his penis’. I think it accurately summarises her position to say that she perceived it to be her responsibility in the face of widespread public, professional and indeed judicial ignorance to promote J’s choice of gender.
Why on Earth would M want to manipulate a child who was not trans into presenting as a trans girl? The judge does not say. How could she do that? Continue reading