Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a useful idiot for many causes. Now we can add extreme transgender ideology to the list. The 29-year-old congresswoman appeared in a livestream to support Harry Brewis, a British gamer, who played the entire game of Donkey Kong in one sitting in order to raise $340,000 for Mermaids UK, a British charity that promotes sex changes for gender-confused children.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 20, 2019
Mermaids has received substantial public funding in Britain, sparking great controversy. Last year this included £35,000 from the Department for Education and £128,000 from Children in Need. The most recent grant was £500,000 by the national lottery. But after complaints, the grant was suspended pending review.
Mermaids must be one of the most contentious charities in Britain. For one thing, it is continually butting heads with Britain’s National Health Service in its efforts to, as the Times of London reports, “overturn an NHS ban on under-16s being treated with cross-sex hormones, which cause permanent body changes and compromise fertility.”
Mermaids’ chief executive, Susie Green, is a similarly divisive figure. Green took her 16-year-old for sex-change surgery in Thailand — a procedure that is now illegal — and advocates for other people’s gender-dysphoric children. The award-winning British columnist Janice Turner recently noted that:
At a trans medical symposium in Buenos Aires last month, Susie Green tweeted approval of a US speaker that “surgery should be allowed based on competency NOT age of majority. Psychological assessment should not be needed for surgery as this is not required for cisgender surgeries of ANY type.” In other words, children should be allowed significant gender operations without counselling. In America girls have double mastectomies at 13.
Mermaids still recommends a private GP, Helen Webberley, who has prescribed cross-gender hormones for children as young as 12, who has a criminal conviction for running an unregistered practice, a £12,000 fine, and is under review by the General Medical Council.
At grassroots, Mermaids is still permitted to train thousands of teachers, police, health-care providers, and politicians. In its workshops, Mermaids shows a graph with Barbie at one end and a G.I. Joe action figure at the other and ask teachers to think about where their pupils might fall. Does a boy exhibit typically girly behaviors such as a wearing tutu? Could be a trans girl! Does a girl play with trucks, etc.? Could be a trans boy! Of course, this logic enshrines archaic gender stereotypes and has no scientific basis. Which is the precise reason that Turner, a liberal and a feminist, refutes it.
Mermaids also provides teachers with posters and stickers that encourage children to contact the organization directly if they feel they can’t talk to their teachers about gender issues. This has understandably upset parents who feel they’re being shut out of serious child-welfare decisions. And what sort of “support” might Mermaids provide? A TV series that Susie Green heavily consulted on gives a clue.
Butterfly tells the story of an eleven-year-old boy who wanted to be a girl and shows him cutting his wrists. Mermaids advocates “gender affirmation” — a social, medical, and/or surgical treatment — as a one-size-fits-all approach to trans-identifying children, arguing that otherwise they are at risk of killing themselves.
However, Britain’s National Health Service responded to the TV show by saying that this narrative was “not helpful” and that it “would be very unusual for a child of that age to attempt suicide.” Similarly, a leading expert in the field of childhood gender dysphoria, Kenneth Zucker, has strongly criticized misstated suicide statistics and said that while children with gender dysphoria are certainly “a vulnerable group”, they’re no more vulnerable than children who seek clinical treatment for other issues. “On average, kids with a whole range of clinical problems are vulnerable to suicidality,” Zucker said.
A recent editorial published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood in the British Medical Journal points to “complex causal pathways” for gender-identity issues and suggests that “extreme viewpoints, either liberal or conservative, do not help the arguments or promote science.” Other letters from doctors and specialists — in the Endocrine Society’s journal and the journal of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health — emphasize the risks of puberty blockers for children and the medical principle of first, do no harm.
Perhaps most concerning is how Mermaids reacts to those who criticize its approach. The Times journalist Andrew Gilligan reports how Mermaids attacked a doctor at Britain’s NHS gender-identity clinic as being “anti-trans,” while also attacking the clinic for “media quotes that emphasize [the] uncertainty and complexity” of gender feelings. In one Twitter altercation, Green tweeted at an NHS psychiatrist, “you need to f*** off. You know nothing.”
Similarly, a women’s-rights campaigner, Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, was interrogated by the police after Green complained of hate speech. Keen-Minshull had tweeted in strong words that she thought it was wrong for Green to allow her 16-year-old child to undergo sex-change surgery. Ms. Keen-Minshull told National Review:
On the 23rd February 2018 I was interviewed under caution by the police for 6 tweets relating to the charity Mermaids, specifically Susie Green and the fact she took her son to Thailand for sex reassignment surgery on his sixteenth birthday. I referred to this as castration. I was told if I were to try and leave the country I would be arrested. The police were considering a variety of charges, malicious communications, hate speech and, even, conspiracy. This interrogation was not taken further by the Crown prosecution service when the police referred it to them. Fast forward to December 2018 and another complaint of harassment for two comments about Susie Green on my YouTube channel, I’m awaiting the decision of the CPS as the police have referred it, again.
Was Ocasio-Cortez familiar with these controversies before she decided to signal her progressive virtue?
“Trans rights [are] a no brainer. Trans rights are civil rights are human rights,” she said.
But to critics of transgender ideology: Human rights are just human rights — they apply to all of us, regardless of how we identify. Meanwhile, “trans rights” — as deployed so unthinkingly by Ocasio-Cortez — are merely a rhetorical invention used to justify an increasingly aggressive ideological affront on laws, policies, and medical treatments which — in Mermaids’ case — put very vulnerable children at risk.
Editor’s note: For clarity, the sentence paraphrasing Zucker has been replaced with a direct quotation, and the surrounding text has been rephrased.