I had hoped post Brexit that the UK would become a boring, reliable friend of freedom and democracy (“Do you find everyone else boring? You’ve only yourself to blame”, Focus). I had hoped that we would do boring things such as feed and house the entire population. Potholes would be fixed, public transport less expensive and unreliable houses insulated.
Alas, the quest for shareholder value and bone-headed populism has instead produced a constant flow of unlearned lessons from our state institutions and an almost comical lack of self-awareness in the international arena. Ukraine, in her agony to achieve freedom from autocracy, has transformed a comedian into a statesman and leader and maintained a unity of purpose and nationhood. In contrast, the UK has become divided – between rich and poor, town and country, young and old and between the smaller nations of the union and England.
Let’s embrace the boring and knuckle down to achieving concrete results, rather than promoting hype. Let us sit down and stop thinking that there are shortcuts to success at any level.
Viv Groskop’s entertaining article on boring professions reminded me of the entry that used to appear in the Yellow Pages phone directory in the 1980s: “Boring – see Civil Engineers”.
Love and disability on screen
It was great to read your interview with Ruth Madeley about the drama Then Barbara Met Alan (“‘These stories change how people think’”, Magazine). While Ruth’s comments are excellent, she says: “I don’t think it had been done before: two visibly disabled characters, played by two disabled actors, in a loving – and sexy – sex scene.”
However, this was done for the first time in the BBC film Every Time You Look at Me (2004), with Mat Fraser and Lisa Hammond. It was still astonishing that it took this long. My disabled partner, Richard Rieser, ran the “1 in 8 Campaign” in the 1990s, which broke new ground in campaigning for disabled people to be shown positively in all mainstream media, culminating in The Raspberry Ripple Awards on Channel 4.
Sweet dreams? Hardly
I read with mounting horror Stuart McGurk’s piece on the new-age fashion for “manifesting” what you want (“When your dreams come true”, Magazine). This turbo-charged individualism was a trend in the 1990s and it’s sad to see it being peddled again to desperate and gullible young people. Apparently to manifest a dream car or boyfriend you just need to totally focus on what you want. Presumably, people caught up in war and famine, poverty or violence are just not focusing enough?
Young people and gender
Last week, this paper published its view on the Cass review on gender identity services for children, calling, without a hint of irony, for an end to “ideology” (“Children with gender identity issues are ill served by adults who shut down debate”, Comment). For years, the Gender Identity Development Service has been positioned as variably both “affirmative” or “gate-keeping”, “too rushed” or “too ponderous”. These are false dichotomies.
At GIDS, we take a young person’s sense of themselves seriously. Some may refer to this approach as “affirmative”. However, being respectful of someone’s identity does not preclude exploration. Recent independent research relates first hand the experiences of young people.
Most of our young people meet the criteria for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Yet only a minority access puberty blockers. Gender dysphoria alone is a poor predictor for who might benefit from a medical pathway.
Our specialist NHS service works developmentally to arrive at a shared understanding of what support may be needed. While we are trained to identify wider psychological or safeguarding needs, we liaise with local services to meet these. We do explore and seek to understand the impact of co-occurring difficulties and neurodiversity, but do not conceptualise the experience of gender incongruence as a symptom to be resolved with extensive therapy.
There is a reason GIDS evolved over decades at the Tavistock – it is a place with a long history of holding complexity. Simplistic notions about gender have no place and do not serve young people. Of course, what is universally accepted is the recognition that young people need more support from other services, something we have long been calling for.
Paul Jenkins, CEO Tavistock and Polly Carmichael, director GIDS
My family’s adoption trauma
Thank you for your piece about the forced adoptions carried out in the 1950s-1970s (“‘We’re human beings, we deserve an apology,’ say forced adoption victims”, News). My mother was one of those who gave birth in a mother and baby home during that period and the experience scarred her for life. She was one of the few to keep her baby – in her “cohort” only two did so, herself and another young woman who was handing her child over to the grandma to raise. The impact on my mother was tremendous. She has suffered from mental health issues ever since, and when she gave birth to my brother 16 years later, the impact of that delayed trauma was still with her.
She often spoke of the way she was chastised as she was giving birth to me, being told that she was an awful human being and that there was no way she would be able to raise a child out of wedlock. The impact was so extreme that when I was pregnant 40 years later, she had to have therapy due to PTSD flashbacks.
The young women who had their children adopted were not the only ones who suffered. It was all young women who went through that system and the impact reverberates still among women of my age, both as daughters of those who kept their babies and daughters of those who were forced to submit, since that knowledge becomes a form of generational trauma that is handed down.
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Slings and arrows
Snobbery and stereotyping in the Everyman crossword last Sunday? I fear so: Everyman No 3,936 clue for 21 down: “Here you see outsized competitors hover excitedly, primarily?” Solution: oche (the line to be toed when playing darts). Not so Everyman after all?