April 26, 2024 - 11:55am

In a remarkable shift, The Guardian has published an opinion piece in defence of the Cass Report, written by a psychiatrist who revealed malpractice at the Tavistock gender clinic. David Bell’s article claims that Hillary Cass’s review of youth gender services “marks a return to reason and evidence” and “must be defended”. While its sister paper the Observer has previously been more receptive of Cass’s conclusions, the Guardian has been more reluctant.

A day after the report was released, it published an article by transgender writer Freddy McConnell which criticised Cass for “failing to take on clinicians who doubt the very existence of trans children” and “giv[ing] credence to anti-trans bias”. McConnell’s article was later amended after a previous version suggested that the feminist campaigner Julie Bindel had likened trans adults to Jimmy Savile.

In today’s article, Bell cites “the lack of an evidential base of good quality that could back claims for the effectiveness of young people being prescribed puberty blockers”, as well as his prior concerns about “the risks of long-term damaging consequences of early medical intervention”. More, he claims that the policy of “affirmation” — agreeing with a child’s belief that they were born in the wrong gender — was “an inappropriate clinical stance brought about by influential activist groups”.

A number of former Guardian writers have since spoken publicly about a culture at the paper which stifled gender-critical views and of staff who bullied women for criticising the Left-of-centre orthodoxy on “gender-affirming care”. Suzanne Moore, who used to be a columnist there, wrote for UnHerd in 2020 about her experience of being ostracised by colleagues for her views on sex differences, while former staff writer Hadley Freeman stressed in an essay that “it’s not bigoted” to stand up for single-sex spaces and the rights of biological women.

Speaking to UnHerd today, Bindel said, “I know how hard David Bell had to try to get the Guardian to agree to him writing an opinion piece, following his complaints about the Freddy McConnell article. I don’t believe for one minute that the Guardian has decided it has been wrong all along on this issue, but its hand has been forced.” Speaking about the newspaper, she went on, “What a monumental mess it’s made of everything, losing decent feminist journalists and readers in order to capitulate to transactivists on staff and contract.”

A Guardian editorial earlier this month labelled Cass’s work “necessary and important”, though it added that the review was “not a full stop in the [gender] debate”. Bell concludes his opinion piece by claiming that “the pendulum is already swinging towards a reassertion of rationality. Cass’s achievement is to give that pendulum a hugely increased momentum.”