I had hoped after Brexit that the UK would become a boring and reliable friend of freedom and democracy (“Do you find everyone boring? You have only yourself to blame”, Focus). I had hoped that we would do boring things like feed and house the whole population. Potholes would be fixed, public transport cheaper, and unreliable homes isolated.
Alas, the quest for shareholder value and headstrong populism have instead produced a steady stream of unlearned lessons from our state institutions and an almost comical lack of self-awareness on the international stage. Ukraine, in its agony to free itself from autocracy, transformed a comedian into a statesman and a leader and maintained a unity of purpose and nation. By contrast, the UK has become divided – between rich and poor, city and country, young and old, and between the smaller nations of the union and England.
Let’s embrace boredom and focus on getting real results, rather than promoting hype. Let’s sit down and stop thinking that there are shortcuts to success at every level.
Viv Groskop’s entertaining article on boring professions reminded me of the entry that appeared in the Yellow Pages phone book 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 the way people think’”, Magazine). While Ruth’s comments are excellent, she says, “I don’t think this has been done before: two visibly disabled characters, played by two disabled actors, in an affectionate – and sexy – sex scene.
However, it was first done in the BBC film Every time you look at me (2004), starring Mat Fraser and Lisa Hammond. It was still amazing that it took so long. My disabled partner, Richard Rieser, led the “1 in 8 Campaign” in the 1990s, which broke new ground in campaigning for people with disabilities to be portrayed positively in all mainstream media, resulting in Raspberry Ripple Prices on channel 4.
Sweet dreams? Barely
I read with growing horror Stuart McGurk’s article on new-age fashion to “manifest” what you want (“When Your Dreams Come True”, Magazine). This supercharged individualism was fashionable in the 1990s and it is sad to see it being sold to desperate and gullible young people. Apparently, to manifest a dream car or a boyfriend, all you have to do is focus totally on what you want. Presumably, people caught up in war and famine, poverty or violence just aren’t focusing enough?
Youth and gender
Last week, this article published its take on the Cass review of gender identity services for children, calling, without the slightest irony, for an end to the “ideology” (“Children with gender identity issues are ill-served by adults who close the debate”, Comment). For years, the Gender Identity Development Service has been positioned as both “affirmative” or “guardian”, “too rushed” or “too heavy”. These are false dichotomies.
At GIDS, we take young people’s self-esteem seriously. Some might call this approach “affirmative”. However, being respectful of someone’s identity does not preclude exploration. Recent independent research provides first-hand accounts of the experiences of young people.
Most of our young people meet the criteria for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Yet only a minority has access to puberty blockers. Gender dysphoria alone is a poor predictor of who might benefit from a medical journey.
Our specialist NHS service is working on development to come to a common understanding of the support that may be needed. Although we are trained to identify broader psychological or protection needs, we liaise with local services to address them. We explore and seek to understand the impact of concurrent difficulties and neurodiversity, but do not conceptualize the experience of gender incongruence as a symptom to be resolved through extensive therapy.
There’s a reason GIDS has evolved over the decades at Tavistock – it’s a place with a long history of complexity. Simplistic notions of 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, which we have long called for.
Paul JenkinsCEO Tavistock and Polly CarmichaelGIDS director
The trauma of my family’s adoption
Thank you for your article on the forced adoptions practiced in the years 1950-1970 (“’We are human beings, we deserve an apology’, say the victims of forced adoptions”, News). My mother was one of those who gave birth in a mother and baby home during this time and the experience marked her for life. She was one of the few to keep her baby – in her “cohort” only two did, herself and another young woman who left her child with the grandmother to raise. The impact on my mother was enormous. 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 present.
She often talked about how she was scolded while giving birth to me, being told she was an awful human being and there was no way she could raise a child out of wedlock. The impact was so extreme that when I was pregnant 40 years later she had to go to therapy due to PTSD flashbacks.
Young women who have had their children adopted are not the only ones to suffer. It was all young women who went through this system and the impact still reverberates among women 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 returned.
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Slings and booms
Snobbery and stereotypes in Everyman’s crossword puzzle last Sunday? I’m afraid: Everyman No 3,936 hint for 21 down: “Here you see oversized competitors hovering with enthusiasm, mostly?” Solution: oche (the line to follow when playing darts). Not so Everyman after all?