Hannah is an award-winning journalist with 15 years at the BBC. She is currently the Investigations Producer at Newsnight — the BBC’s flagship program for news and current affairs — and before that she was in BBC Radio, producing and reporting documentaries. She just published her first book, Time to Think: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Tavistock’s Gender Service for Children. Twenty-two publishers turned down the book in the UK, it has no US publisher, yet it’s already a Sunday Times (of London) bestseller.
You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app — though Spotify sadly doesn’t accept the paid feed). For two clips of our convo — on the unfounded activist claims of trans-kid suicide, and the dramatic shift toward girls getting hormones with little oversight — pop over to our YouTube page.
Other topics: Hannah first encountering the trans issue as a new mother; the Dutch story of the very first patient to receive puberty blockers and hormones; Jesse Singal’s pioneering journalism; the destruction of Ken Zucker’s career and clinic by activists; the old standard of “watchful waiting” swept aside; the whittling away of the Dutch protocol; Tavistock keeping very little data on patients; the vast majority of medicalized kids being gay or lesbian or bi; the hushed dissent at Tavistock over gay kids being misdiagnosed as trans; the bullying and self-hatred of gay kids; the troubled homes of patients; conflating gender dysphoria with other mental-health problems; and a few specific stories of trans and detrans kids. She is fair and measured throughout. If you have bought the line that concerns about child transitions are entirely from the bigoted right, Hannah Barnes is an antidote.
A Dish reader references an excerpt from Masha Gessen’s recent interview with David Remnick (which Hannah and I touch on in the episode):
It is very difficult … to avoid engaging with the argument about whether trans people actually exist or have the right to exist… In Emily Bazelon’s piece in the New York Times Magazine, “there’s a [paraphrased] quote from Andrew Sullivan, the conservative gay journalist, who says, ‘Well, maybe these people would’ve been gay — implying they’re really gay and not really transgender.’ That really clearly veers into the territory of saying ‘These people don’t exist. They’re not who they say they are…’ I think we have the right to exclude the view that somebody’s not who they say they are.
This is truly pernicious! Disputing Trump’s self-characterization as a “stable genius” isn’t denying that he exists. The Soviet Union existed — that doesn’t require us to endorse the Bolsheviks’ claim to have created a “Workers’ Paradise.” Saying “these people are not who they say they are” is not the same as saying they don’t exist! In fact, questioning someone’s worldview represents a de facto acknowledgment that they DO exist.
Worst of all is the notion that anyone who questions one’s own worldview must be silenced because such questioning represents an existential threat. If that’s not ideology (or dogmatism), I don’t know what is. Masha Gessen should know better, and so should David Remnick.
Remnick, sadly, is wokism’s Reek at this point. But my issue is not my reader’s. I do take every trans person’s words as to who they are — and Gessen is deliberately distorting my position, making me out to be a transphobe, as a way to credentialize herself when she concedes many of the points about media coverage I have made. The only issue I have is with whether pre-pubescent children should be taken as seriously as trans adults, and my view is no. On what other question do we take the claims of children literally?
Since the trans diagnosis cannot be done objectively — there’s no medical test — it is bound to be subjective, and subjectivity at the age of 11 is not a sane or solid standard on which to proceed — especially since the changes made have been shown to be irreversible. Even then, I wouldn’t ban sex changes for children. I’d just be far, far more restrained than the current regime — and Hannah Barnes’ description of what happened in the UK should set off alarms bells everywhere.
Here’s a listener on last week’s pod episode with James Alison on Christianity:
I really enjoyed your discussion. I’m a secular humanist, but I found myself drawn to Alison and his take on Christianity. This was definitely one of your best podcasts in recent memory.
It was a true joy to listen to your interaction with James Alison (twice, so far), and it’s certainly my favorite episode for some time.
He has such a non-anxious presence, expressing profound insights while representing a Christ-like perspective on the issues at hand. His seemingly bemused demeanor at times reminded me of my New Testament Greek professor at an evangelical college (being overtaken by the fundamentalists) who did his best to try and convince the ministerial students that Jesus actually did have a sense of humor.
I graduated and moved on to a graduate degree in clinical psychology with a clinical career of three-plus decades and an avocation (now for some time vocation) in Episcopal Church music, liturgy, and administration — currently at the diocesan level.
That said, I really want to take this opportunity to particularly thank you for Virtually Normal and Love Undetectable, which were formative for me at an important time. Blessings to you and your work!
I know that the theology we discussed was at a somewhat esoteric level, which is why I’m so grateful for Dishheads like this. Here’s a listener on the role of homosexuality in human evolution:
Paul Vasey has developed the “kin selection hypothesis” for male homosexuality. He argues that genes for homosexuality in biological males is maintained in humans to enhance indirect fitness (by offsetting the fitness costs of not reproducing directly).
I’ve long found that a persuasive argument. Another theory comes from this listener:
It seems possible to me that homosexuality among males might have evolved as a stabilizing force. Females tend to choose the top males for mating. But as human clans grew larger, polygyny is very unstable, so male homosexuality relieves some of that pressure — literally! Viewed from a clan-level, clans that had some male homosexuality in their gene pool stayed more stable (less infighting), which led to more cooperation and more success as a species.
From yet another listener who “deeply enjoyed your conversation with James Alison”:
He suggested that God’s creation continues and we are participants in it. I am interested in a related subject: the role of free will in God’s creation plan.
I believe that free will plays a central role in God’s plan because without it, the world would be static or cyclical. Ants or bees build wonderful and very elaborate houses throughout the ages, but they are always the same. But God wanted a living, autonomous, self-propelled world, not an infallible Swiss-watch mechanism in which all the participants are mere cogs in the wheel. That engine of a living and evolving world was the human, endowed with free will. Driven by a constant dissatisfaction with the status quo, humans created and destroyed, and created and destroyed again, the existing world — in an infinite creative process whose unattainable goal is perfection.
It is therefore not surprising that free will manifests itself at the very beginning of Genesis, when Adam and Eve disobey God’s instructions and commit the first sin. Sin and creativity are the fruits of the same tree. It also explains why God creates gays and all other sexual minorities. They are outside of the mainstream and offer different visions, different beauty — just like different peoples and cultures do. Different is good. Diversity discovers new paths of creation.
Gerard Manley Hopkins put it best:
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Browse the Dishcast archives for a discussion you might enjoy (the first 102 episodes are free in their entirety). As always, please send your feedback and guest recs to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My debate with readers continues over my latest column, “The Biden-DeSantis Re-Balancing Act.” First up:
You wrote, “The entire post-Soviet settlement was a redrawing of national borders” and that the war is “indeed a debate over where Russia ends and Ukraine — which literally means ‘borderland’ — begins.”