My Lords, over the years this annual debate has had contributions on many differing subjects, ranging from praise for those brave women who face hostile opposition to women having the vote and the hot issues of the day. There are many exciting positive things taking place now which I approve wholeheartedly, but others give me some concern. Today, I will make just two points.
First, I refer to the debate introduced by my noble friend Lord Lucas on women’s loos. As the mother of two sons, I well remember the first time I stood outside a male lavatory waiting for them to emerge unharmed. I strongly believe that separate female and male lavatories should be available for those who wish to have such provision. It is important for women; it is also important for men, as they can be uncomfortable having to wash their hands among make-up and other personal toiletries.
I am not a supporter of the woke community, which believes in unisex loos. I fear that among the self-identifying transgender people there are those whose presence in an area defined as women’s lavatories could distress vulnerable women, and in a public place that is just not acceptable. I find it strange that the guidance refers to unisex provision as preferable. I wonder why.
My second point is on the treatment of children on gender reassignment. I am horrified that children should wish for a sex change. I feel for parents who are faced with such difficulties, but I think sensitivity, understanding and specialist help, if needed, should be sufficient. The work of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which advises on medical intervention, is wrong; it is criminal at such a time in a young person’s life. What could be more confusing if a change of mind occurs a few years later, as has happened? Only last week Keira Bell said she should have been challenged as a teenager when, aged 16, she had treatment at the clinic. Now aged 23, she resents this. Living as a woman again, she angrily claims that children are far
“too young to give informed consent to such treatment”.
Puberty in any young person’s life, with the physical changes taking place, is always a time when emotions run riot, ranging from elation to depression, while relationships with male and female friends fluctuate for no apparent reason. Adolescence is not the time to think of surgery and other permanent, irreversible treatments. Once someone has reached adulthood that is a personal decision, but if gender reassignment is pursued the necessary processes must be followed, as trans self-identifying women are not welcome in women-only places.
It is always good to celebrate improvements in the lives of women. Over the years we have had this debate, we have been able to applaud our predecessors. Today with changing lifestyles where women have adapted, with two-income families being the norm and single-parent working families with the caring parent battling on, they deserve praise. But I fear in the future that some of our fashionable woke policies will be seen as us having taken the wrong path. I wonder whether our successors will be able to admire all our contributions. I would like to think we would give them good reason to do so, but I fear that we will not.