What do you do when someone who appears to be homeless, possibly sitting in a doorway as you walk past, who catches your attention and asks you for money? Should you give it to them? And if you don’t, are you being uncaring? According to the journalist Matt Broomfield, yes you should, and if you don’t, yes you are being uncaring.
Give your cash directly and unconditionally to homeless people. Don’t just buy them a sandwich from Pret. They’re not four. They have the right to spend their money as they choose – and it is their money, once given. Don’t just give to people performing, singing, or accompanied by a cute dog. Don’t second-guess whether people are “really” homeless.
In other words, your action should be shaped by a relentless sense of compassion which asks no questions, trucks no reflection, but is expressed in action. And Jon Kuhrt thinks he is profoundly wrong. Jon had earlier in the year written a post about why Pope Francis was wrong when he said something similar:
It sounds kind to tell people to give money to anyone who asks, but we do not have the luxury of such simplistic approaches. We should not be cynical or harsh toward those begging, but we need to have a compassionate realism about the nature of their problems. People begging are not intrinsically bad people and almost always have genuine needs. But handing over cash to them simply does not meet those needs effectively. The homeless charity Thames Reach estimate that 80% of those begging are doing so to maintain an addiction. Rather than helping, handing over cash can actually be killing with kindness.
That final phrase, ‘killing with kindness’, locates this kind of ethical decision alongside the decisions that any parent has to make about any child who asks them for something. Should I give them what they want, regardless? Is that the loving thing to do? For most of us, the answer is clearly ‘No’—but it is amazing how many in our culture struggle to see why. It is quite right that we are not ‘parents’ to the homeless who function as ‘children’—but there remains a dynamic of responsible action on the part of the giver. Giving to anyone is an act of power, and without wisdom, that power can be misused. In fact, giving without thinking through the consequences merely serves to assuage our sense of guilt, rather than being a genuine act of love.
Jon knows what he is talking about, not only from his ministerial and professional experience, but because of deep personal tragedy.
My cousin James and I were the same age so as youngsters we spent a lot of time together. He was very good looking, cheeky and outwardly very confident. But in his teenage years, he began drinking heavily and in his twenties he became addicted to heroin. It began a 20 year battle with the drug. James died suddenly just after Christmas last year. He was 45.
But Jon’s relationship with James has been marked not just by love, but by wise discipline.
One of the reasons we got on well was that we were honest and upfront with each other. He would often say ‘Let’s have no bullshit Jonathan’. Crucially, we agreed some clear boundaries. First, we agreed that I would never lend him any money. Secondly, although he could phone me whenever he wanted to, I would end any conversations where he was simply blaming everyone else for his situation. Rather than find these judgmental, James appreciated these boundaries.
So Jon is right: it is not only unloving, but potentially seriously harmful, simply to give what you are asked for in this situation—and there are better alternative courses of action. What, then, when someone comes and asks for support in or recognition of gender ‘transition’? If such discernment, discipline and wisdom is needed in answering the straightforward question ‘Should I give money to the homeless?’, then what of the far more complex question of gender identity?
The famous obstetrician Robert Winston was drawn into the controversy around this question on Radio 4 last week. He pointed out the serious harm that can arise from medical intervention to effect gender ‘transition’.
Speaking on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4, he said that “results are horrendous in such a big proportion of cases”. He said 40 per cent of people who undergo vaginal reconstruction surgery experience complications as a result, and many need further surgery, and 23 per cent of people who have their breasts removed “feel uncomfortable with what they’ve done”.
He added: “What I’ve been seeing in a fertility clinic are the long-term results of often very unhappy people who now feel quite badly damaged. One has to consider when you’re doing any kind of medicine where you’re trying to do good not harm, and looking at the long-term effects of what you might be doing, and for me that is really a very important warning sign.”
For expressing his informed medical opinion, Winston received a torrent of hate mail from transgender activists. But he was expressing from a medical point of view similar reservations expressed by the feminist Camille Paglia:
Although I describe myself as transgender (I was donning flamboyant male costumes from early childhood on), I am highly skeptical about the current transgender wave, which I think has been produced by far more complicated psychological and sociological factors than current gender discourse allows. Furthermore, I condemn the escalating prescription of puberty blockers (whose long-term effects are unknown) for children. I regard this practice as a criminal violation of human rights.
The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one’s birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.
All this makes Synod’s passing of a motion on this issue last July look at best naive, at worst very foolish. Winston is pointing out the (unintended) consequences of hasty and naive action in this area, just as Jon Kuhrt is pointing out the results of hasty and naive action in response to the homeless. There are the consequences of giving an unthinking and unqualified affirmation of those asking for recognition of their transgender status, even if motived by kindness. It is, in any complex situation, quite possible to harm even when intending to do good, if care and love are not shaped by awareness and wisdom. What is true of those asking for money is true of those asking for recognition. These are the facts that the Church needs to take account of; in fact, these are the things any of us needs to take account of if we are to be wise and compassionate pastors.
Transgender Trend are a non-religious group representing parents of children with gender dysphoria who do not agree with the current transgender ideology. They made a presentation to the Government, opposing the planned demedicalisation of the legal process around ‘transition’. I reproduce below some of the facts they set out—facts that the Church of England will need to take into account in anything that it proposes in this area as part of its wider debate on sexuality.
I also speak to urge caution on behalf of the children of this generation who are caught up in the teaching of a new rigid, anti-science belief system presented to them as fact. 
If Gender Identity is established in law as a Protected Characteristic, it will apply to children of any age. But a child’s identity is not fixed: it changes over time, and it is shaped by factors like parental approval and societal influences. If all trusted adults are reinforcing daily a little boy’s belief that he is really a girl, this will have an obvious self-fulfilling effect. Puberty blockers supply the ‘answer’ to the created fear of a puberty he now believes to be the ‘wrong’ one.
Almost all children on blockers progress to cross-sex hormones at age 16.  Very few come off this path of increasingly invasive medical treatments once they are on it and so-called ‘social transition’ is the first step. This approach clearly works to prevent normal resolution of childhood gender dysphoria and foster persistence of opposite-sex identity.
While trans activists call for the de-medicalisation of ‘transgender,’ in the case of children they campaign aggressively for social transition, blockers and cross-sex hormones at ever earlier ages.
The surge in sex hormones at puberty triggers the enormous changes in the teenage brain which don’t complete their job until the mid-twenties.  The brain /personality is not fully-formed until then. The effects of blockers on adolescent brain development are unknown  although studies on adults, including men taking the drug for prostate cancer, indicate risk of memory loss, depression and cognitive impairment.  Recent reports from the US indicate long-term serious health effects for women who were administered blockers for precocious puberty, such as excruciating muscle and bone pain, depression, weakness and fatigue. 
Preventing a child’s sexual development in early puberty, followed at 16 by cross-sex hormones, results in sterility as viable eggs or sperm have not developed.  These children are prevented from ever experiencing puberty: hormones can only superficially feminise or masculinise secondary sex characteristics, they cannot create the puberty of the opposite sex. Risks of cross-sex hormones include cardiac disease, high blood pressure, blood clots, strokes, diabetes and cancers.  Some significant effects are irreversible, such as male-pattern baldness and body and facial hair, masculinised voice and compromised fertility.
There have been no clinical research trials into the long-term effects of this treatment on children: this is a non evidence-based practice  to treat a non evidence-based diagnosis of being ‘a girl trapped in a boy’s body’ and vice versa  and this generation of children are the guinea pigs.
‘Transgender’ is an ideological label distinct from the clinical diagnosis ‘gender dysphoria.’ To call a child ‘transgender’ is to make both a claim that the child’s feelings represent material reality and a prediction about that child’s future: they will not change.
An analysis of all published research studies of children with ‘gender dysphoria’ shows that 80% will naturally come to be happy as the sex they were born  and this is true of even some of the most severe cases, we can’t know which children will persist and which will desist.
Opposite-sex identity in childhood is overwhelmingly predictive of gay or lesbian sexual orientation in adulthood, not transsexualism.  Affirming a child’s ‘gender identity’ can therefore be seen as gay conversion therapy by another name.
There has been an almost 1000% increase in children referred to the Tavistock clinic in London over the past 6 years.  These figures are inflated by the unprecedented rise in the number of girls – nearly 70% of the figure overall and over 70% of adolescent referrals last year.  By comparison, in the late Sixties 90% of adult transsexuals were male. 
We are aware that teenagers and young adults are susceptible to indoctrination, brainwashing and social contagion which is why we block online anorexia and self-harm sites. The internet, however, is chock-full of Tumblr bloggers and Youtube vloggers with hundreds of thousands of followers, who are selling vulnerable young people the myth of transformation through cosmetic alteration of their bodies, including amputation of healthy body parts, and a lifetime’s dependency on powerful off label hormones.
Recent reports of girls’ mental health indicate that girls and young women in the UK are in crisis.  Recently published evidence of the rate of sexual abuse and harassment in schools across the UK is a matter of national shame. 
Reports such as the recent Stonewall Schools Report  which indicate high suicidal ideation in ‘trans’ youth serve to cover up the fact that the vast majority of these youngsters will be teenage girls, now hidden in the category ‘trans boys.’
A PSHE teacher and Head of Year at a large comprehensive told me that in her school the kids who identify as ‘trans’ are, without exception, either lesbian, autism spectrum, have mental health problems or have suffered sexual abuse.
Parents are also concerned about the relentless gender identity propaganda their children are subject to today – across the media,  the internet and in schools, through organisations such as GIRES, Gendered Intelligence, Mermaids and Educate and Celebrate. The belief that gender is an innate identity is taught to children as truth, with no alternative views offered, in contravention of the UN Rights of the Child.
The ‘transition or suicide’ trope is repeated endlessly, against all Samaritans guidelines. There is no evidence that children will commit suicide if their parents fail to support them in taking a medical pathway, but of course the threat terrifies parents into feeling they have to.
There are over 260 trans youth support groups across the UK , which provide the ‘tribe’ where our most vulnerable young people will be accepted, maybe for the first time, as long as they identify as trans. All transgender organisations advertise their support for ‘gender non-conforming’ youth, sweeping up all children who are ‘different’ and don’t fit in.
These organisations claim to support ‘diversity’ but of course they do the opposite: a girl who rejects feminine stereotypes is transformed into a ‘boy’ who conforms to masculine stereotypes. Gender non-conformity is erased. Regressive and reactionary sex-stereotyping is being sold to young people as a progressive social justice movement.
To teach children that their ‘authentic self’ is something in their heads, split off from and in opposition to, the body, is to create gender dysphoria. Mind-body disassociation is recognised as a state of mental ill-health: in this case uniquely, it is presented as a normal variation and something to be celebrated. Mental health is based on being equipped to accept reality.
Since children have been taught that it is their ‘gender identity’ which makes them a boy or a girl and not their biological sex, calls to Childline from young people confused about their gender have doubled in a year – eight calls are now received every day from children as young as eleven.  The concept of ‘gender identity’ is clearly – and inevitably – causing mental health problems for young people.
Any child who suffers genuine gender dysphoria must of course be sensitively supported in schools and youth organisations. But teachers, professionals and other children cannot be asked to collude in the reinforcement of a child’s belief which contradicts reality. Recognition of biological facts is not bigotry.
When girls are told that a male classmate is now a girl, their sense of their own reality is shattered. If a biological male is a girl, then it is not female biology which makes you a girl, it is something else. Girls must look to a male classmate to find out the invisible magic quality they need, and the boy is given the power to define what a girl is. We cannot predict the long-term practical or psychological effects on girls taught to deny their own biology, without the right to even define themselves correctly as the female sex.
If teenage girls must consent to a male classmate using their toilets and changing-rooms they learn that their boundaries may be violated and their consent is unimportant. Girls learn that they are not always allowed to say ‘no.’ This is grooming; lessons on the importance of consent become meaningless.
Girls who are coached at school into ignoring their own discomfort and intuition may go on to put themselves in risky situations with any man who claims to be a woman, out of fear of being seen as transphobic.
In the case of public swimming pool changing rooms a young girl cannot name a male with a penis as a man: voyeurism and indecent exposure cease to exist as crimes if a man claims to be a woman. Normal child protection protocols effectively become unlawful.
 Hot Topics in Child Health conference, 12 June 2017, evidence from Dr Polly Carmichael, Tavistock clinic
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