MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Nine is much too young to pick a gender

In our time, thanks to revolutions in social attitudes and medical practice, it is more and more common for people to express doubts about their sexual identity.

Perhaps such doubts have always been more prevalent than we realised. Perhaps they are in some cases exaggerated or encouraged by a culture in which old gender boundaries have grown increasingly vague.

Whatever the reason, they are taken more seriously, and seen at earlier ages than would once have been the case.

Monthly shots: Children are injected with Gonapeptyl, which costs £82 a time, to delay the onset of puberty

Monthly shots: Children are injected with Gonapeptyl, which costs £82 a time, to delay the onset of puberty

While some reject the modern view that those who believe they were born into the wrong body have an objective illness which can be treated with drugs and even surgery, even sceptics recognise that many such people do seek this treatment, and are often glad of it when they get it.

But the most open-minded person must be concerned when children as young as nine are prescribed potent drugs which delay the onset of puberty.

Children are full of powerful passions, fears and enthusiasm. Some of these last into adulthood, others flourish for a while and then vanish.

It is not always easy to tell which is which, and wise parents, teachers and doctors, confronted with these emotions, are patient and cautious.

The prescription of powerful bodyaltering drugs to children considered too young to take almost any important legal decision is impatient and rash.

Leaving aside the question of the unknown long-term effects of this medication, might not these drugs actually confirm and set in concrete a desire which might have faded away in time?

Might those who take them, in later life, regret embarking on an irreversible course which once seemed desirable, but does so no longer?

This is a delicate and difficult subject, and most of us instinctively shy away even from thinking about it. But even the most tolerant and open-minded will surely conclude that this is an intervention too far.

Nine is far too soon.

Voting isn’t a game

In the past, elections have been – officially at least – about policies and issues. But this week’s poll is really about the whole future of our party system.

Nigel Farage’s UKIP is a revolt, not a serious attempt to become the government.

Tories tired of David Cameron’s social liberalism and Labour voters worried about mass immigration are both using UKIP as a painless way to punish their own parties.

Nigel Farage' Ukip are widely expected to come top in the European elections this Thursday

Nigel Farage' Ukip are widely expected to come top in the European elections this Thursday

By voting for UKIP, rebel voters hope to send a strong message to the establishment.

But there is more at stake. Less than a year before a critical General Election, large-scale defections from the Tories could shake their foundations so badly that their chances of staying in government after 2015 are irreversibly destroyed.

So Thursday’s vote is not a consequence free jamboree. It is a serious moment, and requires serious reflection.

Value of a free press

Last March, The Mail on Sunday revealed the truth about Cheque Centre, a payday loan company which claimed that it did not take advantage of desperate or ignorant borrowers.

In a legitimate and justified use of undercover reporting, we found the firm fell far below proper standards.

Now Cheque Centre has been sharply reined in after an intervention by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Once again, strong, independent journalism, loathed and feared by so many in the establishment, has proved its worth.


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