Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Monday 26th November 2018

SOME months ago a Government-backed survey invited children as young as 13 to describe their gender from a list of 25 different options. The choices put before teenagers in research for the Children’s Commissioner for England included “gender fluid,” “demi-girl” and “tri-gender.” The list of alternatives was offered as part of a campaign to “find out how gender matters to young people”.

The report, which was criticised as “biased and politically motivated,” was subsequently withdrawn, but it came at a time of deepening controversy over gender politics, amid claims by activists that everyone should be free to choose their own sex.

Then at the weekend a Sunday newspaper headlined the school where 17 pupils are changing their sex amid fears that impressionable youngsters are being groomed into joining the trend. A whistleblowing teacher claimed that many of these kids show signs of autism.

She believes few of the pupils actually suffer from gender dysphoria — the belief that they were born into a body of the wrong sex. “They are just young people with mental health problems who have found an identity and want to be part of a group of like-minded people,” she said.

Equalities minister Penny Mordaunt recently ordered officials to find out why the number of girls referred for “transitioning” has soared by more than 4,000 per cent in eight years. Figures show that 2,519 children were referred for gender treatment including hormone injections in 2017-18 against 97 in 2009-10.

Why are so many young people seeking to change their gender. Is it the influence of social media, or maybe the fact that it’s become a fashionable cause promoted by pop stars and models and even some politicians?

We’re talking about children here, not adults who have anguished long and hard about life-changing irreversible choices. Teenagers — we’ve all been there — are sometimes confused and in turmoil. There’s the quest for identity, fitting in, rebelling against the older generation, being different, being noticed in the crowd.

As a society we have become cowed by fear that, if we say what is happening isn’t right, we will be branded as non-PC dinosaurs and bigots. There are many genuine cases of gender identity disorder, but that’s very different from pressurising young people into decisions that will affect their whole lives and which they may come to regret.

The numbers should worry us greatly. The steep rise in statistics over the past 10 years does not include those “self-identifying” without medical supervision. By being reluctant to challenge the gender lobby we are failing in our duty to protect vulnerable young people who may be on the verge of making the wrong decisions.

MARTIN’S CHEESED OFF

LIFE’S tough if you are a celebrity. You can’t even eat a cheese sandwich in peace while surveying the view from the summit of England’s highest mountain if you are former pop star-turned-actor Martin Kemp. In fact Kemp, one-time lead guitarist with Spandau Ballet, is thoroughly irritated by fans who come and sit beside him and spoil his silent reverie, not to say his packed lunch.

“I do a lot of mountain walking and I was once recognised on the top of Scafell Pike,” he told a Daily Mail diarist. “Often when you get to the top, you wait and have a cheese sandwich. People come and sit next to you and then they suddenly realise who you are, and they say ‘why are you here? Surely you should be in the Bahamas’.”

The answer is obvious. Who would want to be in the Bahamas, idling their time away on some sun-drenched beach while sipping a cool cocktail brought to you by a pretty bikini-clad girl, when you can enjoy the reward of a two-hour plod to the summit of Scafell Pike? Cheese sarnies, indeed any type of sandwich, taste like a gourmet feast when you are sitting there on top of the world.

More than for his music — anything pop and post-1970 passes me by — I think of Martin Kemp’s excellent portrayal of Reggie Kray in the 1990 film about the notorious London gangsters. It’s been on the telly numerous times recently and still brings a shiver down the spine as it recalls the extreme violence of that era.

For all I know the hills may be alive with the sound of celebrities. I tend to keep my head down and look where I’m putting my feet, although many years ago I did bump, almost literally, into Bamber Gascoigne, the original and best host of University Challenge, on Helvellyn. We bade each other “good morning” and went our separate ways so I can’t tell you what filling his sandwiches contained. Mine were strawberry jam, incidentally.

As for Martin Kemp’s discomfiture, all I can say is be glad: it’s when they stop recognising you that you’ve got problems. If he’s so dischuffed by the approach of a single fan on Scafell maybe he should try the Bahamas after all.

DIGGING UP TROUBLE

SPEAKING on Radio 4 recently, controversial columnist Toby Young made a good point that we’ve all probably got something in our past we’re a little bit ashamed of and which, if dug up, would not present us in a flattering light.

As Young has at various times been accused of misogyny and homophobic tweets, it’s no doubt a sensitive issue with him. He resigned a non-executive directorship on the board of the Office for Students less than a week after his appointment, blaming complaints against him as coming from the “outrage mob”.

Young referred in his radio interview to the modern practice of “offence archaeology”. In other words digging the dirt, even if means going back decades, to uncover some small item or politically incorrect opinion, in order to wreck the career of someone you don’t like or disagree with.

Toby quoted the case of Gandhi, who was apparently condemned as a racist for something he said in his youth. Dig deep enough and even the great and the good are not safe from the reach of the outrage mob.

EXTREME HOUSES

“GET me an estate agent and make him a really smug salesman-type. Oh, and while you’re looking, bring back a couple of chefs and some auctioneers. You can never have too many chefs and auctioneers in the TV business.”

I can imagine the call of the television producer as yet another property program, food-based competition and antiques hunt is planned for next year’s schedules.

Sometimes I think there’s nowt else on the box. The occasional dip into Masterchef, or Bargain Hunt, I can just about manage. But I’m finding it increasingly difficult to stomach the plethora of programmes about houses — building them, locating them, buying them, rejecting them, showing off about them.

In an idle moment I went through the TV section of the weekend paper with a red pen and marked off just how many property shows there are on the box in any one day — Homes Under the Hammer, Escape to the Country, The House that £100k Built, A Place in the Sun, Love It or List It, Grand Designs House of the Year.

What kind of audience are they looking for when Kevin McCloud “visits four more envy-inducing homes?” I’ve heard of extreme sports, but “extreme houses” is a new one on me.

Most of these shows entail an estate agent showing a rich, sullen, upwardly-mobile couple round three magnificent properties, only for them to moan that four bathrooms, eight bedrooms, a study, kitchen to die for and a 50-acre paddock for the pony, is simply not big enough.

Whether it’s houses, two-course dinners or silver trinkets, it’s cheap to make and that seems to be the main criterion when they’re brainstorming another programme concept at W1A.

NOT SO HOT ROD

AT last I have something in common with Sir Rod Stewart, but sadly it’s not his talent as an entertainer or the bevy of beautiful women who still worship him at 73.

It’s our inability to boil an egg. The pop star admits that while he may have some sizzling moves on stage, he’s not so hot in the kitchen. “I cannot cook to save my life,” he confesses. “Last time I tried to make a boiled egg I had 20 pans and things out.”

Mine always seemed to end on the floor. Now I buy them em hard boiled at Spar. Rod has a personal chef. That’s where the similarity ends.