The Cass Review: Nothing But Anti-Trans Propaganda

When you thought it couldn't get worse, it did

Z. P.Hopkins
Our young are given propaganda, not solutions - image by the editor via Midjourney

The publication of the Cass Review has been a profoundly distressing time for trans people in the UK. The review - conducted over four years - claims there is not sufficient evidence to justify medical interventions in trans young people and casts doubts of the viability of this care for anyone under 25.

The trans community has been quick to point out the significant issues with this review, which cast serious doubts on its scientific credibility. It rejected 50 peer-reviewed studies on trans healthcare on the grounds that they were not double blind studies. That double blind studies are rarely used in paediatric medicine and impossible when studying the effects of HRT was deemed irrelevant.

The idea that under-25s do not have fully-developed brains and should have their access to gender health care restricted is also both unscientific and extremely worrying for anyone who cares about the bodily autonomy of young people. If young trans adults can’t be trusted to make their own health care choices, what does that mean for any young person’s rights to healthcare such as abortion and contraception?

Perhaps the most insulting claim Cass makes is to insist young people are being rushed into medical treatment; trans people in the UK have long faced agonising delays waiting for care and recent freedom of information requests show that the waiting time for a first appointment at UK Gender Identity Clinics (GICs) is often over 10 years.

 The bizarre unsubstantiated claims

While Cass sets the bar for studies proving the efficacy of trans health care obscenely high, she also parrots several anti-trans conspiracies with no evidence at all.

The Cass Review suggests a whole range of activities may cause young people to develop trans identities: social groups, social media and pornography are all deemed responsible for the rising number of young people identifying as trans.

Cass goes so far as to give credence to the - frankly laughable - conspiracy that children are coming out as trans in order to avoid being seen as gay. Considering the current marginalisation of transgender people in UK society this theory is both out of touch and deeply insulting to the trans community, many of whom themselves identify as gay or bisexual.

The review is littered with other fringe theories and downright bizarre claims, at one point claiming hormones influence which toys children play with.

The Cass review certainly does not stand up to rigorous scientific scrutiny. In fact, much of it seems to be copied from the literature put out by anti-trans groups. As a result, it may not surprise readers that Dr. Hillary Cass met with colleagues of Ron DeSantis (the notoriously Queer-phobic governor of Florida) during the review's formulation.

I could go on listing issues and biases with the Cass Review, as there are many more to highlight, but instead I will explain why even the most thorough debunking will not undo the damage the Cass Review has caused.

It doesn't matter that the science is bad

The most frightening aspect of the Cass Review is that its clearly poor research, methodological flaws and downright obvious bias will not in any way affect its usefulness to anti-trans campaigners. They have got what they wanted, a scientific-looking report they can now trot out to claim every transphobic opinion they hold actually has scientific backing.

While independent  journalists and academics are doing fantastic work, finding each and every flaw and unsubstantiated claim, the British press are running stories of a medical scandal. “Online porn and social media fuel huge rise in girls wanting to be boys,” claimed the Daily Mail the day after the report was released. 

The Cass Review is now a means of radicalisation. It has caused an anti-trans propaganda stream in the British media, ushering the British public into anti-trans conspiracies.

Previously supportive figures such as Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Wes Streeting, have fully supported the Cass review’s findings, and is now claiming he regrets ever saying “trans men are men and trans women are women”. Nobody who supports the Cass Review will engage with valid criticism of it, it is accepted as gospel by the British political class and will be used to justify further crackdowns on trans people’s access to healthcare.

 Propaganda is not meant to hold up to scrutiny

Like all propaganda, the Cass Review is not intended to stand up to scrutiny. It is intended to make a bang, a media blitz across the country saying trans healthcare is bad, which can then be used by the government to justify further restricting access to gender-affirming care.

What does it matter if The Cass Review is disproven later, the damage is already done. Looking back at the 2020 US election, we can safely say every claimed incident of so called “election fraud” has been proven false, but has that stopped claims from the Republican Party, and Donald Trump himself, that the election was “stolen”? Of course not.

Another terrifying historical example of this phenomena is Julius Striker - the infamous Nazi propagandist who frequently published fictitious stories of supposed “Jewish violence” against the Aryan population. Did the fact that those stories were always proved to be lies effect the readership of Der Stormer? Again of course not, that’s not how propaganda works.

As anyone who has argued with reactionaries knows, it’s far easier for them to say something simple, easy to understand - and wrong - than it is to painstakingly explain that the data does not actually bear out what is being said. Those in power who feel their anti-trans views have been validated by the Cass Review will not go back and look at criticism of it; they will see it as gospel and continue advocating against trans healthcare.

Our work has only begun

However much grueling work is done analysing the Cass Review, painstakingly explaining its flaws and biases, the results will never reach the ears of everyone convinced of its efficacy by the British press.

No one with power will speak out against this medical stitch-up, and until they do, those of us pointing out its numerous and undeniable flaws will feel like we are just screaming into the wind while awaiting the further crackdowns on trans healthcare in the UK.

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