Wednesday , 6 July 2022

You can trust me; I’ve done drag – a response to Everett

Rupert Everett’s interventions on Gender Identity Disorders are hurtful, horrible, thoughtless and ugly


I have a confession to make. I have a problem with Rupert Everett. Usually I have to pause for a moment while I remember that he is NOT Richard E Grant. He was NOT in Withnail and I. It’s not something that I lie awake at night and worry about; God knows I have enough problems, and none of this is in any way Mr. Everett’s fault.

Another thing Mr. Everett is NOT is an authority on gender dysphoria. In particular he is NOT an authority on the diagnosis and treatment of paediatric gender identity disorders. By all accounts, Mr. Everett ran away from boarding school at 16, was given the bum’s rush from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. I also understand he is a competent enough actor on both stage and screen, and writes books. There is no disgrace in any of that.

His public pronouncements on the transition journey of Caitlin Jenner are just spiteful, but Ms. Jenner is big girl, she’s has heard a lot worse, and probably has no idea who Mr. Everett (who was not in Withnail and I) is. She can take the heat.

Sadly for me, I do have another problem with Mr. Everett. Recently he has taken to making public pronouncements on a subject that might impact on the welfare and wellbeing of vulnerable children.

The Guardian, The Daily Mail, and The Telegraph, and other organs of the fourth estate have reported his recent revelations regarding his flirtation with being transgender, and demonstrates his own ignorance, his arrogance, and a cavalier disregard for the feelings of others that is as vicious as it is wrong – “I really wanted to be a girl. Thank God the world of now wasn’t then, because I’d be on hormones and I’d be a woman. After I was 15 I never wanted to be a woman again.”

So you really wanted to be a girl, did you? Good for you! I don’t care. I really don’t care. It’s a common enough phenomenon. Most boys who want to dress as girls in childhood grow out of the idea around puberty. Some of them are gay, some straight, and most live happily ever after, never needing to transition, and look back joyfully on this aspect of their childhood selves. But it is here that the fairy tale must end.

Though I am uncomfortable with the phrase, Gender Identity Disorders are real. They are very real, and their existence is supported by a body of evidence that cannot be easily brushed aside by the oh-well-I-used-to-wear-my-sister’s-knickers-and-I-now-play-rugby school of thinking. They are certainly more real than Mr. Everett’s imagined qualification to speak on the subject.

[A brief aside if I may: I used to play rugby too. I was an expert marksman/markswoman. I climbed trees. I played with war toys. I boxed. I was a juvenile delinquent. The police brought me home from time to time. I was charged once with “illegal trespass, and malicious damage” and “stealing apples” – more than once actually. I was a tomboy, I suppose, because I always knew I was a girl. I never doubted that. Now, of course, I am as ladylike as all let loose.]

Let us return to Mr. Everett’s damaging statement that “I’d be on hormones and I’d be a woman”. Nope. Sorry, but not true. He wouldn’t then and he wouldn’t now. Young children are not given hormone therapy. This lie is often paraded by an unsympathetic press, and perpetuates the myth that crazy parents force children to undergo unnecessary hormonal treatments. This simply does not happen. This myth was subject of my own Press Complaints Commission complaint against the Scottish Sun in 2013. My complaint was upheld. The Sun had misrepresented the facts. Some things never change.

The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, and The Sunday Times magazine (where Mr. Everett’s comments were first published) and any other source that reprints Mr. Everett’s comment without clarification are as guilty of the same wrongdoing. Misreporting medical issues by the press is a serious matter.

While the behaviour of many children tends to blur the gender binary, there are very few children who suffer from diagnosable gender identity disorders. These children need help. Without help they face a lifetime of unimaginable discomfort and emotional trauma.

Mr. Everett has had his say; he has graced us with the manifold blessings of his infinite wisdom. He has that right. He is wrong. He is foolish. His opinions are wrong, wrong-headed, but they are worse than that. They are an attack on children; they are an attack on parents who struggle to secure suitable treatment for a child in distress; they are hurtful, horrible, thoughtless and ugly.

I have an opinion; my opinion is that Mr. Everett’s comments, and their widespread dissemination has a potential to damage those few vulnerable children. Shame on you!

I liked Withnail and I. I’m glad Richard E. Grant played Withnail; I’m glad Mr. Everett didn’t.

About Lesley Stafford

Lesley Stafford
Lesley Stafford was active on issues around the treatment of male to female transsexuals within the NHS, and is co author of a report by the Women Thinking Trans Issues Group. She is a freelance grumpy old woman.

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