NHS transgender clinic will host seminar on 'the problem of whiteness'

NHS transgender clinic that was sued for giving puberty blockers to children will host anti-racist seminar on ‘the problem of whiteness’

  • Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust in London is hosting second antiracist seminar
  • Psychoanalyst will argue that ‘whiteness’ is ‘racism’ and UK is systemically racist
  • The trust runs the UK’s only gender identity development service for children

An NHS mental health trust which was sued for giving children puberty-blocking drugs is hosting a second antiracist seminar on ‘white privilege’ and ‘white fragility’.

The seminar, titled ‘Whiteness – A problem for our time’, will examine the view that ‘the problem of racism is a problem of whiteness’.

A summary of the event hosted by the Tavistock and Portman Trust in London on January 14 says that speaker Helen Morgan will ‘examine white privilege and white fragility from a psychoanalytic perspective’.

Ms Moran, who is releasing a book called The Work of Whiteness in 2021, will argue the UK is systemically racist and ‘white privilege and racism’ are maintained by ‘white fragility, the colour-blind approach and the silencing of process of disavowal that develops in the childhood of white liberal families’.

She is expected to describe how a ‘system of racism’ which is ‘so embedded within’ British society is ‘clearly doing untold harm to black people’ and that ‘such a system also limits and distorts the development of white individuals’. 

The system, Ms Morgan will say, is ‘clearly doing untold harm to black people’ and that ‘such a system also limits and distorts the development of white individuals’. 

The psychoanalyst will conclude that ‘the work required in relation to whiteness and the relinquishment of privilege is essential if we are to dismantle the system of racism that is so embedded within our society’.

A page on the Eventbrite website describing the seminar says it has been organised by the British Psychotherapy Foundation, the British Psychoanalytic Council and the Tavistock Society of Psychotherapists.  

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust is hosting a second seminar which presents the view that ‘the problem of racism is a problem of whiteness’ and that the UK is systemically racist

It states that the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust believes that ‘becoming an antiracist organisation is a necessary though difficult task’, and that Ms Morgan’s seminar is ‘a contribution to that process’.   

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust runs the UK’s only gender identity development service (GIDS) for children. 

In the first seminar, Ms Morgan said ‘whiteness’ is a ‘political and psychological construct’ first devised in 17th Century Virginia ‘as a way of controlling the enslaved and creating political and economic advantage’.

This construct, she said, ‘shaped the collective white psyche – a psyche which both recognises and disavows the reality of white privilege’.

‘Despite our individual stories, we need to recognise we are part of a white collective with a shared ideology which affords us privilege. White ignorance is the way we close our eyes to this inherited white privilege,’ Ms Morgan told 700 attendees.

The psychoanalyst argued that ‘the reality of slavery and how white people profited from it and continue to profit from it should be central to our curricula’.

A page on the Eventbrite website describing the seminar says that the talk has been organised by the British Psychotherapy Foundation, the British Psychoanalytic Council and the Tavistock Society of Psychotherapists. It states that the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust believes that ‘becoming an antiracist organisation is a necessary though difficult task’, and that Ms Morgan’s seminar is ‘a contribution to that process’

She also told the seminar that white children are ‘socialised into whiteness’, arguing: ‘The baby who is born pink, learns to become white’.

The Eventbrite page adds that Ms Morgan’s talk ‘suggests the need for white people to turn their gaze and their enquiry towards themselves as one route towards an antiracist stance in race relations’.     

The trust made headlines this month after Keira Bell, a 23-year-old who began taking puberty blockers aged 16, claimed she was treated like a ‘guinea pig’ at the clinic.

Ms Bell was injected with testosterone at 17 and had a mastectomy aged 20 before ‘detransitioning’. She said doctors did not carry out a proper psychiatric assessment and should have challenged her more over her decision to transition to a male.

The trust made headlines this month after Keira Bell, 23, claimed she was treated like a ‘guinea pig’ at the clinic. She won a major High Court battle against the clinic, after judges ruled children under 16 are unlikely to be able to give ‘informed consent’ to take puberty blockers

The clinic lost a major High Court battle after judges ruled children under 16 are unlikely to be able to give ‘informed consent’ to take puberty blockers. 

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust had argued that taking puberty blockers and later cross-sex hormones were entirely separate stages of treatment. 

The trust argued that medical specialists in this field should be able to make calls based on their assessments and claimed it was ‘a radical proposal’ to suggest children did not have the capacity to give consent.

But judges ruled that both treatments were ‘two stages of one clinical pathway and once on that pathway it is extremely rare for a child to get off it’. 

This means doctors may now seek approval or support from the court before prescribing puberty-blocking drugs to children, to try and avoid liability.    

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