There’s not a journalist in the land who hasn’t, at some time or another, asked this question: ‘Can I quote you on that?’
It invariably comes during a conversation with someone important who has said something pretty shocking.
I had just such a conversation last week. It was with a senior, well-respected figure in the medical profession. We were talking about the massive increase in the past few years in the number of children who believe they were born in the wrong body.
Many are given treatment which will change their lives — sometimes after frighteningly little consultation.
The doctor told me she was worried. Desperately worried. And she has had many years’ experience of dealing with such children. She is in no doubt that far too many are being treated as though they are victims of gender dysphoria when, in her view, they’re suffering from a far more common condition.
It’s called being a confused teenager. Probably an unhappy teenager, who seizes on the latest fashionable solution to solve the problems that are making them so miserable.
What they need is not hormone-blocking medication or, God forbid, surgery, but an experienced therapist who will listen to them, and perhaps give advice. As she put it, children change constantly. It’s what growing up is all about.
And yet while they are in this state of flux we are allowing them to make life-changing decisions. Can there be a bigger decision for a girl than ‘becoming’ a boy? Or vice versa?
The truly terrifying question is: ‘What if you change your mind?’ How can we expect a young adolescent to answer that?
I interviewed a young woman for the Today programme last year who decided in her early teens that she was really a boy. So she was put on medication to stop her periods. A few years later, she was a trainee GP and decided to have her breasts removed.
At the last minute — just weeks before the operation — she realised she had made a terrible mistake and did not want to change her gender after all.
So she still has breasts but, she told me, little hope of ever having a baby. The drugs had done their work. She bitterly regretted what she had done and may well do so all her life.
The consultant told me there are many similar cases. Her fear is that we have allowed pressure groups and trans activists to take over. To control the debate. Many share that fear.
So would she allow me to use her name if I reported what she’d said? No, she would not. And I can understand why.
Politicians — scared of upsetting their leader — often hide behind anonymity. So do people who work for, say, the NHS. They might be afraid of getting the sack or at least being punished. But that was not her worry: she has her own consultancy.
It wasn’t the boss she was scared of. It was the mob.
She was afraid of being viciously attacked on social media and having her reputation destroyed. She is not alone in her fear. Far from it.
Soren Dreier: Transgender Children – A Disaster in The Making