Surprise: Tavistock exposé had difficulty finding a publisher

March 2, 2023 • 12:30 pm

Hannah Barne’s tale is very similar to what’s happened to me and some of my colleagues lately, but it’s even worse. While we’ve had articles about cancellation rejected because the publisher was afraid of being canceled, Hannah Barnes couldn’t get what is an apparently compelling tale about what happened with the Tavistock Gender Centre even considered by book publishers.  You’ll remember that Tavistock was infamous for its “affirmative care” of gender dysphoric children, care that involved rah-rah (and minimal) psychotherapy followed by putting children and adolescents on a treadmill leading to hormone blockers, puberty, and surgery.

The Centre was subject to a report by Dr. Hilary Cass, who excoriated it for its lax medical and psychological treatments. The NHS closed the clinic for good and farmed out its services to other hospitals with a different mission: to practice “holistic and appropriate care” rather than “gender-affirming care”. That, to my mind, is all to the good.

This article, free in the Times of London (click on the screenshot) details the hug problems Journalist Hannah Barnes had getting her book about the Tavistock mess, Time to Think, published. She finally did, but most publishers not only wouldn’t consider the manuscript, but wouldn’t even respond to her submission of a prospectus. That is, they wouldn’t say “yes” or “no”, they just didn’t answer.

Some excerpts from the piece:

My book proposal had been sent to 22 publishers, but none had offered to take it on. That isn’t unusual. Proposals are submitted and rejected all the time. But it was the responses, or rather lack of them, that were most surprising.

The proposal was detailed. I’d spent months writing it in the evenings, after working during the day at the BBC’s Newsnight, where this story started, and at weekends. The proposal ran to 17,000 words and set out clearly the feel of the book, and a good idea of how the chapters might break down. (That later changed as my research ballooned; my initial manuscript clocked in at 160,000 words.) It explained that I would be taking an evidence-based approach, as we had done at Newsnight, and summarised my journalistic background in handling sensitive source material and standing up stories with documentary evidence. I explained that where there was uncertainty, it would be stated. The book being proposed – and the one that is now published – was not a polemic, but rather a balanced work of reportage about the care provided to deeply vulnerable children and young people, some of whom have been helped, but some of whom have been harmed.

And the prospective publishers were bloody RUDE:

But still, after all the work we had done, I didn’t expect what happened next.

Of the 12 who responded, all via email, not one publisher said anything negative about the proposal. In fact, several praised it, saying that it was an important story that should be told. But, essentially, not by them. Some mentioned that other authors they published would be “sensitive” to the material, others hinted that it would be difficult to get it past junior members of staff.

Another, who wanted to publish the book, had to take the decision all the way to the chief executive, who then declined, saying it was too controversial. Neither I nor Newsnight’s reporting has ever questioned the identity of young people or the right of people to transition. But, it was as if questioning the care provided to a group of young people could not be seen as legitimate in its own right.

Barnes’s book was finally published by Swift Press, and this is how she concludes her account:

With the news last week about the rewriting passages of Roald Dahl’s books, I can say that Swift did not require my manuscript to be scrutinised by sensitivity readers, nor did they ask me to change a word. Just maybe cut it down a bit. But they have told me of their experience of taking the book to internal sales conferences, where people dared not ask a question in the public forum but grabbed them one-on-one in the coffee break afterwards. Staff were interested in the topic and wanted to know more, but were equally worried that there would be negative publicity for Swift.

I am thrilled that Time to Think has been reviewed so favourably by publications of all political stripes. It will be available in well-known bookshops – or at least in some. Perhaps the tide is turning. Perhaps the publishing industry is coming around to the view – held so strongly by me and my colleagues at Newsnight — that there is always a place for impartial scrutiny and robust evidence-based journalism, even if it exposes uncomfortable truths in contentious areas. And if so, that can only be a good thing.

This is the issue: even just bringing up the topic of gender transition, which in the case of Tavistock was not handled well, is taboo. And publishers are often timorous, yellow-bellied cowards, afraid of both social media pushback and the revolt of younger staffers, who are generally woke. (This recently happened with objective New York Times articles on gender dysphoria, though the staff pushback was quashed by the management.) It’s up to all of us who oppose squelching of discussion and the creation of “taboo” subjects, for which discussion isn’t allowed, to fight back against the madness.

In the coming months I’ll recount some of the issues my colleagues and I have encountered in trying to write about the damage ideology and wokeness is bringing to science.

You can order Barnes’s book by clicking on the image below. Maybe you’ll want to read it just to support the cause of free discussion of controversial issues. But it does sounds like a good book. The reviews, as she said, have been good, even the one in the Guardian.


11 thoughts on “Surprise: Tavistock exposé had difficulty finding a publisher

  1. Maybe of interest to readers here:
    Andrew Doyle: Interview with Hannah Barnes about her book ” Time to Think: The inside story of the collapse of the Tavistock’s Gender Service for Children.” GB News, Feb 26, 2023, 11 mins

    How the Tavistock gender clinic ran out of control. The Times, Feb 11, 2023
    Hadley Freeman meets the BBC’s Hannah Barnes, who spoke to dozens of former staff and patients, but had to fight to even get her book published

  2. As someone who’s spent my working life in publishing, it’s extraordinary to me that so many senior management figures in publishing now seem to be running scared of their own junior staff. I’ve never experienced anything like that atmosphere anywhere I’ve worked.

  3. This is terribly surprising, unfortunately. Publishing a controversial book puts the publisher’s reputation at risk. There’s also the risk of expensive lawsuits, even if they are unjustified.

  4. On the role of the staff of publishing houses, and the need for senior figures not to be running scared, I’d mention that Oxford University Press stood firm in the face of two letters of complaint about their publishing Holly Lawford-Smith’s book on gender-critical feminism. This was in April, 2022. One letter, from employees and authors, asked that the decision to publish be reconsidered. The other letter, from authors associated with the Press, did not ask that the book be withdrawn, but objected to the process by which the Press had decided to publish it. The book had not yet been published, so the criticism was not based on anything the letter-writers had actually seen in the book.

  5. I bought the Kindle edition last Thursday when it came out. I’m about a fifth of the way through and finding it very good so far.

    Because it’s focused on the Tavistock Clinic’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), its young patients, and their care it is much less wide-ranging than more general books on gender ideology, such as Helen Joyce’s Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality, Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage, or Kathleen Stock’s Material Girls, although all three of them deal with medical aspects of transgenderism and I would highly recommend them.

    Like those books, Time to Think exposes the weak evidence base of so-called “gender-affirming” care, but specifically concentrates on the failures of decision making and safe-guarding at GIDS that have resulted in its imminent closure.

  6. ‘Hard to publish’? My copy ordered! (How easily I am manipulated.)

    And looking at I am presented with a pageful of nearly-right titles that are not her book. People both cashing in and publishing their alternative truths. Effing remarkable! I will persevere and find and order the right one.

  7. Neither I nor Newsnight’s reporting has ever questioned the identity of young people or the right of people to transition. But, it was as if questioning the care provided to a group of young people could not be seen as legitimate in its own right.

    You would think that it would be possible for even people who were 100% convinced that we’re all born with a gender identity in our brains & trans ppl suffer greatly from a disorder in their development to nevertheless admit that invasive forms of physical treatment are probably too dangerous, untested, and/or unfocused to be used on children. The difficulty in doing so points I think to the very tentative nature of the original claims.

    Right behind the insistence that experts have thoroughly studied the topic and know what they’re doing stand the other, real experts.

    When we start from the premise that young people are absolute authorities in diagnosing themselves as girl, boy, both, or neither as long as they seem really certain— and that young people are absolute authorities in categorizing their anguish as both extreme and intractable without their preferred treatment— then removing their authority from them when it comes to evaluating whether or not the risks of their preferred treatment will be “worth it” undermines the fundamental basis of mutual trust the claim requires. You tell us what you know to be true about yourself and what you need done about it: we will affirm and protect your right to be believed —and find what you need. You are as wise and reliable in evaluating risk as you are for the rest.

    It seems to me that reliance on the subjective elements seem to entail that if part starts to unravel in the light of objective study, then the whole is endangered. The normal medical safeguarding isn’t being followed; they’re too busy following the children.

    1. Sastra, they’re following the children only in a way that seems to prove what they want to be true. Almost everyone who starts puberty blockers transitions to hormones. This proves they are happy with the treatment and are benefiting from it. People started on cross-sex hormones who stay on them seem to have better well-being in follow-up than they did at first visit. But without a control group — too unethical!! — any improvement could have been spontaneous or due to some other intervention. De-transitioners are dismissed with a shrug, consigned to the bin for junk science.

      And so it goes.

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