THE tragedy of 21st century liberation movements is seen most clearly in the issue of transgender equality. This is a strange ‘movement’, not only, as some might think, because it appears to ask for something that is biologically impossible. But because whereas past struggles for equality have faced the wrath of the powerful, the trans issue is not only being supported by state institutions it appears to be being pushed by them.

It was brought home to me a few years ago while watching the Antiques Road. Presenter and BBC anchorwoman Fiona Bruce was interviewing Lauren Harries, formerly James Charles Harries, who I remembered as a curly haired child prodigy of antiques. But this felt less like an interview that a public service announcement for anyone who was not right on about trans people. ‘Look at me,’ Bruce seemed to be saying, ‘I’m cool about trans people and you should be too’.

Since then we have seen Police Scotland embrace this seemingly progressive cause with their new poster campaign that reads, ‘Dear transphobes, we have a phobia for your hatred’. We have seen the prime minister Theresa May come out in support of transgender rights. The Church of England has advised schools to let children explore their gender identity. More than 150 schools across the UK have abandoned their gender specific uniforms. Institutions across the country are changing their toilet policy. Back in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has made transgender recognition a key issue, and there is a proposal to change the gender recognition act (the act that is only a few years old) to allow people, from the age of 16, to have their gender recognised based not on proof but on their say so.

The potentially authoritarian and censorious dynamic of this movement can be seen in the above police approach where a belief or ‘hatred’ is represented as a police matter. In Liverpool, a feminist poster that read, ‘Woman: Noun: adult human female’, has been taken down because it was deemed to be transphobic or a form of hate. Elsewhere, two girl guide leaders have been removed from post for opposing the new transgender policy. While in Rochester, the Labour Party elected Lily (once Liam) Madigan as their Women’s Officer, who went on to demand that another Woman’s Officer be dismissed for her views on transgender women.

Some of these issues are certainly open to debate and scrutiny but this is part of the problem; when it comes to the trans issue there appears to be no scope for dissent or debate.

This issue has taken on importance not because of the choices being made by a small number of adults but because in the last ten years the number of adolescent girls wanting to transition has increased by over 4000%.

Some argue that this is progress, that there has always been this desire, and that we now have a tolerant elite who are allowing teenagers to find their true selves. But this viewpoint is highly questionable. Rather than believing that this is a natural development, something that is intrinsic to a person and a matter of individual choice we need to recognise that this is a cultural and political phenomena.

Exploring the issue we find that this modern form of what is called Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria is largely gender specific, with far fewer boys seeking a transition. It is an adolescent desire that is often inspired by peers and by online activism. Perhaps most significantly, it is an issue that, as we can see from the examples above, is being not only allowed but often encouraged and embraced by adults in positions of authority in society.

The self absorption of adolescence is not new. What is new is that the fetishisation of ‘difference’ and the elevation of identity politics is encouraging a number of young girls to obsess over their bodies and to attempt to finding their ‘true selves’ within their flesh and bones, through medical procedures and through the life long use of drugs.

As the humanist campaigner Josie Appleton has noted, the desire to transition is an old question of existence and essence played out in strange times. Where previously the tensions of you as an individual, what is, and what you felt could or should be, was played out in the world, between the individual and society.

Today, by comparison, at a time when politicians, religious leaders and society’s institutions lack a strong sense of meaning or purpose, we find increasing numbers of young people turning inwards. Where those in authority should be projecting a cause and a set of beliefs for young people to embrace or to fight against we find nothing, nothing that is, except for the confused and intolerant cult of diversity.

The sad news for many of these young girls is that operations and drugs may change your body but it does not change your sex. There is no inner essence only what you can make of yourself in the outside world, a world where we need to find meaning with other people, and a world, that at present is occupied by an elite, so relativistic, it is incapable of recognising that a Woman: Noun: is an adult human female.