At this moment, a Vancouver postman named Rob Hoogland is sitting in a jail cell in British Columbia. He will be there until at least April 12, when he’s scheduled for a court date. At that time, he may be ordered to remain behind bars for a period yet to be determined.
Has Hoogland killed or robbed somebody? Is he an arsonist? A rapist? No. What did he do, then? Short answer: he tried to save his emotionally unstable daughter from self-destruction.
The long answer begins in the 2015–16 school year, when, as Hoogland recounted in a talk last October, his then fifth-grade daughter (he also has an older son) was getting into trouble at school and Hoogland and his estranged wife (whom he divorced in the spring of 2015) decided it might be good for her to see her school counselor. Since it’s forbidden by the British Columbia Supreme Court to make her name public, she’s referred to in legal documents as “A.B.” (Hoogland is “C.D.,” and the girl’s mother is “E.F.”)
Unknown to Hoogland, A.B. continued to see school counselors well into seventh grade, when one day she suddenly cut her hair very short. At the end of that school year, Hoogland saw that she was listed in her yearbook under a male name. It turned out that the school had been feeding her transgender ideology, and that she’d already begun “socially transitioning” to a male identity under the direction of a psychologist, Wallace Wong, who was encouraging her “to take testosterone.” To this end, Wong referred her to an endocrinologist at the Gender Clinic and Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
It used to be understood that gender dysphoria is vanishingly rare, typically afflicts boys, and almost always begins to manifest when a child is extremely young. In recent years, however, there’s been an epidemic in many Western countries of older girls who suddenly claim to be in the wrong body. This “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” as Abigail Shrier argues in her important 2020 book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters (which I reviewed), is a fad rooted in a number of contemporary social factors.
Many have expressed concern about this trend. Yet transgender activists, eager to increase their visibility and clout, have embraced these girls as real cases of gender dysphoria and have pushed for them to be “transitioned,” pronto. Such transition usually starts with the administration of puberty blockers, continues with massive doses of testosterone, and concludes with “gender-affirmation surgery”—known to today’s self-identified trans teenagers, rather innocuously, as “top surgery” (mastectomy) and “bottom surgery” (metoidioplasty and phalloplasty, which transform the clitoris into something resembling a penis).
A decade ago, subjecting minors to these protocols would have been seen as malpractice and child abuse. But in the last few years, the practice has won widespread political, cultural, media, and judicial support. Never mind that puberty blockers, while presented as harmlessly allowing young teens a “pause,” so that they can ponder their options, can in fact be quite harmful and are almost always followed by hormone therapy; that testosterone, which can cause sterilization, osteoporosis, heart disease, and stunted growth, invariably results in such irreversible symptoms as sterility, facial hair, and a deeper voice; and that “gender-affirming surgery,” of course, destroys healthy body parts that can never be restored.
The argument by supporters of these treatments is that they bring peace and wholeness to anxious young people. Routinely, those urging quick medical action for gender-dysphoric teens point to the suicide rate among them, far higher than the base rate. But they omit to mention that this rate doesn’t decline after transitioning—and that treatment can actually cause depression. Trans-activist lawyers for A.B. claimed that she was an urgent case because she was suicidal, and that she’d attempted suicide once because of her gender dysphoria. In fact, her endocrinologist stated that she showed no sign of suicidality.
Hoogland, for his part, knew of only one suicide attempt: A.B. had ingested “a bottle of something,” and he and his ex-wife had rushed her to a hospital, where she told doctors that she’d made the attempt because she’d been romantically rejected by her gym teacher. According to Hoogland, A.B. told him at one point: “If you don’t let me take testosterone I’m going to kill myself.” When he replied, “No, you know you’re not,” she said, “I know, but they told me to say that.” Indeed, it’s well known that if you claim to be suicidal, it can help get your treatments approved and get you to the front of the surgical queue.
It’s also been established that most kids who say they’re the other sex will change their minds soon after puberty. This alone would be reason to withhold radical, irreversible treatments until patients reach adulthood. But most of the doctors and psychologists involved in trans therapies seem to be as blithely indifferent as the trans activists are to this statistic. With utterly unfounded confidence, they’re placing massive numbers of young girls on the female-to-male assembly line.
So it was with A.B. By eighth grade, her school was making special bathroom arrangements for her and requiring that she be addressed by her new name. Early in that school year, she was taken to see the province’s “top transgender psychologist expert,” known in court documents as “I.J.” When Hoogland first met I.J. a month or two later, he asked him to treat A.B. for depression. Instead, I.J. pronounced that A.B. was a “prime candidate for cross-sex hormones,” which, he promised, would “solve all her problems.” Accordingly, he referred her to the gender clinic at British Columbia Children’s Hospital, where, after a single hour’s examination, an endocrinologist decided to put her on puberty blockers and testosterone.
At the beginning of ninth grade, A.B. had her first appointment with G.H., an endocrinologist at British Columbia Children’s Hospital, to receive testosterone injections. But when E.F., the mother, contacted Hoogland during the appointment to ask for his consent, he withheld it. Four months later, in December 2018—by which time A.B. had turned 14—G.H. told Hoogland that her treatment would go forward, that Hoogland had no say in the matter, and that he’d no longer have access to her medical records. In defense of this decision, G.H. cited a 1993 amendment to the British Columbia Infants Act—which permits doctors to prescribe birth control for, and perform abortions on, young people whom those doctors judge to be “mature minors,” and to do so without parental knowledge or consent. Now, this amendment was being used to allow the medical treatment of gender dysphoria in “mature minors,” also without parental consent.
Shortly after hearing from G.H., Hoogland took the matter to provincial court, where A.B.’s treatment was suspended twice. In February 2019, the case went to the supreme court of British Columbia. Among the respondents to Hoogland’s petition were E.F., I.J., and G.H., plus the British Columbia Children’s Hospital, the provincial ministry of education, the local school district, and a half-dozen counselors and officials at both the elementary and high-school levels.
The case filing stated that A.B. had “gender identified as a male” since age 11 and had “informed his school counsellor of that when he was 12 years old and in Grade 7”—information withheld from Hoogland at the time. The same document cited A.B.’s suicide attempt, linking it not to a romantic rebuff but to gender dysphoria and stating that, in G.H.’s view, a “continued delay in treatment” would risk another suicide attempt. Affidavits by international experts brave enough to oppose the administration of testosterone to teenage girls were summarily dismissed.
Instead of recognizing that very few, if any, 14-year-olds are in a position to understand the grave implications of sex-change therapy, the judge, Gregory Bowden, ruled that A.B. was a “mature minor” and that her consent, by itself, was thus “sufficient for the treatment to proceed.” And instead of being guided by caution—which would have been wise, one should think, in a case involving such radical measures—Bowden bought fully into the trans-activist line that a further delay in A.B.’s treatment would be injurious to her. It’s also significant that Bowden denied Hoogland’s lawyer a relatively routine 40-day adjournment to prepare.
That wasn’t all. Bowden placed remarkable restrictions on Hoogland. He was forbidden to try to persuade A.B. to stop treatment. He was forbidden to address her by her birth name. He was forbidden, in any conversation with anyone, to refer to her as a girl or to use female pronouns to describe her. If he were to do any of these things, ordered Bowden, it would be “considered to be family violence”—yes, violence—under the Family Law Act. That’s par for the course today, when certain words are viewed as acts of violence, while objective acts of violence—such as the use of chemicals to permanently alter developing bodies, and the use of scalpels to remove healthy organs—are regarded as purely benign.
Soon after Bowden’s ruling, A.B. began gender-transition treatment, but Hoogland persevered with his legal fight. In violation of Bowden’s order, he also spoke in public and gave interviews about the case. In April 2019, in response to an application by A.B., Judge Francesca Marzari tried to quell these public appearances. Noting that there had been “substantial online commentary [i.e., reader comments on articles about the case] analogizing A.B.’s medical treatment to child abuse, perversion and even pedophilia,” and that A.B.’s doctors had allegedly received threatening emails, Marzari ordered Hoogland to stop trying to talk A.B. out of receiving treatment for gender dysphoria and to stop communicating with others—including media outlets, and A.B. herself, but excluding his lawyers, the court, doctors, and other authorized persons—about A.B.’s decision to receive hormone therapy.
Instead of recognizing that Hoogland was acting out of concern for his child, Marzari painted him as a selfish bigot. His conduct, she wrote, was causing A.B. “a significant risk of harm.” He was “publicly rejecting his [A.B.’s] identity, perpetuating stories that reject his identity, and exposing him to degrading and violent commentary in social media.” Marzari adduced no evidence to support any of these assertions. That said, Hoogland, added Marzari, “has been irresponsible in the manner of expressing his disagreement [with A.B.’s decision] and the degree of publicity which he has fostered with respect to this disagreement with his child.” Marzari also seconded Bowden’s description of Hoogland’s “rejection of A.B.’s gender identity” as “family violence.”
Of course, Hoogland is no more responsible for comments by strangers about A.B. than A.B. is for the overwhelmingly ugly coverage of Hoogland in the Canadian press. And given his awareness of the very real dangers of the treatment to which A.B. was being subjected, Hoogland’s behavior had been exceedingly responsible, whereas all those who had signed off on that treatment were being reckless.
But the unfavorable rulings kept coming. After Hoogland re-filed his petition, at Mazari’s direction, as a family-law action, Justice T. Mark McEwan dismissed it in July 2019 as “vexatious” and an “abuse of process.” Next step, on January 10, 2020, was the British Columbia Court of Appeal (which, in Canada, is higher than the Provinical Supreme Court). This time around, the list of parties—claimant, petitioner, respondents, lawyers—read like the endless closing credits of a high-budget Hollywood action movie: in addition to the lawyers for all the principals, there were attorneys representing such “intervenors” as the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (anti-trans) and the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (pro-trans).
At this session, Chief Justice Robert J. Bauman and Madam Justice Barbara L. Fisher ruled that Hoogland’s “refusal to accept A.B.’s chosen gender and address him by the name he has chosen is disrespectful of A.B.’s decisions and hurtful to him.” By going to “public forums like the Federalist and Culture Guard [websites],” Hoogland was showing indifference to “the extent to which A.B. would be negatively affected.” Also, his “refusal to respect A.B.’s decisions regarding his gender identity is troublesome.”
On the positive side, the court acknowledged that Hoogland had a right to his opinions and refused to restrict his right to express them “in his private communications with family, close friends and close advisors, provided none of these individuals is part of or connected with the media or any public forum, and provided [he] obtain assurances from those with whom he shares information or views that they will not share that information with others.” The court also reversed Bowden’s “family violence” ruling and ruled that a minor can’t singlehandedly opt for testosterone treatment—only a doctor can make the final determination.
In October, A.B.—by now sporting facial hair—turned 16. Around this time, Hoogland realized that as far as A.B.’s own fate was concerned, he’d already lost. But he didn’t give up the fight, because by now his goal had widened: he was determined to get the word out to Canadian parents about what the government was empowered to do to their children, by means of school programs and medical-treatment protocols, without their knowledge.
Two months later, landmark news from the United Kingdom brought a dose of sanity to the debate—but not enough to save Hoogland or his daughter. In the December 1, 2020, case of Keira Bell v. Tavistock, brought against the U.K.’s sole gender-identity clinic by one of dozens of former patients who’d been given puberty blockers (most of whom went on to take hormones and have surgery), the High Court of Justice of England and Wales held that minors could not consent to such treatments except in the rarest of circumstances.
Keira Bell, who at the time of the ruling was 23, had been put on puberty blockers at 16, been given testosterone at 17, and undergone a mastectomy at 20, only to realize her mistake and detransition shortly thereafter. Bell said she’d been a “guinea pig” at Tavistock, where the level of psychiatric assessment had been perfunctory. It later emerged that Tavistock had known for almost a decade that puberty blockers were harmful but had kept that information private while continuing to administer them.
To turn from Hoogland’s court documents to the Tavistock ruling is to feel as if you’ve been transported from a loony bin to a place of sanity and good sense. “The administration of [puberty blockers] . . . is a very unusual treatment,” maintained Lord Justice Sir Clive Buckland Lewis and Mrs. Justice Nathalie Lieven, pointing to the “very limited evidence as to its efficacy,” as well as the fact that the treatment is “life changing in the most fundamental way imaginable,” going “to the heart of an individual’s identity” and rendering it “quite possibly, unique as a medical treatment.” Further, while defenders of puberty blockers argued that they “give the child ‘time to think,’ that is, to decide whether or not to proceed to cross-sex hormones or to revert to development in the natal sex,” puberty blockers don’t make time stand still either “physically or psychologically,” but, on the contrary, “prevent the child going through puberty in the normal biological process.” At the very least, they wrote, this “means that the child is not undergoing the physical and consequential psychological changes which would contribute to the understanding of a person’s identity.” As for the notion that a “mature minor,” as the British Columbia law puts it, could make an informed decision about treatment for gender dysphoria, Lewis and Lieven observed that few children can grasp what the loss of fertility will mean to their adult selves.
For all these reasons, the judges ordered that practitioners take a highly cautious approach to the treatment of gender dysphoria in teenagers—the very opposite of the gung-ho attitude in British Columbia.
Though the Tavistock ruling was utterly consistent with Hoogland’s own arguments, the British court’s findings were ignored in British Columbia. Hoogland, at a January 2021 hearing, was treated more abusively than ever. Like a murder suspect, he was placed in the prisoner’s dock and referred to as “the accused.”
And then, on March 19 of this year, British Columbia supreme court justice Michael Tammen ordered Hoogland—who had never before been in trouble with the law—to be sent to prison. By speaking out publicly about his case, and by publicly calling A.B. his “daughter” and saying “she” and “her,” maintained Tammen, Hoogland had violated “a publication ban designed to protect the privacy and dignity of a young and vulnerable person.” Not the slightest concern, of course, about protecting that young person’s long-term medical health, physical intactness, and psychiatric well-being.
Tammen further said that Hoogland’s public statements could cause “psychological harm” to A.B. Once more, the judiciary flat-out rejected evidence that the treatments to which A.B. had been subjected could cause her a lifetime of psychological harm. Tammen warned that Hoogland, whose next court appearance is scheduled for April 12, would “definitely” face charges of criminal contempt at that time. Under a ruling issued last July, Hoogland, because of an appearance on YouTube, could remain in prison for five years.
Most outrageous of all was Tammen’s assertion that Hoogland’s “detention is necessary to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice.” Meaning what? That everything Hoogland says is a lie? Or that Hoogland’s brazen truth-telling must be stopped before everybody in Canada realizes that the British Columbia courts are not, in fact, administering justice?
This chilling denial of a parent’s authority—and the attempted silencing of that parent’s cri de cœur—by a cabal of teachers, psychologists, doctors, courts, and activists bent on politically correct mutilation is not about justice or science or the best interests of a child. It is about an establishment’s cowardly fealty to an aggressive ideology bent on power at all costs.
That is how things stand at present in this case, which, from the beginning, has been marked by suspicious oddities. For one thing, Carey Linde—one of Hoogland’s lawyers, representing him pro bono—cannot find another example in all of Canadian jurisprudence where a criminal contempt charge has been brought within a family matter. Then there’s the matter of the case files. In Canada, as a rule, files on nonfamily civil cases are open to the public; in family cases, only counsel and the parties themselves have access. But in Hoogland’s case, a judge issued a “double sealing order” that barred even Tammen from seeing the files and prevented parties or counsel from providing them to allies. Curiously, however, Christopher Hinkson, the chief justice of the provincial supreme court, somehow gained access to the files, either by breaching the order himself or receiving the files from someone else, who, by passing them to him, breached the order.
Throughout this case, Hinkson has shown an unusual interest in it. When Linde suggested to Judge Marzari that she’d been hand-picked by Hinkson to hear Hoogland’s case, she didn’t deny it. In December, Linde formally complained to the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) about Hinkson’s possession of “double sealed” documents and alleged that Hinkson, in service to transgender activists, had put his thumb on the scales of justice. The CJC declined to accept the complaint.
Needless to say, this isn’t just one more family conflict that has found its way into the courts. Rob Hoogland is fighting an ideology that has won the support of almost the entire Canadian establishment. It has the resources to marshal an army of dubious “experts” and attorneys (at one point, Linde counted 21 opposition lawyers in the courtroom), to get the media to parrot its propaganda, and, it appears, to win the covert support of legal authorities.
Nor is this case just about parental rights and gender dysphoria in children, though both are vitally important issues. It’s about freedom of speech, which Canadian officials have been willing to curb dramatically to mute the opponents of transgender ideology. Beyond that, it’s about compelled speech, the issue that brought Jordan Peterson to the world’s attention in 2016 when he refused to be forced to address transgender individuals by their chosen pronouns.
“There’s a certain madness amok,” Linde told an interviewer last year. That’s putting it mildly. On top of everything else, it’s noteworthy that in a country where patients needing life-saving surgery are—notoriously—put in months- or years-long queues, pubescent girls are rushed into the operating room to be mutilated because some callow friend, with-it school psychologist, or know-nothing YouTube “influencer” has told them it will solve their problems.
Alas, for those who clung to the Tavistock decision as evidence that at least some jurists hadn’t lost their minds, the celebration was brief. On March 26, in a separate case, the High Court of England and Wales ruled that doctors could administer puberty blockers to minors with parental approval. Though this will be subject to the appeal ruling in the Keira Bell case (and puberty blockers, in any event, are less drastic a treatment than testosterone and surgery), the Good Law Project, which had funded this latest case through its Trans Defense Fund, commented: “It is not unreasonable to describe this morning’s decision as in large part reversing the practical effects of Bell.”
The drive to transition children is guided not by the best medical and psychiatric research but by a relatively new ideology that insists on the right of an individual of virtually any age to make even the most momentous—and dangerous—identity-related decisions about himself.
Surely ordinary citizens of Canada—or, for that matter, of the U.S., U.K., or any other Western country—aren’t on board with this madness. If they’re keeping mum, it’s either because they’re not fully informed about what’s going on or because they’re scared of being called transphobes. That may not end until they finally come to realize—perhaps thanks to gutsy Rob Hoogland—that the next child the woke psychologists, psychiatrists, endocrinologists, and surgeons come for could be their own.