MOLLY KINGSLEY: Schools have no idea what to do with the surge in children saying they’re trans. Ministers’ failure to publish guidance on it reeks of moral cowardice
My eldest daughter could hardly be more feminine: she loves beautiful clothes, and recently spent the morning of her 10th birthday making bracelets (though she also spent a few weeks, when she was four, insisting she was a penguin called Maria.)
Her feisty seven-year-old sister prefers shorts to skirts, adores football, has closely cropped hair and sometimes pretends to be a boy. She recoils at what she calls ‘girly unicorn stuff’.
Two very different children. Yet, as a new academic year begins, they are both — in distinctive ways — at risk from the trans dogma sweeping the nation’s schools.
According to the tenets of this strange and controversial ideology, our eldest should be branded ‘cisgender’ — that is, her ‘gender identity’ matches her biological sex.
This, as any parent of school-age children will tell you, is achingly unfashionable nowadays: the cool kids are all ‘identifying’ as something else.
As for the younger one — in the past, people might have called her a ‘tomboy’ — well, given her ‘gender-atypical’ behaviour, the trans-rights activists will no doubt be keen to co-opt her to their cause.
Many such children — effeminate boys and more masculine girls — have been streamlined towards puberty-blockers and even surgery, as steps towards living their lives as the opposite sex. Some have gone on bitterly to regret these life-changing decisions.
It is a confusing time to be a parent — and more confusing still to be a child.
Which is why I urge the Government to quell this maelstrom and publish at once its long-overdue guidance for schools on transgender issues.
In March, Rishi Sunak promised that this guidance — an update on 2014 rules, themselves written so that teachers could avoid falling foul of Labour-era equality laws — would be released ‘for the summer term’.
But we’re still waiting, and the pressure on the Prime Minister to deal with this subject is growing ever more intense.
This month, it was reported that Mr Sunak plans to drop what I believe should be a crucial element of the guidance: a ban on children changing their gender in the classroom.
Last week, the children’s commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, complained that teachers, families and pupils are ‘crying out’ for guidance.
Also last week, Marcial Boo, the chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission regulator, added his voice to the fray, saying that the Government must publish the guidance to provide ‘much-needed clarity’.
Why the delay, and why the confusion? It seems clear that there is internal wrangling within the Government over how best to address this controversial subject.
Ministers have insisted they are ‘taking the time to make sure any guidance we provide is as clear as possible’.
All well and good, but these issues are affecting youngsters now.
Should teachers be compelled to use a child’s new ‘preferred pronouns’? Should parents be told their child is living as the opposite sex? Should ‘gender-neutral’ facilities be laid on, or biological males compete in girls’ sports?
These are not abstract questions. One study last year found that 55 per cent of teachers in England said they had at least one pupil who claimed to be transgender. That figure rose to 87 per cent of teachers in secondary schools.
Between 2009/2010 and 2017/2018, there was a staggering 4,400 per cent increase in girls being referred by doctors for gender treatment: from just 40 to 1,806 in a few years.
Amid the lack of clear updated guidance, schools have been turning to highly controversial trans-activist groups to advise them on how to deal with this tsunami of gender-confused children. Among these groups are Mermaids, Gendered Intelligence and Stonewall, which all recommend pro-LGBTQ+ teaching materials.
So pervasive is their influence that, according to a recent report by the think tank Policy Exchange — fittingly titled Asleep At The Wheel — no fewer than 72 per cent of schools now teach that ‘gender identity’ can differ from biological sex.
This cornerstone of the trans-rights movement is surely liable to confuse children, especially vulnerable ones.
Some schools go further still, teaching children about identities including ‘genderflux’ (where gender supposedly shifts in intensity), ‘blurgender’ (experiencing multiple genders that blur together) and ‘cloudgender’ (gender is unclear due to derealisation disorder).
It sounds ridiculous. But teachers who dare to question aspects of this dogma can find themselves out of a job.
In May, a primary school teacher in Nottinghamshire claimed she was sacked after refusing to use an eight-year-old’s preferred pronouns.
The teacher said she raised concerns about the welfare of this girl — who wanted to be treated as a boy and whose ‘transition’ the school was facilitating — after it was announced the child would be using the boys’ toilets and changing rooms.
The teacher was eventually sacked for gross misconduct and is now taking legal action.
Many schools, understandably, have no idea what they should be doing in response to this extraordinary surge in trans-identifying children.
At least 28 per cent of secondary schools no longer maintain single-sex toilets, according to the Policy Exchange report. Some 19 per cent are not maintaining single-sex changing rooms, while 60 per cent of secondary schools allow children to participate in sports for the opposite sex.
Even at London’s Great Ormond Street hospital, that world-famous bastion of child welfare and health, doctors are being discouraged from using ‘gendered’ language, it emerged last week.
In blindly ‘affirming’ trans identity among any confused child who announces they do not feel comfortable in their own body, schools are potentially pushing huge numbers of pupils on a dangerous path.
Many ‘gender-non-conforming’ children are gay. Others will grow out of their fondness for the clothes and toys typically used by the opposite sex. Still others will continue to experiment with gender norms throughout their lives, while a small minority will indeed grow up to be trans adults.
When they are older, all should be able to live their lives as they wish to, free from discrimination. But while they are children, they should be protected from certain ideologies — while always being treated with respect and sensitivity.
So-called ‘self-ID’ for trans adults is off the table. Following the case, among others, of Isla Bryson, the male-bodied, female-identifying rapist, formerly known as Adam Graham, who demanded to be housed in a women’s prison in Scotland, it is not enough for an adult to announce that they are trans and be treated as such for official purposes.
Even Labour has belatedly dropped its pledge to allow self-ID should it win power at the next election.
So if we don’t allow it for adults, why on earth would we allow it for children?
Prime Minister: It is time to settle these questions once and for all. Release at once this unambiguous guidance. Stress that children must be treated according to their biological sex. Make clear that contested gender ideology has no place in the classroom.
Failure on this score would reek of moral cowardice. It would jeopardise young bodies and lives. So do the right thing, Mr Sunak. The future of a generation depends on it.
- Molly Kingsley is the founder of UsForThem, a parents’ campaign group