Women’s Minister Victoria Atkins recently expressed concerns about the number of teenagers seeking life-changing medical interventions. Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Women & Equalities, has now ordered an investigation into the exponential rise in the number of teenage girls wanting to transition. The Telegraph report states: “Officials will look into the role of social media and the teaching of transgender issues in schools as part of their inquiries”. Although we believe there are many factors behind rates of rapid onset gender dysphoria in teenage girls (and some boys) we think that the issue of transgender teaching in schools is one area which needs particularly urgent review. We call for the withdrawal of all transgender schools guidance written by trans and LGBT groups pending the results of the investigation.
We have written before about the content of transgender inclusion schools toolkits. In this post we will examine the content and the message of the guidance from Stonewall, the most powerful and influential LGBT organisation in the UK. To become a Stonewall School Champion is one way a school can tick the important ‘LGBT inclusion’ box for Ofsted, but within the Stonewall training packages is advice which goes much further than simply supporting LGBT pupils.
The government consultation on the reform of the Gender Recognition Act proposes a sex self-ID system with no requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in order to gain a Gender Recognition Certificate. A recent YouGov poll showed that only 18% of the public agree with this proposal.
Yet Stonewall and transgender organisations have been quietly ensuring that a system of sex self-ID is already in place in schools across the UK.
Not once is gender dysphoria mentioned in the Stonewall guidance until right at the end, in a footnote in the Glossary, although the terms ‘transgender’ and ‘gender identity’ are used throughout. According to these schools guides, boys only need to self-identify as girls in order to gain access to female-only spaces and to be treated as the female sex in all respects (and vice versa). Being a boy or a girl, according to these guides, is down to how you feel, your ‘identity’ and nothing else.
Stonewall’s Introduction to Supporting LGBT Young People is a 54-page document which devotes a full nine pages to trans policies alone. The adviser for this section was Gendered Intelligence. Stonewall and Gendered Intelligence were the advisers on policy for Girlguiding UK who have recently sacked Guide Leaders for raising concerns about safeguarding when males are enabled to share accommodation with girls on overnight trips, without informing parents.
Gendered Intelligence also wrote the government guidance for service providers, unilaterally deciding that sex-based exemptions do not apply in ‘ordinary High St service provision situations’. Their definition of ‘trans people’ includes ‘cross-dresser (transvestite)’ and ‘anyone who may not conform to traditional gender roles’. Gendered Intelligence produced this sexual health guide for trans youth:
Stonewall’s largely male trans advisory group should also be scrutinised (the inclusion of Aimee Challenor alone raises concerns) and we need to ask who benefits from school policies which erase the distinction between the sexes and make it impossible for girls to object to male people in their private spaces. In Stonewall’s guidance, girls’ rights as a sex are erased completely and girls are denied the right to their own boundaries, privacy and safety.
In service of this political goal, Stonewall gives gender dysphoric young people themselves no other option of understanding themselves other than that they are ‘transgender’, although there are many recognised underlying reasons that a young person may develop gender dysphoria – homophobic bullying for example.
Stonewall shows absolutely no concern about the increasing number of teenage girls taking off-label testosterone (with irreversible effects on their bodies), binding their breasts and planning their double mastectomies.
Following is our analysis of the Stonewall guide.
The transgender child
Trans is an umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, cross dresser, non-binary, gender queer.
• Not everyone identifies as ‘male’ or ‘female’ Sometimes, people assume that being trans is about feeling you are the ‘opposite’ gender. This is true for some trans people, but not for others. This assumption makes things difficult for those who identify outside of ‘male’ or ‘female’, for example non-binary young people. A non-binary young person may need some different things to feel comfortable at school to, for example, a trans young person who identifies as ‘male’
Alongside the areas of support outlined above, young people coming out as trans, and those unsure whether they might be trans, will also require support in areas which are specific to thinking about gender identity. Each trans young person will need different things to make them feel comfortable at school so support should be individualised and led by the young person’s wishes.
a person’s internal sense of their own gender, whether male, female, non-binary, or something else
Reframing gender dysphoria as an identity badge in fact absolves schools of the responsibility to offer individualised support based on each child’s needs and replaces it with a blanket politicised approach. The child is presented as a member of a political rights group rather than a child who may be experiencing distress and confusion and who is in need of a careful and thoughtful support strategy.
Stonewall promotes the idea that biological sex is a social construct and ‘gender identity’ is an immutable reality, an idea rooted in Queer Theory which should not be taught to children as fact nor used for the basis of school policies. There is no evidence that human beings possess ‘an internal sense of their own gender’ which exists independent of both biological sex and socialisation.
The politisisation of gender dysphoria allows only for ‘discrimination’ as a possible reason for any distress a child may suffer, but Stonewall warns that any therapist must “be equipped to talk about gender identity”, presumably so that the young person is in no danger of having this theory challenged.
Being trans isn’t a mental health issue. However, worries about experiencing discrimination or distressing feelings relating to their gender identity mean that some trans young people may experience mental distress. A trans young person may want to talk to someone if they have started to transition or if they are confused or unhappy about their gender identity. Staff can help by providing pastoral support or counselling within school or signpost to counselling or therapy services outside the school. It’s important to find a mental health professional equipped to talk about gender identity and with some knowledge about the experiences of trans young people.
A trans young person may feel unhappy or distressed about living with a body they don’t feel reflects their gender identity. Some young people choose to make changes to their body through hormone treatment, though this can involve waiting a long time. Schools can help by ensuring that young people know how to access support services, can talk to others and learn about self-esteem and body confidence in PSHE.
The idea that your body is ‘wrong’ and needs fixing to ‘match’ your personality is incompatible with lessons on body confidence. Children should be taught that their bodies are perfect as they are, they do not need medically altering to ‘reflect’ anything. This guidance is appallingly flippant about invasive medicalisation of children’s healthy bodies.
Increasing numbers of young people who identify as trans have pre-existing mental health problems, past trauma or troubled backgrounds. 35% exhibit moderate to severe autistic traits. In this study, 10% had suffered past sexual abuse. It is crucial that schools offer proper support to the most vulnerable young people. It is irresponsible to put mental distress down to discrimination or distress about gender identity alone, all underlying factors must be considered as part of a school’s safeguarding duties towards each individual child.
The hypocrisy in teaching young people to believe that their bodies may be ‘wrong’ and framing this as encouragement to a young person to feel positive about ‘being themselves’ is exposed in this next section.
When a young person comes out it is important to reinforce that they can be themselves and encourage them to feel positive about who they are. School staff can be supportive of any young person who comes out to them, or wants to talk about being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, by:
• Listening and reassuring them that their confidentiality will be respected
Here, Stonewall breaks the first rule of safeguarding, which is that a teacher should never promise confidentiality to a child. This rule is there for good reason; no member of staff can unilaterally decide on the best course of action for any one child, this is how mistakes are made and children are put at risk. Stonewall also suggests here that a girl announcing that she is a boy is no different to a girl announcing that she is a lesbian.
However, if a young person is at risk of significant harm in some other way staff have an obligation to disclose. It may constitute a safeguarding risk if:
• They’re experiencing abuse at home or are at risk of homelessness
One member of staff alone is not qualified to assess safeguarding risks or whether a child is experiencing abuse at home. This is why promising confidentiality puts children at risk. Yet Stonewall reinforces this advice again and again:
WORKING WITH PARENTS AND CARERS
Not all young people will want their parents/carers to know they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, and for staff to discuss this with parents/carers without the young person’s consent would be a breach of confidentiality.
A person’s status as trans is private, and schools should not disclose information – such as details about a transition – that may reveal this to others, including parents/carers, staff and anyone outside the school community. Schools may only share this information where there is a safeguarding risk (p13) or a young person has given their permission for specific details to be shared, for example if the young person would like to be known by their preferred name and pronoun in school and has requested for staff and peers to be told. Respecting a trans young person’s confidentiality may require staff to use their assigned name and gender when contacting parents/carers or others.
WORK WITH PARENTS/CARERS
Make sure all parents/carers know that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans issues are covered in school. Don’t discuss a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity with parents/carers without the young person’s permission. Work with supportive parents/carers to ensure the best support for a young person and know where to signpost should parents/carers want information, advice or support.
Apart from the safeguarding risk, this is gross irresponsibility towards parents who have a right to know if their child is being encouraged in a belief which may cause them medical harm and future regret. Schools should try to build trusting relationships with parents who have a right to know if their child is experiencing gender dysphoria, in the same way as with any other emotional, mental health or medical issue their child may have.
All this emphasis on confidentiality also suggests that parents will not be informed if their twelve year-old daughter is now sharing her toilets and changing-rooms with a male cross-dressing teenager.
Next we hear about ‘unsupportive’ parents.
Where parents/carers are unsupportive, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans young people will need support from others. Schools, charities and youth groups can play a vital role in providing this support. In addition, some parents/carers may benefit from accessing their own support, and schools can help by directing them towards relevant organisations, local groups or family services
How many parents would be pleased that a school is directing their child toward ‘charities and youth groups’ without their knowledge? In terms of safeguarding it is concerning that Stonewall seems to be encouraging children away from their parents unless those parents are willing to be re-educated by transgender organisations such as Gendered Intelligence.
In all this advice, Stonewall works very hard to keep young people away from anyone who may challenge, or disagree with theories of ‘gender identity’, including therapists and parents, and ensure that they only get constant reinforcement of the belief which Stonewall teaches them.
The denial of biological sex raises serious safeguarding issues for girls, and completely erases their right to privacy, dignity and safety.
• Lots of things in schools are often separated by gender, including toilets, changing rooms and, sometimes, uniforms. Schools may need to make changes across areas where this is the case to ensure that a trans young person feels safe and comfortable, for instance by providing toilets, changing rooms and school uniform items that are not gender specific. Remember that some young people don’t identify as ‘male’ or ‘female’ or may not feel happy using either ‘male’ or ‘female’ facilities. Many schools are taking steps to provide ‘gender neutral’ facilities – irrespective of whether there are trans young people in school – to help create a more inclusive environment for everyone.
Teachers have a responsibility to consider the needs of ALL pupils. Toilets and changing-rooms are not separated by ‘gender’, they are separated on the basis of ‘sex’ so that all students have privacy from the opposite sex when they are in a full or partial state of undress. No consideration is given to other students’ needs and rights to feel ‘safe and comfortable’, in particular teenage girls. Girls have a right to single-sex facilities, they should not be expected to share with anyone of the male sex, no matter how they ‘identify’.
Toilets and changing rooms
A trans young person may wish to use the toilets and changing rooms of their self-identified gender rather than of their assigned sex. Schools should make sure that a trans student is supported to do so and be aware that this is a legal requirement under the Equality Act. Schools should also support trans young people to use gender neutral facilities or a private space if that is what they prefer. The most important thing is to talk to the young person rather than make assumptions about the facilities they would like to use.
EHRC technical guidance in fact advises that alternative facilities be provided, not that a trans pupil should be allowed to use the facilities of the opposite sex. A school has a duty to carry out equality impact assessments before changing policies which will affect groups protected under other protected characteristics, in this case ‘sex.’ Girls in particular have sex-based rights and protections which cannot just be dismissed. Sex is not ‘assigned’, we are either born male or female, this is simply fact.
It is important a trans young person is able to participate in sports teams consistent with their gender identity, unless there are reasonable safety concerns. This is unlikely for most sports and age groups under 18, although staff may wish to ask advice from relevant sporting bodies for competitions. Playing in a different sports team or deciding which team to play in may be a daunting step for a young person, so staff should consider this area of support with sensitivity and care, particularly when supporting a non-binary young person.
Schools in fact have a right to maintain single-sex sports not only for safety but for fairness in girls’ sport.
Ensure trans young people are able to sleep in the room of their self-identified gender, or in a gender neutral dorm or private space if that’s what would make them feel comfortable. Trips overseas may need more thought in advance. Some aspects may cause worry or concern for a trans young person, such as their documentation not corresponding to their self-identified gender, or how they look. Staff should talk worries through with the young person and may want to be aware of legal protections afforded to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in the country they are visiting.
All children have the right to sex-segregated sleeping accommodation on school trips. Mixed-sex sleeping arrangements pose a particular safeguarding risk for girls for obvious reasons.
Stonewall redefines homosexuality as ‘same gender’ attraction:
Homosexual: this might be considered a more medical term used to describe someone who has an emotional romantic and/or sexual attraction towards someone of the same gender. The term ‘gay’ is now more generally used
Lesbian refers to a woman who has an emotional, romantic and/or sexual attraction towards women
Denying biological sex means denying same-sex attraction. The redefinition allows males with penises to define themselves as ‘lesbians’, thus changing the meaning of the word ‘lesbian’, destroying lesbian-only spaces and putting young lesbians at risk of coercion to accept fully-intact males as sexual partners or be seen as ‘transphobic’. Stonewall must be aware of the ‘cotton ceiling‘ but are seemingly happy to put young lesbians at risk in this way.
What does transitioning mean?
A transition describes the steps a person may take to live in the gender they identify as. A trans person may take social steps to transition, for example changing their name and pronoun, telling friends and family, dressing differently or changing official documents. Coming out is sometimes seen as the first of these social steps. A trans person may also choose to have medical intervention such as hormone treatment, and, if over the age of 18, surgery, although many trans people do not have surgery. Trans young people wishing to have medical intervention do so through a health service called the gender identity development service. Adults access medical intervention through gender identity clinics.
How will a young person want to transition?
A trans young person will transition so as to be understood by others in their self-identified gender and to look and feel the way that makes them comfortable. Most trans young people will want to take social steps to transition. A young person wanting to access hormone treatment as part of their transition will need to be referred to the gender identity development service (details on p51). Schools should be flexible about time off for medical appointments and support young people with practical things such as catching up with work.
This is why parents need to be informed if their child expresses a trans identity in school, although Stonewall seems to consider that serious, invasive and irreversible medical intervention is on the same level as ‘dressing differently.’ ‘Hormone treatment’ is treated so casually as part of a child’s transition; it is irresponsible for any organisation to normalise and minimise the use of off-label hormones for young people in this way.
Other students are not being asked to recognise a classmate’s ‘self-identified gender’ but to recognise them as the opposite sex; to believe that a boy is now literally a girl. This is impossible, neither a change of clothes or hormone treatment can change a child’s sex. This imposition on other children’s understanding of biology raises serious concerns about other children’s right to name reality.
The only way a school can support a teenage girl suffering gender dysphoria, according to Stonewall, is to constantly steer her towards ‘transition’. There is no other option presented and no consideration of any underlying factors: if you are suffering gender dysphoria you are ‘trans’ and you will transition:
When is the best time for a young person to transition?
There is no ‘best time’ for a young person to transition. A young person should transition when they are ready. They may take steps to transition over a period of time or choose a specific time to make several changes at once, for example to coincide with moving to sixth form. All schools, including single-sex schools, have a responsibility to support a trans young person through a transition and enable them to remain at their school.
You may discuss with a young person whether they:
• are happy with how things are at the moment or whether they would like to talk about taking steps to live in their self-identified gender
• would like any information about what a transition might involve or like to access any support outside of the school
• would like others to be involved when planning the transition (if relevant) e.g. parents/carers, staff
• would like ongoing support from an assigned member of staff
For staff to consider:
• who might be involved in planning a transition and/or the ongoing support of the young person
• what practical adjustments might need to be made to prepare for the transition, for example updating class registers so as to reflect a preferred name (and where possible, pronoun)
Young person and school planning social transition
This could involve working with the young person and relevant staff (and parents/carers if appropriate) to make a timeline detailing the changes, when they will happen and how and when they will be communicated
This is way beyond what should be expected of teachers who are not trained clinicians or therapists. Teachers are being forced to collude in a new and untested ‘affirmation and informed consent’ approach to children with gender dysphoria. There is no evidence to support this new approach in schools. Schools should not have a duty to facilitate the transition of students.
Encouragement to transition
It is in Stonewall’s case studies that we see most clearly how teachers are advised to actively encourage young people towards transition:
“Yes, but they’re not supportive – my mum/ dad/carer won’t speak to me about it.”
“Well we can try and help you with that. Is there anyone else in your family who you can talk to? There are organisations that can help – I can give you their details”
Is it the teacher’s place to help a child access an organisation behind their parents’ backs? How much do teachers know of the issues and the kind of ‘support’ these organisations may be offering young people?
“I don’t know what I want to do – I need to think some more. I just know that I don’t feel happy and right the way I am at the moment. ”
“That’s okay and it’s good to take some time to think things over. I will point you in the direction of some information that might be useful. Why don’t you come and talk to me once you’ve had a look?”
“I think I want to take steps to live as the gender I know I am but I’m worried about how it will work at school.”
“The school is here to make sure things feel right for you. We can arrange a time to sit down and talk through all the options and different ways a transition might work at school. What do you think? There are lots of people who have transitioned at school – it is possible!”
This is nothing but active encouragement of a young person towards transition, any expressed doubts and worries are ignored. No adult should be trying to influence and encourage a young person in this way and no teacher is qualified to do so. Would most parents be happy if this was going on at school without their knowledge?
Stonewall’s guidance imposes a belief system onto schools while presenting it as fact: serious questions need to be asked about how Stonewall and transgender lobby groups have been allowed to issue schools guidance based on the extreme ideological beliefs of a small minority. We should be especially concerned that these groups unilaterally dismantle safeguarding for girls, encourage young people to transition and keep all this a secret from parents.
If you are worried about the guidance used at your child’s school and would like to take in a copy of the Transgender Trend schools pack please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your postal address and the name and address of the school for our records (this information will be kept confidential).