Diversity Role Models – or role models of conformity to a new ideology?

Diversity Role Models is a high profile LGBT charity providing training in schools, just one of many LGBT charities and organisations whose materials have moved away from the LGB in favour of the T. Rather than teaching about the acceptance of gender non-conformity (which would support gay and lesbian pupils), their training now promotes the idea that being gender non-conforming might mean that you are the wrong sex. The following post by Shelley Charlesworth examines the history of this group and its promotion to children of the concept of ‘innate gender identity’ as fact.

Diversity Role Models – or role models of conformity to a new ideology?

by Shelley Charlesworth

Let’s start with two real girls and their mothers. Two families from very different backgrounds and cultures but each with the same hopes for their daughters: that they go to school and be educated, make friends, and grow up to be happy fulfilled young women. But each girl came home and expressed doubts about being a girl after being taught about transgenderism in their primary schools.

Fatima Shah’s daughter was ten at the time and was a pupil at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham where she was taught using the No Outsiders programme. Fatima said that her daughter came home and asked “am I ok to be a boy?” I’ve written here about the No Outsiders programme and its content and teaching plans.[1]

The other girl was eight, in year 4, when her London primary was visited by Diversity Role Models, a national charity set up to tackle homophobic bullying. After the workshop, she told her mother, anxiously, that she didn’t think she was trans. She said it twice. She’d never raised the question or ever used the word trans before.

Fatima’s daughter would have been taught about gender identity in the No Outsiders programme. Year 6 are read My Princess Boy, a true story about a small boy who wants to wear girls’ clothes. The story in itself is not the point. It is the way No Outsiders frames the book in the lesson plan that is problematic. Children would have been told that this story is relevant to the Equality Act and wrongly that there is a protected characteristic of “gender identity”. The teaching plan tells teachers where to go to find more specific picture books about “Transgender awareness”. Where a child might just accept that this is a story about a boy in a dress, the teacher is told to take an adult view of gender non-conforming behaviour and frame the story as being about a “trans child”.

The London mother found out that her daughter had been in a lesson led by a Diversity Role Models volunteer. Part of the lesson was an activity where the children had to match a word with a definition; the words were, gay, lesbian, bisexual, homosexual, heterosexual and transgender. The definition given for transgender was ‘someone who does not feel like the gender they were given at birth’.  An eight-year-old girl who is enquiring, maybe likes to wrestle, play football, prefers jeans to skirts, might be troubled by this definition and wonder if her favourite activities had some other meaning, that maybe she is not a girl but a boy. She might wonder why she was “given” a gender at birth, instead of simply being, as she had thought of herself up to this point, a girl.

These are not just two isolated cases. We do not know how many children have been misled and confused by No Outsiders and Diversity Role Models. But we do know that they have both been into many classrooms and spoken to many teachers, parents and governors.

No Outsiders operates within schools as a teaching aide. Protests about the lesbian and gay part of the programme have obscured the fact that it is grounded in gender identity theory which teaches the erroneous idea that we all have an inner feeling about our gender and that this overrides biological sex. Andrew Moffat, the author of No Outsiders, is a busy man. His misreading of the Equality Act has proved no bar to accepting outside invitations.  During the 2019 summer term, he found time for numerous speaking engagements to push his No Outsiders programme. He spoke to children at six schools and to two groups of trainee teachers. He gave talks to six gatherings of heads, parents and governors. Some of these were big events. In June for instance he addressed over 100 heads and deputies in Southampton. He was also a speaker at the Humanist UK Convention, he gave a talk about No Outsiders to staff at the Solicitors Regulations Authority and to the British Association for Sexual Health & HIV. One Education HR, an education services company, had equality training from Mr Moffat, he spoke at the House of Commons under the NAHT banner, he attended a Catholic Parochial Youth in Europe event, and won an award from Attitude magazine. He did all this between April 12th and July 10th 2019, while also holding down a full-time job at Parkside Community School as assistant head teacher with responsibility for pastoral care. He has now taken on a new role as head of Personal Development within the Academy Trust that runs Parkside and three other Birmingham primaries. Presumably this will allow him even more time to promote his No Outsiders teaching programme.

Diversity Role Models shows another route into school to teach gender identity. Like Stonewall, Educate and Celebrate, Gendered Intelligence and their numerous satellites these organisations approach education under the inclusion and diversity banner offering training and workshops to staff, governors and children. With Relationships Education in primary schools and Sex and Relationships Education in secondaries being compulsory from September 2020 many schools, already grappling with heavy workloads, may be tempted to take the easy way out and buy in expertise.

Diversity Role Models was set up in 2011 by Suran Dickson, a teacher in north London, originally from New Zealand. She said she’d felt compelled to start her charity after seeing the amount of homophobic bullying in the London schools where she been employed. Her initial aims were twofold.

“Firstly, to help LGBT young people realise that being gay, or changing gender identity, is not synonymous with unhappiness, depression, lack of success, broken relationships and lack of family – some of the things that the media and statistics tend to focus on. Secondly, to help non-LGBT young people to see us as ‘real people’, with jobs, families, morals, humour, talent and drive.”[2]

In the early years Diversity Role Models stuck to this brief. Suran Dickson wrote some good pieces in the blog section of the DRM website, talking about being gay herself and the harm done by sex stereotypes. There were some early articles on gender identity but from the angle that some young people may want to present themselves as the other “gender”. Gender identity as a theory, something innate that we are all supposed to possess, wasn’t a big part of the mix. Early blogs also talked about sport and the need to include LGBT people but there was no mention of self-identifying trans girls, that is biological boys, playing in girls’ teams – instead it concentrated on the real and present levels of homophobia in school sports and how to overcome this. Lesbians were the main subject of some blogs in the first year. The charity grew in these early years as Suran Dickson proved to be a good campaigner.

2015 was a year of change for all the major LGBT charities. The passing of the Equal Marriage Act by the UK Coalition government in 2014 caused a rupture in the environment for these charities. Despite the continuing existence, to this day, of homophobia, the perception was that many of the battles starting with the 2003 repeal of Section 28 were indeed won. So, the T of the acronym began to assume more importance in campaigning, fundraising and as a potential area of growth for support. Ruth Hunt took over at Stonewall, the Lesbian and Gay Foundation based in Manchester changed its name to the LGBT Foundation and DRM changed in tone and focus.

Suran Dickson was on maternity leave during this crucial year, returning briefly in 2016, before returning to live in New Zealand. Claire Harvey, a gay Paralympian, took over for just under two years and then US national Adam McCann took over as CEO in December 2018. According to his LinkedIn profile, prior to DRM he worked for 4 years in the UK as a Diversity and Inclusion Manager for an international law firm. Before that his background was finance where his job title was the wordy Mortgage Serving Specialist and Workflow Coordinator with responsibility for Reverse Mortgage Foreclosure Claims.  It’s a career pathway that goes from US finance to diversity work for an international legal firm to LGBT charity CEO. He’s also been a board member for P3 Network for the last three years.

P3 Network is a charity for professional LGBT parents who are interested in adoption and surrogacy. The three Ps stand for Proud Professional and Parent. Heavily weighted towards people in the legal and finance world at a management level their supporters often appear on award lists for LGBT executives. There is a crossover between Stonewall and other big LGBT corporate lobbyists.  Adam McCann’s involvement with P3 Network over the last three years follows this pattern.

By March 2016 it was clear that “gender identity” was now firmly embedded the organisation. The then head of education at Diversity Role Models wrote a poem about her child, aged 12 at the time, who’d been socially transitioned from an early age. These are the first two verses:

This is the story of a little girl/Who did not always fit in so well/Though female upon first sight/His body never felt quite right/A little girl was what they saw/But mind and body were at war/At two and a half, he asked his mum/“When will my willy come?”/His mum gently said, “It won’t, my dear”/And what followed was confusion and tears./At that age, how does one explain/That their body does not match their brain[3]

There have been more corporate events in recent years too. Tie-ups with Topshop, Ben and Jerrys, Disney. And then there is fundraising. Interestingly these fundraisers always seem to be positioned, both by theme and in space many miles away from the groups they claim to support, children. Abseiling with Lloyds LGBT Network, bucket collections in Soho bars. And then there is the drag. In December 2018 DRM held a fundraiser featuring Crayola the Queen and Diamond Daniels. Both are less Widow Twankee and more drag versions of porn stars. This year’s 8th birthday party for DRM again featured a drag act, Bianca del Rio. Headlining the fundraiser this November will be a trans magician. Parents who’ve been concerned about Diversity Role Models coming into their children’s schools have quite rightly raised questions about the culture in which DRM operates.[4]

What of DRM’s actual work in schools? In the first year of operation DRM went into 18 schools, gave 80 workshops and dealt with 1,746 students. It is unclear if the workshops were all held in the 18 schools visited but assuming this is the case a rough figure of 4 workshops for each school visited would seem to be the average. There has been a steady growth since then.

Year                      2012      2013      2014      2015      2016      2017      2018

Schools                18           26           55           89           145        134        121

Workshops          80           206        335        611        885        779        654

Students              1,746     4,020     7,664     14,275   21,926   21,275   19,003

In 2015 the Government Equalities Office, as part of a £2m package to help prevent and eradicate “homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying, awarded DRM jointly with Brook £277,722 to develop and deliver training to 10,000 teachers and staff in 400 schools. [5] The figures for this work aren’t included in the table above but from DRM’s annual accounts they say they trained 1,997 staff face to face and 8,168 via e-learning.

The Equalities Office must have been satisfied because DRM were awarded another tranche of money in 2019: “Barnardo’s, Diversity Role Models, Equaliteach, National Children’s Bureau, Stonewall and The Diana Award will split £1million of the funding to extend work that protects children from homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying”[6]

What of the actual content of the DRM workshops? DRM refused to send me any of their free material, as offered on their website, so I’ll be referring to their worksheet for staff training which gives a good idea of what DRM preaches. They start with LGBT+ definitions. Lesbian is defined as “a woman who is attracted to other women” while gay is “a man OR a woman who is attracted to people of the same sex.” In one blow the word lesbian has been redefined. Lesbians are no longer same sex oriented but are “attracted to other women” so in theory this can include men who “identify” as women.

The infamous Gender Unicorn then makes an appearance. This discredited graphic[7] introduces the idea of “gender identity” the belief everyone has an inner sense of gender, known only to themselves. Sex is “assigned at birth” and can be either female, male or other/intersex. Here DRM are following the usual shameless appropriation of intersex conditions common to all transgender lobby groups.

Diversity Role Models recommends a whole school approach to bullying but in practice this means that every aspect of school life is subject to the ideology of “gender identity” theory. Posters, stickers, lanyards, displays, assemblies, LGBT History month, consultations, policies, parent groups, student groups, all these aspects of school life are to be mobilised to this end. The worksheet asks “How can you make your classroom more LGBT inclusive and celebrate diversity more widely?” alongside a rainbow coloured graphic of every subject in the curriculum. Staff are told to be mindful of their language. Revealingly, “come on girls”, is the example given.

If the purpose of the DRM staff training were to find solutions to the bullying of gay and gender variant children, then some of these strategies might help. But it is clear from the terminology and the gender identity theory that underlies their training that something else is going on. There’s nothing for instance on the specifics of saying you are a lesbian or gay teenager, no section on how a teacher might talk to such a pupil.

There are however at least seven power points which are specifically about transgender, starting with the question “How can we support transgender young people?” There follows a film called My Trans Story – Kai, a documentary about a trans boy, made by trans activist Fox Fisher and shown originally on Channel Four TV.[8] Nine-year-old Kai tells viewers he doesn’t like dresses, enjoys skateboarding, scootering, football and basketball, basically he says “more outside than inside” activities. This acceptance of the laziest of sex stereotypes is reinforced by his mother who says he’s always “been boy in spirit”. With Kai on her lap she expresses her belief that her daughter is a boy because of something that happened in the womb: “the brain was developed like a boy, everything was developed like a boy, something just went wrong with the bits.”

A biological base for Kai’s discomfort with being a girl is underlined in the next section, “Being Trans Is Not A Choice”. Diversity Role Models will have no truck with any explanation for the rapid rise in teenage girls saying they are trans, or with reputable research pointing to the role of social contagion in the phenomenon.[9] Teachers are told that gender dysphoria is a recognised medical condition, which in the past was thought to be a psychiatric condition, implying that this is no longer the case. On the contrary it is still classified in the DSM-5, the psychiatrist’s rule book, most recently updated in 2017. But DRM claims that it is “possibly linked with biological development” indicating that they believe there is something innate about transgenderism, echoing the words of Kai’s mother.

Next up is Social Transition which is “moving to live your life as your authentic gender identity”. Remember this training session is for teachers who will have no proficiency in dealing with the complex issues of gender non-conforming children. Yet they are being told that as well as changing names, pronouns, clothes, these children should be able to use toilets and changing rooms according to their gender identity rather than biological sex.

The next section is Medical Transition which talks about hormones and surgery as the means by which “a trans person takes steps to physically align their body.” It’s not clear if this will include any information about the unknown effects of puberty blockers and breast binding, the most likely treatments and practices that teachers will come across in school.

Teachers are then told Jamie’s story, another trans identifying girl, who is now the only boy at an all-girls school. The school has been very helpful according to his parents, making space for a separate toilet and changing room, and dealing promptly with bullying. But this is not enough for Jamie. He complains that in this all-girls school teachers still say to a class “come on ladies” and letters home refer to “your daughter”. Presumably this is what DRM is referring to when it asks, on the worksheet, “What could the school do better?” The self-esteem and reality of girls counts for nothing compared with the feelings of one trans identified pupil.

The guidance contains a list of practical steps. The school should nominate a trans specialist. Gendered Intelligence is suggested as a provider for the training for this member of staff.[10] Policies on pronouns, uniforms, toilets, changing rooms, residential trips and PE should be in place and the next sentence spells out what this means “In order to safeguard the child effectively, their wishes should be given priority”. (Underlining is in the original) This section doesn’t even need to mention the trans child. It is clear from the context that no other child or group of children is as important to DRM.

Their advice is almost identical to the Allsorts Trans Inclusion Schools Kit which has been subject to a forensic children’s rights impact assessment by Helen Saxby and found to neglect other groups of children and to discriminate against girls.[11]

This discrimination is underlined by a report[12]of a recent DRM workshop for pupils at another all-girls secondary school in the Midlands.  A class of 13 and 14 year-old girls had a session with Diversity Role Models in which “gender identity” was presented to the girls as fact and sex is “assigned” at birth. But it was the choice of the actual “role models” that points to a staggering disregard for the needs of teenage girls. They were 2 gay men, 1 lesbian and a trans-identifying male, dressed in a short skirt, high heels, wearing false nails and covered in make-up. It is hard to understand in what way these people are suitable role models for young female teenagers. Unless of course the aim is to blur the boundaries between the sexes, to suggest that they count for little when set against the needs of trans people, and to reinforce sexist stereotypes about what it means to be a woman.

Serious questions need to be asked about Diversity Role Models and similar organisations who are currently offering workshops, anti-bullying training, and sex education. The new government Relationships and Sex Education guidance coming into effect in 2020 will mean that there will be more openings to bodies like DRM to sell their services to schools. It is not cheap.  According to their website “RSE staff training starts at £250 for a one hour session and £500 for a half day. For £800 it can be combined with other topics as part of a full day training….It will help staff gain a detailed understanding of the requirements and how to implement LGBT+ inclusion within that. Upon completion, staff will feel more confident to include and talk about sexual orientation and gender identity when teaching relationship & sex education.” Gender identity is to the forefront in the DRM pitch to schools.

Parents, teachers and other staff need to ask some hard questions about any provider offering to do “training”.[13] For instance, what educational background do the trainers have? Currently of the 11 staff listed on DRM’s website only two have actual classroom experience. A third person’s qualifications are in youth work and theatre in education. The majority have backgrounds in LGBT campaigning and charity work. Like Stonewall, Gendered Intelligence and Mermaids, Diversity Role Models has an agenda and some rich patrons. It is urgent that the Department for Education draws up a list of suitable providers for the task of teaching children and teenagers about relationships and sex. Children need to know about their bodies, consent, staying safe, the harms of pornography, and how it is absolutely fine to be lesbian or gay. They need to know that biological sex is real and can’t be changed and how to recognise sex stereotypes. It is too important to be left to lobby groups.

[1] https://www.transgendertrend.com/no-outsiders-queering-primary-classroom/

[2] https://www.diversityrolemodels.org/news?page=9

[3] DRM blog 18th March 2016

[4] https://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/womens_rights/3383894-has-anyone-seen-the-diversity-role-models-schools-pack

[6] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/lgbt-history-month-new-government-support-for-lgbt-groups

[7] See for example Stephanie Davies-Arai chapter Gender Identity: The Rise of Ideology in the Treatment and Education of Children and Young People, from Inventing Transgender Children and Young People (Cambridge Scholars 2019) p.138

[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3CawEET40k

[9] Littman, L. (2018) Parent reports of adolescents and young adults perceived to show signs of a rapid onset of gender dysphoria, PLOSONE https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0202330

[10] For any school thinking of hiring Gendered Intelligence to train their staff here is an example of what to expect https://www.transgendertrend.com/gendered-intelligence-training-teachers-kiss-my-genders/

[11] https://www.transgendertrend.com/product/childrens-rights-impact-assessment-allsorts-trans-inclusion-schools-toolkit/

[12] Reported to me by a concerned parent who wants to remain anonymous.

[13] This is an essential guide for schools and parents to consult before drawing up equality and diversity policies or inviting any outside body to deliver training.     https://safeschoolsallianceuk.files.wordpress.com/2019/10/redflagsa4.pdf

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. charles lewis

    To my horror I learnt shortly after reading this post that my daughter’s secondary school, in Muswell Hiil, has just arranged to let DRM in to the classroom to ‘educate’ the children. I am writig to the head teachers forthwith.

    1. Geeta Wedderburn

      Hi Charles,

      I’m the development researcher at BriteSpark Films and I’m looking further into this issue for a current affairs documentary. What was the school’s reception of, and reaction to, your letter? Would you consider speaking to me for my background research (off-record if you’re happier with that).

      You can email me on: geeta.wedderburn@britesparkfilms.com


  2. Paul

    I think its really essential to get as many other dads involved in this as possible, like it or not, and it’s wrong i know, but I think mens voices are still heard louder and their concerns given more weight.

  3. Kate Harris

    Excellent work – we have to keep shining a light on this child abuse.

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