Gendered Intelligence co-hosted a teacher training session at the Hayward Gallery last night for teachers of primary, secondary and higher education. The aim of the training was to “explore ways of talking about gender and identity, using Hayward Gallery’s Kiss My Genders exhibition as a discussion starter” and to “build skills to discuss key topics of trans awareness and gender identity, drawn from the exhibition, in the classroom.”
Kiss my Genders showcases the work of “more than 30 international artists whose work explores and engages with gender identity.” The show comprises over 100 artworks by artists “who employ a wide range of approaches to articulate and engage with gender fluidity, as well as with non-binary, trans and intersex identities.”
Gendered Intelligence has been delivering training in schools, including primary schools, since 2008. In itself, confusing young children about biological sex and eroding boundaries between the sexes through pretending that sex is not real, should be something that rings alarm bells for anyone concerned with safeguarding and child protection.
This exhibition though, and Gendered Intelligence’s involvement with it, is yet more evidence that ‘gender identity’ ideology is queer theory, which normalises kink, BDSM, fetish, porn and extreme sexual practices. In practice, this means that many young people who identify as part of the queer community, are being pressured to accept kink and paraphilia through fear of being accused of ‘kink shaming’ if they don’t. Once children are trained not to trust their intuition and to believe that having sexual boundaries is ‘bigoted’ they may be more easily manipulated into accepting further erasure of boundaries through a lack of confidence in their own judgment and a fear of being ‘non-inclusive.’
When you disable the function to recognise and name reality throughout society, this is the result: a children and young people’s charity involved in an exhibition of kink, fetish and violent porn passed off as an ‘exploration of gender identities’ which is suitable for all ages.
The following report of the Gendered Intelligence session for teachers was written for us by an anonymous attendee who wants to be known only as #lesbianonachair. We reproduce her report here just as she sent it to us last night, with no editing, so it is an undoctored, immediate response to the session. We are very grateful to her for attending this teacher training with Gendered Intelligence and for offering us her report of the event to publish here.
The Training Session with Gendered Intelligence
On 14 June 2019 I attended a training session held by the Hayward Gallery with the help of Gendered Intelligence for school teachers.
‘Teachers’ Twilight: Talking to Pupils About Gender’ was billed as a training session, to explore ways of talking about gender and identity, using Hayward Gallery’s Kiss My Genders exhibition as a discussion starter.
The session was led by Southbank Centre’s Creative Learning team, a curator from Kiss My Genders, and a representative from trans support organisation Gendered Intelligence. Teachers from the primary, secondary and higher education sector were invited to participate.
Firstly the schools manager gave an intro and wanted to know how many teachers were from primary schools, etc. She looked surprised when most put their hands up for primary, and so was I, but on reflection perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising. She explained that the exhibition was very timely as it is now the 50th anniversary of the Pride March and that the exhibition was informing their summer schools programme. She asked if anyone in the room had any students who would be particularly interested in attending workshops being held in tandem with this exhibition, which we had been given flyers about.
Then the curator, who was later to show us around the exhibition, talked a bit about how the exhibition pushed at the boundaries of gender. He showed a photograph of the opening night, which some of the artists attended, one looked as it they were wearing S&M gear, another was a man in drag who has featured on BBC news about being Muslim and trans. The curator praised the plurality of the art.
Finally it was the turn of the Gendered Intelligence representative to train us on what it means to be trans. He introduced himself as Dex and that he uses “they/them” pronouns, because he is non-binary. He said growing up he had a very tough time because people always asked if he was a boy or a girl and that had led him to identify as non-binary, which means, in case you don’t know, that he is neither male or female. He is from “generation Tumblr”.
He personally found words to describe his trans experience “helpful” and they gave him “confidence”. Gendered Intelligence achieved charity status only a month ago and their stated aim is a world “where people are no longer constrained by narrow perceptions and expectations of gender, and where diverse gender expressions are visible and valued”.
A ‘working agreement’ slide was put up, and Dex explained that there would be no time to unpack issues around sport (too difficult), no time to explain what the actual law means in terms of single sex provision (inconvenient). “We can do more than that by discussing best practice” he boasted. And then, a bit off topic, he said confidentiality about the history of trans lives needed to be respected.
Dex also said that we shouldn’t repeat anything else that anyone said in the room, or take photographs, but that he was “happy to have his own words passed on”. Phew, so that’s okay then Dex, I can quote you.
What does ‘trans’ mean?
We had to discuss in pairs what we thought this meant. Then Dex told us that “it’s about change” and that when a pupil in a school transitions, “the whole environment has to transition”. No-no’s are saying things like someone “wants to be something” or that someone “used to be a girl”.
Dex also observed that terms get out of date so so quickly nowadays, why even the young people he works with (and I judge that he was probably late 20s, at a push early 30s but I doubt it) think he’s such a fuddy-duddy because he uses such archaic terms. Words get out of date in a year now.
Also that sex is “assigned at birth”.
What is the difference between sex and gender?
Again we discussed this in pairs and then had corrections from Dex. Dex explained that doctors “diagnose sex”.
Then a slide which stated “only male and female” is a key cultural assumption and that 1 in 100 people are intersex and that 1 in 100 people are under the trans umbrella. It also said in brackets “statistics are indicative”.
Intersex people experience a lot of violence from doctors on their bodies (it is also a common trans activist trope).
Dex started to talk about the exhibition and he said that his absolute most favourite thing in the exhibition was a candle made out of synthetic testosterone.
If you misgender someone, just apologise and move on, it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Also, there are just so many new things coming up these days, there will always be new words and terms. New words and identities are very exciting. They give you choices and autonomy. Even older people might enjoy having the opportunity to use these new words to describe themselves.
Did you know that a pupil presenting as trans is not inherently a safeguarding issue? (Although on one hand one can quite agree with this, surely one would come from a perspective that it might be a safeguarding issue).
Anyway if a pupil tells you that they are trans, respect their confidentiality, especially as they may not have made up their mind yet, although Dex knows of a 15 year old who posted it all over Instagram because they just wanted it out there and for everybody to know.
Access to gender neutral spaces.
Did you know that transgender pupils are not peeing at school due to lack of gender neutral facilities? Their bodies are literally being damaged by this and it is a form of violence on them.
Dex then related that he is currently mentoring a 9 year old child in a school, following the school requesting help from Gendered Intelligence. Dex has 1-to-1 sessions with the child as the child said they wanted someone to talk to. Dex had recently asked the child if they wanted to continue the sessions in the new term, to which the child said that they were “confused” about how to answer this. Which was an answer which Dex clearly was disappointed with as his voice dropped a note, though in a moment of rare self-reflection he did also acknowledge that some kids do change their minds.
Dex came into his own in the Q&A session. During the teaching session there was all the time in the world to listen to him, speaking about the matter closest to his heart, queerness. However, when the Q&A session started he began to look at his watch and exclaim “there might not be enough time” and also took a deep inhalation of breath signalling to us that he was very nervous indeed.
Someone asked a question about safeguarding. Yes, this person said, being trans is not de facto a safeguarding issue, but what if there is? What do you do?
Well, Dex advised us to ask that trans person, who has told you that they are trans “who else knows?” Dex also said that the “needs of the trans person” might be in conflict with the “needs of the family”. He said it a couple of times, as if “needs of the family” was automatically something bad.
I asked about the source of the statistic for “1 in 100” people being born intersex. Dex said he had no idea where that statistic had come from and that it would all be in the PDF pack that was going to be emailed out later.
I retorted that my understanding was that intersex was an extremely rare condition and that the figure was likely closer to 1 in 100,000, and that the figure they had given was grossly inflated.
Dex snapped back that the figure was from the intersex community themselves and that it was their statistic.
And that was that.
The ‘Kissing My Genders’ Exhibition
After the training session we went to look at the exhibition with a talk from the curator. Even before we entered the room we were informed that the exhibition might not be suitable if you have a latex allergy, so my red flags were already raised. No warning was given about the content of the exhibition, i.e. that there was be extremely graphic depictions of adult sexuality.
The latex allergy warning was given because there are two huge curtained off areas, made out of latex, and I have to say I felt a bit wheezy around it.
The first photo still that I looked at was of, I guess, a drag queen. A drag queen wearing a pair of handcuffs. I kind of rolled my eyes a bit and wondered how much worse it was going to get in the latex rooms.
The curator talked a bit how the show was all about different gender identities and how they are expressed, blah blah blah. Victoria Sin is one of the artists featured. Sin is a Canadian woman who identifies as non-binary and the curator explained that her work explores femininity (of course religiously referring to her as ‘they’). Still photos of her are projected onto curtained material, so that the image of her ‘tantalises’ the viewer. You can look up images of Victoria Sin for yourself if you like. She isn’t exploring femininity, she’s depicting a blow up sex doll. I thought to myself, there would be no way in hell they could get away with displaying that if they were projecting that onto a flat screen.
Then there was a section of more traditional portraiture photographic stills. Some were of faces, but some were in my opinion leaning towards soft porn (for example, a pair of long ‘sexy’ legs ending in a pair of very high stilettos).
More blooh blah bley from the curator as he talked about one of the photos which depicted a body covered in blown up condoms. According to the curator this artist was experimenting with the ‘hybrid’ body, by covering himself with blow up condoms. At which point I mentally asked myself, “is it that, or a rubber fetish?”
We moved upstairs to an area displaying mixed media art. Here there was a very large photo of an African woman, with what looked like to me lots of like black rubber gloves. The blurb besides the photograph described that the artist was exploring black identity. I do sincerely hope that the Hayward Gallery is not transing ethnic experience, but it does seem like that, especially as I felt that the image lacked any sexual charge whatsoever, and was simply a black woman being as black as she could (it’s a beautiful photograph).
On the floor in that area there was an absolutely huge rabbit suit, probably five metres long. I asked the curator what it was and he explained that the artist in question likes dressing up in them, but that this was one that he probably doesn’t use for performance. The curator said it was known as “the big one’ and then smirked. So that was the furries tick box checked then.
The curator also talked about a series of photos, again “exploring gender identity”, which were actually nothing of the sort, unless you think that looking like an alien, or having your face covered in fruit, is somewhere on the gender spectrum. Again, the curator used the word “masking” to describe this family of photos. Another red flag (‘masking’ is a rubber fetish).
Oh and there was also the candle made out of testosterone, which was Dex’s favourite. It was about 4 inches high and unremarkable.
Then we moved to an area where things are ramped up a bit. There were several more photos which were really depicting various BDSM practices, and incredibly a very close up photo of an erect penis. This is when I really began to think there must be an age restriction on this show of at least 15, and if so what was the point of bringing a bunch of schoolteachers to look at this. What age of kids are they thinking about? Higher education surely?
So I approached the school programme manager and asked her, was it age-restricted? She said ‘no’ it wasn’t but that parents were given an advisory warning.
I’ll just repeat for emphasis:
THE SHOW IS NOT AGE RESTRICTED.
I explained to her that that some of the exhibition material was actually pornographic in nature, and that in particular rubber fetish was a theme. She said that “parents know their kids best” and I pointed out that actually parents are the most likely demographic to be involved in the abuse of a child.
Then she went all corporate on me and told me how invaluable my opinion was and that she would feed it back, and that the Gallery had “consulted LGBTQ+ groups” in the process of vetting the show.
I said I didn’t understand how the Gallery could put a fully erect penis on display and think that it was okay for potentially young children to see such an image. I pointed out that the Gallery are failing responsible parents by not making clear that there are explicit images on show.
Then the school programme manager invited the curator to join the conversation. I explained my position to him that it wasn’t appropriate for children to see it at all. I pointed out that even in a 15 certificate film you wouldn’t be able to show a fully erect penis, and the same standard needed to apply in this situation.
He started to fob me off with the excuse, that all people who don’t give a shit about safeguarding give, namely that kids can look up anything on their phones these days, but I wasn’t having any of it. He tried it again and finally I told him, “you’re responsible for the content of this show, and you’re responsible for making sure that children aren’t exposed to inappropriate material, now I’m going to look around the rest of this show to see what’s here” and dismissed them both.
At which point I am genuinely going to give a trigger warning about what I saw next.
I walked up a little ramp to what I had already pointed out to both the Hayward Gallery staff members was reminiscent of a peep show booth. It was draped in blood red velvet, and had a phallic symbol – a Devil’s tail.
Inside a film played. A man fully encased in a rubber suit is lain prostate on the floor, surrounded by other men, he obviously can’t move, and then there is a cake. A cake which is just like him, the blue and white icing mirroring the colouring and striping on his suit. The men rip into the cake with their hands and inside there is lots of red jelly-like substance, as if it’s his innards, which they pull out and then they get the cake and then pretend stuff it in the mouth of the rubber figure on the floor. The metaphor is clear. This is a gang rape scene. The camera focus is all over the place, giving you the sense of movement in the scene, and of the confusion of the man being raped. A close up of a head fully encased in rubber being stuffed with cake. Complete dehumanisation and degradation.
Between all this happening there are flashes of men tied and bound up, crouching, with what look like actual metal spikes up their arses.
I couldn’t have been in there more than a minute so I didn’t even see the full thing. Just to repeat.
THE SHOW IS NOT AGE RESTRICTED.
And needless to say, nothing in that rubber fetish film had anything whatsoever to do with gender identity. Zero. No one can argue that. That was real pornography right there. You could take your kid to this exhibition and they could wander off up into the little room and you’d have no idea that they were going to be watching that.
So yes, that’s right, the Hayward Gallery and Gendered Intelligence looked around all the media on display, and in particular that film, and decided that they make this the springboard for the conversation with kids about gender identity. And that they didn’t need to age restrict it.
Even as an adult, I think I deserved to know that I was going to be exposed to a rubber fetish pornographic movie depicting a gang rape – who wouldn’t?
I could easily have left just then, gone home. I had seen enough to utterly destroy any notion that this is an exhibition exploring what is now fashionably known as ‘gender identity’, rather than fetish, but I went downstairs to look into the latex rooms (don’t worry the worst bit is now over).
In the pink latex room, you have to take your shoes off because the artist has chosen white carpet and doesn’t want people to get their dirty shoes on his lovely white carpet. I watched two minutes of the artist mincing silently into the camera and left.
The black latex room, is a film about gay male sexuality and Tom of Finland features. A camera rovers over a scantily clad man, avoiding the obvious area, and yes I kind of got the idea of where that was going, so decided to leave after a couple of minutes.
So in conclusion, no one at the Southbank or the Hayward Gallery has done any due diligence whatsoever looking at safeguarding issues. They have completely failed parents, kids and anyone who goes to see this exhibition expecting that it will explore how sexist stereotypes impact on us, and how we try subvert them. There wasn’t even one exhibit that I would say genuinely challenged a sexist stereotype. Not one.
Heads need to roll.