by Shelley Charlesworth
The Manchester based Proud Trust could be a case study in how the trans issue has increasingly come to dominate many groups which were originally set up to fight for gay and lesbian rights. The Proud Trust began life in 1978 when it was known the Gay Youth Group, a support group for gay and lesbian young people and their families. In 1989 the Gay Youth Group moved into a purpose-built building courtesy of Manchester City Council where it has been ever since. In 2005 it was taken over by LGBT Youth North West  which itself was an amalgamation of existing LGBT youth groups in the north west.
LGBT Youth North West’s reach extended beyond Manchester to Greater Manchester, Greater Merseyside, Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria. And its activities became more ambitious. Alongside youth services there was the inevitable training for “both practitioners and young people on LGBT awareness and support, peer mentoring and the LGBT Youth College” All the branding began with the assertion that they “help save lives”.
At the start of 2015, there were ambitious plans to open a school. It was to provide places for 40 pupils who faced homophobic and transphobic bullying in mainstream education. Amelia Lee, the Strategic Director, told the Guardian that such “bullying is still incredibly common and causes young people to feel isolated and alienated, which often leads to truanting and, in the worst-case scenarios, to suicide.” 
Contrary to all advice from the Samaritans about how to talk about suicide, Lee showed no compunction about using and naming a local teenager who had taken her own life. She continued in the Guardian interview that the girl “feared telling her parents that she was gay… (she) felt the only option was to kill herself. There was another girl with a similar story in Bolton,” said Lee.” Reports from the inquest a few months before Lee gave this interview stated that the girl had depression and had been self-harming as well as struggling to reconcile her Christian faith with a feeling she might be a lesbian.
The school plans never materialised. Despite much coverage in the national press and television, nothing more was heard of the idea of setting up a school for lesbian, gay and trans identified children. But the ambition to expand and the self-belief in their life saving powers remained.
Later in 2015 there was a name change, a legal change from limited company to charity and some major rebranding. The idea that the organisation was there to save lives became integral to its image; they became The Proud Trust and they could literally save lives:
“The Proud Trust is a life saving and life enhancing organisation that helps LGBT+ young people empower themselves, to make a positive change for themselves, and their communities”
This mantra is now repeated on all their branding and all over their website.
Despite the name change there has been little change in personnel; trustees and senior management have remained largely the same. Sally Carr, Operational Director has been involved with the organisation since 1988 and Amelia Lee, Strategic Director, since at least 2005.
Before 2015 most of its income had come from local authorities. Between 2008 and 2011 Manchester City Council contracted their LGBT youth work to the group and have continued to provide financial support, either directly or indirectly through other funding bodies.
By 2016 its income had increased considerably. With new funders including the Lottery, the Department for Communities and Local Government, EHRC, the Arts Council, and Manchester and other local councils their income from grants and charitable bodies was just over £554,740. In their Annual Report 2017/18 the chair of Trustees said that income had “tripled over the last five years”.
In 2017 it rose to £559,098 which included £75,783 from the Government Equalities Office. In 2018 it was just over £734,000 and in 2019, £820,000.
The Proud Trust’s centre in Manchester, built by the council in 1988, is being demolished to make way for a new £2.4 million redevelopment. Constructed and owned by Manchester City Council it will be handed over to The Proud Trust on a 50-year lease. Funding is mainly coming from the Big Lottery, General Manchester Combined Authority and Manchester City Council; with the other income sources that the centre generates, it will leave The Proud Trust in a strong position to continue its work.
GROUPS AND NETWORKS
So, what of their work? 32 employees and 60 volunteers are organised into a complex of different schemes, groups and networks; the splicing and dicing of intersectional politics must require multiple spreadsheets to keep track of all of The Proud Trust’s activities and funders. 48 separate fund allocations are listed in the financial year ending March 2019.
The emphasis on youth work is clear in the CVs and experience of their staff. Four of the networks they run are for youth workers doing LGBT work; for managers, BAME, Trans, and the NW region.
The fifth network is their LGBT+ Groups in Schools Alliance which helps schools set up LGBT+ groups. The benefits of joining, according to The Proud Trust, are that the school will get a handbook, stickers, wallcharts, badges and the knowledge that they are “meeting the objectives laid out in the 2020 DfE Relationships and Sex Education guidance”. They cite objective 29 in the guidance which says schools should take steps if any of the protected characteristics of the Equality Act are being breached. This is true and it is good that schools are encouraged to take action if for instance there is sexual harassment of girls who are protected under the characteristic of sex (the example used in the statutory guidance.) But it is misleading of The Proud Trust to say that setting up such a club is covered or sanctioned by new RSE guidance.
‘Transgender’ and ‘gender identity’ are not protected characteristics – ‘gender reassignment’ refers specifically to ‘transsexual persons’ – and a club where older pupils may be helping younger pupils to ‘explore their gender identity’ goes way beyond the requirements set out in the statutory guidelines.
In addition, there are other safeguarding concerns about LGBT+ after school clubs. Unlike other after school clubs, issues of sexuality, sexual attraction and ‘gender identity’ are part of their core purpose. Most teachers don’t have the specialist skills needed to deal with what could be very vulnerable young people .
The Proud Trust advertises 14 youth groups on its website. Eight are organised by geography and six by identity or characteristic. The Wythenshawe group is typical of those based in a locality. Like most of the youth groups the age range, from 13 to 25, creates its own safeguarding problems.
The groups based on identity offer a similar mix of incentives: a space to be safe, where “you can just be you”.
Fusion for black and Asian LGBT people
KICout for LGBT people with experience of being in care
The Young Women’s Health Project for lesbian, bi and pansexual women.
Turtles for 11-15 y-old trans or non-binary or questioning
AfternoonT.E.A. for 16-25 y-old trans people
Femolition Squad for young transfeminine people including trans women and non-binary people who are transfeminine. The blurb for this helpfully adds “if you are not sure if this group is for you, please contact…”
EVERYONE MUST BE TRAINED
Then there is the training. It’s an important source of income for LGBT charities. In 2018 and 2019 it generated £65,176 and £48,684 respectively for The Proud Trust. The annual report for 2018/19 records 3,442 attending some form of Proud Trust training and makes the wildly optimistic and hard to prove claim that this “impacted 20,000 people directly and 3.4 million indirectly through training people who work with young people.” That equates to a thousand people for every one person trained by The Proud Trust. That is a lot of cascading.
What will these 3.4 million people learn? Whatever the skills taught, such as team building, leadership or anti-bullying techniques, it will all be taught with the belief system of gender identity at its core; this is the belief that everyone has an internal sense of their gender that overrides biological sex. They’ll likely have been shown the Genderbread person graphic, which teaches that “gender identity is how you think about yourself”, “gender expression is how you display your gender”, biological sex is “usually determined at birth, based on an observation of your genitals” and sexual attraction is the “types of people, often based on gender, that you find yourself attracted to”.
They will have been taught the LGBT glossary of terms, the vocabulary underpinning this belief system, the familiar mix of the incorrect, the made-up and the pointless. Sex is defined as something you are “given at birth” rather than recorded, making it sound like an arbitrary present. Woman is a “social term used to describe an adult’s gender, typically through the use of the pronouns she and her”. Cisgender, “a person whose gender is the same or mostly the same as they were assigned at birth”. Aromantic, “person of any gender or sexual orientation who experiences little, or no, romantic attraction. Aromantic people may still experience other types of attraction, such as sexual or physical attraction”.
Those attending the Safer Person Project training, aimed at “building up key skills” to be a supportive friend, will be taught using the same vocabulary during the five sessions, two of which will be “LGBT+ Identities” and “Gender”.
Youth work is the special expertise of The Proud Trust but with their immersion in gender identity theory they are heavily weighted to the affirmation model of helping gender non-conforming young people. This is the story of “Charlie” a case study highlighted in the 2017/18 Annual Report. It is impossible to know the truth about this troubling case but it is clear that The Proud Trust do not have the diagnostic and therapeutic skills to advise and help this young girl with anorexia and mental health issues.
The Proud Trust’s website has a section on trans healthcare despite having no medical specialists on their staff. It begins: “Being trans sometimes means you need to access trans-specific healthcare like hormones or surgery”. No other treatment path is mentioned.
In a downloadable poster, they state “you have the right to be referred to a gender identity clinic” but that “YOU DON’T need to go through local mental health services” (their capitals). The Proud Trust should not be giving such advice to vulnerable young people, their client base, many of whom might, like Charlie above, have co-morbidities or be suffering from some form of abuse.
The trans healthcare webpage also provides template letters to send to GPs asking for referrals, or bridging prescriptions for those who are self-medicating by buying hormones online. The Proud Trust tells its young clients to get in touch with them if a GP refuses to issue a bridging prescription. Again, this is a basic safeguarding failure. No young person is safe buying hormones online. Hormone treatment requires monitoring, and even when under the care of a specialist doctor carries long term health risks. Nowhere on the page are these warnings given.
So, it is not surprising that on the page offering advice for those feeling “stressed/depressed” they list the Mermaids Helpline as the contact for those struggling with gender identity or trans issues. Mermaids will only offer affirming advice and are on record as wanting no lower age limit for medical intervention or drug treatment. Mermaids also argue that rates of transition regret are negligible, a claim that is completely unverifiable given that nobody yet knows the outcomes of the recent cohort of young people undergoing medical transition at an earlier age than ever before.
Schools are a growing market for Proud Trust training. They offer their own Rainbow Award Scheme (first year’s membership is £495 + VAT!), training courses for professionals, resource packs, workshops and its LGBT+ Groups in Schools Alliance. They promise to make schools “fully LGBT+ inclusive in their practice, policy, and curriculum”.
Writing on their website’s blog, Training and Education Manager, Rachel Williams says “Primary school work is a massively growing area for us, with the term “age-appropriate” being banded around a lot.” She offers no evidence for what age-appropriate means when talking about different sexual orientations except to deny that “lesbian” is a word with any sexual element. It’s clear when looking at their “trans-inclusive” primary school resource for KS2 pupils, children aged 7-11, that age-appropriate has no meaning and that they consider seven to be old enough to learn about transgenderism.
Their website states “Trans and non-binary children and young people exist in our world, exist in our primary schools. You may well have found this page because a child in your care has just “come out”. Lesson 2 in the resource pack starts with a recap of what pupils have learnt in the first lesson: understanding of “gender identity including terms trans, non-binary and cis”. Armed with these concepts, young children will then ponder the Alien Nation poster, with girl, boy and non-binary planets. It’s not hard to work out which is the boy and which is the girl planet. Helpfully there is a bridge between them in the colours of the trans flag in case any child thinks she was sent to the wrong one as baby.
Links in the Schools and Training website page take you to the “educational” resources of Allsorts  and Gendered Intelligence, activist organisations which promote the idea of the “trans” child .
The Proud Trust has now completed a 3-year pilot of its Rainbow Award scheme which it led with partners the Kite Trust, Allsorts, humankind; declaring it a success they plan to continue the project with the 300 schools involved. This is concerning because those schools signing up to the scheme in the belief that is adding value to their PHSE or RSE teaching will in fact be teaching a highly contested set of beliefs, not facts.
TAMPON TAX FUND
The Proud Trust has shown itself adept at applying for grants from a wide range of funders. One successful bid was to the Department for Culture Media and Sport for money from the Tampon Tax Fund. This money comes entirely from VAT receipts on women’s sanitary products and is intended for projects that benefit disadvantaged women and girls. The Proud Trust was awarded £99,960 in 2017 for a 3-year training and events project called Sexuality aGender. Its main aim  was to meet the needs of “disadvantaged lesbian and bisexual young women” and to create “intergenerational spaces” for older lesbian and bi women. But those aren’t the only groups to benefit as The Proud Trust explained:
“In addition, trans young people across the gender spectrum will benefit from the training e.g. trans masculine young people (who were assigned female at birth, and who now identify as male or trans-masculine), trans feminine people (who were assigned male at birth, but who now identify as female or trans-feminine) and non-binary gendered young people (who do not identify as male or female, and may express this through being androgynous).”
It was clear then from the outset that The Proud Trust would be using money from the Tampon Trust Fund to include males who “identify as female or transfeminine”.
They applied for £99,960 in partnership with two other organisations, the Young Women’s Health Project and The Empowerment People. This is puzzling. The Young Women’s Health Project, YMHP, which aims to improve the health of young lesbian, bi-sexual and pansexual women aged 14-25, was set up by the Proud Trust and is listed as one of their groups. It operates from their headquarters, and is run by Hebe Phillips, a Proud Trust staff member. The same applies to The Empowerment People, a private company, set up in 2013 by Amelia Lee and Sally Carr of The Proud Trust, whose company address is also that of the Proud Trust. It describes itself as “an ethical company set up by people who are passionate about equality and equal opportunities for everyone”.
These two partner organisations are cited in the section of the application which asks for “experience of delivering similar projects”; they say two projects “have both been trialled (sic) as a joint project between The Empowerment People and Young Women’s Health Project for the past 18 months. They are housed at the LGBT Centre in Manchester (the Proud Trust HQ), who have given free use of space whilst they ‘bed in’”.
They cite another example of experience of project delivery: “All three organisations have joined together to run the Sapphormation Festival for women who love women, since 2012”. The impression given is of three independent organisations whereas the relationship is best described as overlapping circles within circles; the same people run all three bodies. It’s not clear why The Proud Trust chose to apply for funding using these partners, who are in reality under the same organisational umbrella. However, the effect is to make the funding bid seem more geared towards women and girls.
The target audience for the project are lesbian, bisexual and trans people aged 12-25, older lesbian and bisexual women and professionals such as social workers, those working with vulnerable children and teachers.
At the heart of the successful bid for Tampon Tax funding is The Proud Trust’s Sexuality aGender sexual health toolkit.  Sexuality aGender is a training scheme, which The Proud Trust had already developed in partnership with Body Positive, a small Cheshire based sexual health charity. Over the 3 years of the Tampon Tax funding 375 adults will learn how to deliver the toolkit to 2,500 young people. Versions of the toolkit have already been used by The Proud Trust since 2015, in training sessions costing £140 per person. It is promoted on their website as being a potential part of a school’s PSHE education and in line with DfE guidance.
The Proud Trust insists that the toolkit is a sexual health resource for all young people from the age of 13. It’s a bizarre claim as there is very little content in the guide about sexual health, such as STIs, contraception, pregnancy, or sexual problems of an emotional or physical nature. Nor is there much ‘how-to’ guidance for young people.
The introduction begins “there is no such thing as gay sex” and quotes a survey that reported almost one in five 16-24-year-olds had had anal sex in the last year, a statement that appears to be normalising the practice. It starts as it means to go on; anal sex is a constant feature of the toolkit.
Before starting, the trainees (and eventually those young people aged 13 up) are told to think about four things. Pleasure is the first and we are told “Sex should be a nice, positive and consensual act either with yourself (masturbation) or between two or more people” and “some people find ‘risky sex’ pleasurable and the idea of reducing all risks unrealistic”.
Secondly, think about consent; after a purely legalistic discussion about the age of consent, the toolkit says “encouraging young people to consider how they seek and give consent is important.” Thirdly, trainees must think about their assumptions and remember “to use the phrase ‘a person with a vagina’ rather than ‘a woman’s vagina’ and ‘a person with a penis’ rather than a ‘man’s penis’. This is because, as we will learn, not all women have a vagina and not all men have a penis”.
Finally, think about risks: “Unplanned pregnancies can occur if penis-in-vagina sex happens where the penis ejaculates sperm, and the person with the vagina also has a womb” and “Reduction of unwanted pain or discomfort during sex, may be achieved through the introduction of lubrication, to areas of the body that do not produce any, or enough, of their own, such as the anus, and some vaginas”.
This language pervades the document; cold and dehumanising, language that will be bewildering for many young people. “Some vaginas” here is referring to males who have had sex reconstruction surgery and who have had a surgically constructed vagina. Again, it is worth remembering that The Proud Trust says this scheme is for any girl or boy from the age of 13.
The scheme itself is divided into four one hour sessions:
Session 1 Exploring a Range of Identities is a quick introduction to the building blocks of ‘gender identity’ theory, including the Genderbread person, and a word search puzzle to find the words such as cis, intersex, genderfluid, a glossary of 23 words of which only one, “ally”, is accurately defined.
Session 2 The Sexual Body reminds trainers and trainees to “make no assumptions, especially about which types of people have which types of body parts”. A list of body parts is provided, “Vulva (including vagina), Penis, Anus, Mouth, Hands/Fingers”. While placing the word vagina in brackets is curious, the most egregious omission from the list is Breasts or Nipples. The words to describe one of women’s most sensitive erogenous zones is not mentioned once in the booklet.
Next the class is shown 15 black and white drawings of male and female genitalia and asked which ones “you are likely to see in (a) textbooks (b) pornography (c) a doctor’s surgery”. It is not clear why 13-year-olds would be familiar with textbooks or what might be seen in a doctor’s surgery. Or why teenage girls and boys are being asked to confirm if they are familiar with pornographic depictions of genitals.
Several images appear to be illustrations of a DSD, a disorder of sexual development, a very rare medical condition in which external genitalia is ambiguous. This would be in line with The Proud Trust’s and other LGBT groups’ attempts to co-opt intersex conditions for their own political ends . Worse is the drawing showing a partially stitched vulva, the stitching over the clitoris area, the result of female genital mutilation. This is not a “body part” but the result of a crime, based on misogyny.
The session ends with an exercise to “design a random set of genitals” from more badly drawn body parts that can be cut out, stuck on to a body outline, even coloured in and put into a “genital gallery”. Included in the parts to cut out is what appears to be an almost wholly stitched vulva. This is sometimes called infibulation, and it is the most severe form of female genital mutilation. The session ends with the question “How well does the genital gallery that has been created, reflect the variation that exists in human genitals?”
FGM is not a genital variation. It is a criminal assault on the bodies of young girls. In their desire to be inclusive and argue that sex is a spectrum The Proud Trust has included images of a rare form of developmental disorder and of FGM. It is exploitative in the extreme and impossible to justify in a training scheme that is supposed to be for all young people from the age of 13.
Sexuality aGender should be withdrawn from use on this basis alone.
Session 3 asks What Is Your Normal? Various activities are suggested and the group is asked to place them on a quadrant of normal, harmful, not normal and safe. Among the activities are “Having anal sex”, “Receiving a gift from someone in exchange for sex” and “Watching pornography”. The booklet advises using ‘usual’ and ‘unusual’ or ‘common’ and ‘uncommon’ instead of the more value laden ‘normal.’ Suggested supplementary questions about anal sex are “Is this usual? Who can have anal sex? Is this activity pleasurable? What might you need to consider if having, or thinking about having, anal sex?”
Session 4 features The Dice Game which the class will play sitting in a circle and rolling two inflatable dice. The six-sided dice has a word on each side, Vulva (including vagina), Penis, Anus, Mouth, Hands/Fingers and Object. The game is to roll the two dice and then the group will discuss what sexual activity is possible using the two words that face upwards. There’s a grid to explain what is the activity, say, when anus meets anus (“tricky to achieve…but can be pleasurable”) or when object meets anus. “Every combination is worthy of a conversation” says the text and the risks are downplayed (instructions are to use a lubricant and remember that objects “must be retrievable!”) The trainer is reminded “that no judgement is made on whether a certain sexual activity is ‘normal’ or indeed not.”
After four hours of Sexuality aGender training what will young people have learned about sexual health? Very little about sexual health per se, nothing useful about consent, STIs, erectile or menstrual problems, or how to be safe and confident in their most intimate and emotional relationships. They will have learned there are no specific words to describe their sexed bodies because anyone can have any “body part”; that there is no such thing as normal; that there are no risks attached to anal sex that enough lube won’t solve; that rare intersex cases and the results of FGM are examples of the diversity of human genitalia.
The ideas promulgated by Sexuality aGender are particularly harmful to girls and women. The growing pressure on them to agree to anal sex , its normalisation via pornography and some magazines such as Teen Vogue, and the physical harms that can result are all well documented. Without the language to talk about sexual inequality, sexism and male violence, girls will be left unable to make informed decisions about consent, harms and boundaries.
No school should be considering using this guide, which, it needs repeating, is marketed as a training scheme for all young people from 13 and as a useful tool to meet a school’s statutory duty under the new RSE guidelines.
A GOOD USE OF TAMPON TAX FUNDING?
What does Sexuality aGender have to offer a group of disadvantaged young lesbian and bisexual women? The application for Tampon Tax funding stated that this group was its main target audience; the fund itself is earmarked only for projects that help disadvantaged women and girls. The Proud Trust were clear at the outset that this group included male people (“assigned male at birth, but who now identify as women”) and that Sexuality aGender would be used.
The toolkit disappears girls and women as a sex class because it cannot admit to the reality of biological sex. It asks young women to consider their bodies as pornographic images, it normalises anal sex. The Department for Culture Media and Sport failed in its assessment of this funding bid and could not have looked closely at the detail. If they had they would have seen an organisation which promotes an unverifiable belief in gender identity, and the idea that it is possible to be born in the wrong body.
Gender ideologists have nothing to say about sexual health because they are not really interested in it as such. They believe sex is a spectrum, that gender, a feeling or belief based on sex stereotypes, is the only marker as to who you are, that anyone who says they are a woman is one and that disembodied body parts can be attached to anyone because “not all women have a vagina and not all men have a penis”.
This guide is a perfect example of this thinking. But it’s surprising that it is being peddled by a group claiming a majority female and lesbian leadership. And it’s reprehensible that money raised from sanitary products for women and earmarked for disadvantaged women and children is being handed out by the government and civil servants for such a project.
 For a range of views on the invention of the idea of the transgender child see https://cambridgescholars.com/inventing-transgender-children-and-young-people
 Details about the funding application come from a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Culture Media and Sport
 All the quotes in this section are from https://www.theproudtrust.org/training-and-education/education-resources/sexuality-agender/
 https://mrkhvoice.com/ Excellent website which critiques the misuse of intersex conditions by LGBT groups.
 This study shows the effects of porn and pressure on young women and girls to have anal sex https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/4/8/e004996
Older women are not immune from the pressure to appear “cool” and say they like anal sex https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/lisa-taddeo-the-politics-of-anal-sex-052txhmx8