In March, Stonewall published a new schools guide ‘An Introduction to Supporting LGBT young people’, replacing the guide of the same name published in 2015 which is no longer available from the website. The new guide goes further than any previous Stonewall schools guidance in several significant ways, the most serious and potentially harmful aspect of which is the whole section dedicated to children with SEND, including autism.
We have reviewed all ten Stonewall schools guides from 2015 to the present.
35% of children referred to the Tavistock GIDS have moderate to severe ASD traits and a further 13% describe mild ASD traits, taking the total to a staggering 48%. What is needed is an urgent enquiry into what might be happening with this particular, already marginalised, cohort of children and young people. With no research, no evidence and no understanding of what’s going on with this group, Stonewall advises that what autistic young people in schools really need is even greater encouragement to understand themselves according to the “Gender Unicorn”.
From this they will learn that their biological sex is not real, it was just “assigned” to them at birth and it is instead their “gender identity” that makes them a boy or a girl.
From the evidence of Twitter accounts, the majority of detransitioners are lesbians and many of them are on the autism spectrum. Stonewall is an organisation that purportedly supports the ‘L’ as well as the ‘T’ and yet they show no concern at all that a disproportionate number of autistic young lesbians are ‘transitioning’ and then regretting it, leaving them with lifelong physical consequences.
Instead, it’s as if Stonewall wants schools to do everything within their power to influence and convince autistic young people to believe they are trans. Teachers are told:
“Some children and young people with SEND, including those who have neurodivergent learning styles, may need additional support in understanding their own identity.”
Looking for a “gender identity”
It is suggested that talking to an ‘LGBT’ person or attending a support group may be helpful and that this would be “particularly beneficial for trans children and young people”. Although SEND young people may have “a fragile sense of self and a limited understanding of who they are in relation to other people”, nevertheless, with the support of someone who will “help” them “explore their developing identity”, hey presto, this doubt turns into certainty as they often “demonstrate a very clear understanding and sense of self.”
“It is important to listen to what children and young people are saying – with their actions as well as their words. Observe, listen to and understand how each child or young person expresses themselves. This is especially important for pre- or non-verbal children or young people. Make sure that each child or young person has opportunities to express their gender identity and orientation and feel ‘heard’.”
If you are looking for a sign of something, you will find it; this is not how you listen to children. No neutral support is offered.
The idea that pre-verbal children communicate ‘gender messages’, originates from one of the most extreme “gender affirmative” therapists in the US, Diane Ehrensaft. The belief that, through their behaviour, pre-verbal children send us “messages” that tell us whether they are boys or girls tells us everything we need to know about how this ideology is based entirely on gender stereotypes circa 1950. To be clear, it invites us to interpret behaviour such as playing with trucks as evidence that a female child is really a boy.
Stonewall’s guide advises not only that teachers listen with an agenda (which is not listening) but that they reinterpret behaviour characteristics typically associated with autism as a sign that the child might be transgender.
“Often a child or young person’s words or actions are automatically attributed to their SEND without considerations of other factors, such as their orientation or gender identity. This might include: preferences for clothing types or hair length being seen as a sensory need; fear of change at puberty; behaviours described as a new special interest, fascination, curiosity or phase.”
This advice seems to be targeting directly the cohort causing the most concern among professionals: girls, often on the spectrum, who are suddenly wanting to be boys precisely at the time their bodies are changing in ways they find uncomfortable or distressing. The most common reason for struggling with the changes at puberty in reality is called ‘being female’.
What the advice also means is that if an autistic girl likes to have short hair and wear trousers, teachers must consider that she might really be a boy. We have to ask why teachers are being encouraged to stereotype children when they have a duty to eliminate such harmful gender stereotypes in schools. It is a bully who tells a girl she’s not a ‘real girl’ because of her failure to obey society’s rules of femininity; a teacher should not be doing the same. Anyone who knows autistic girls will know that they are the most vulnerable to this message and the most susceptible to believing it.
We need to be clear about what is happening here. Children are being judged as girls or boys on the basis of the most regressive and harmful gender stereotypes and they are being encouraged to judge themselves according to the same criteria. Stonewall’s guide doesn’t just reinforce these stereotypes, it replaces biological sex with gender stereotypes as the material reality that defines the very meaning of the words ‘boy’ or ‘girl’.
The belief that we have been mis-diagnosing children as autistic and that really these children have been transgender all along, is a belief of another of the most extreme proponents of gender theory in the US, Johanna Olson-Kennedy, a view supported by our own “gender GP” Dr Helen Webberley and the CEO of Mermaids, Susie Green.
In a live Facebook event during Olson-Kennedy’s visit to the UK last year, on the subject of autistic children Webberley asks incredulously: “Who put them on the spectrum I’d like to ask?” and Olson-Kennedy claims “there are people whose symptoms of autism go away when they are affirmed in their gender.” The completely unevidenced claim that transition is a magic cure for autism has also been heard in the UK from GIRES in their response to the NHS public consultation in 2016:
“Anecdotally, young people who have been successfully treated, are often described as having no residual ASD. The symptoms have disappeared once the dysphoria has been treated.”
Olson-Kennedy was invited to the UK by the University of Bristol Law School in April last year as a Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor. The conference at which she spoke in Bristol, Re-Thinking Trans Healthcare, was organised by Peter Dunne and Mermaids, and included Susie Green and Jay Stewart of Gendered Intelligence on the panel. These UK organisations want nothing less than to import the most extreme US ‘gender affirmative’ model into the UK.
There is a strong movement from the most fervent believers in gender ideology to re-diagnose everything from common adolescent angst to diagnosable conditions, including autism, as evidence of hidden gender dysphoria. This is a slide from Aydin Olson-Kennedy’s presentation at the EPath conference last year, enthusiastically tweeted by Mermaids, which suggests that anything and everything may be a sign that a child is ‘transgender’. In their latest guide Stonewall has brought this extremism into the classroom.
Putting the most vulnerable girls at risk
Apart from the influence of vulnerable SEND and autistic young people with inappropriate adult theories of ‘gender’, perhaps the most concerning thing about the new guide is the advice to help young people with SEND to undo the rules they have learned about public toilets.
Girls with SEND, from mild learning disabilities, neurobiological differences, to physical disabilities, are at greater risk of abuse, including sexual abuse. Stonewall’s guide suggests that a girl with SEND may use the boys’ toilets and changing-rooms and also seems to suggest that it should not worry her if a man walks into the women’s public toilet she may be using. This is advice that would put her at serious risk, it is advice that should never be followed for any girl, and especially not in a school or in any setting responsible for the care and safeguarding of children and young people with SEND.
“Trans children and young people with SEND should be supported to use the toilets and changing rooms of their choice – whether this is a single-sex or gender-neutral facility.”
“Some LGBT children or young people with SEND might need explicit teaching around hidden social rules. They may benefit from scripts to explore what is safe/OK or unsafe/not OK to say or do in different contexts. You could roleplay different scenarios if needed. Bear in mind that these rules or expectations may be different for different genders or orientations, depending on the context. Some things that had to be taught to the child or young person originally – for example, the unwritten rules of using public toilets – may need to be taught again to help them as they transition.”
The fact that this guide includes advice about the underwear preferences of children with SEND within this context suggests the use of binders and packers. Prosthetic penises for girls to put in their pants, and binders that cause physical harm and prevent girls from breathing, should not be accepted in any school, for the obvious reason that sexualisation of children and self-harm practices should not be encouraged in schools.
“Children and young people should have access to underwear choices, changes of clothes and toiletry products in line with their preferences. Be sensitive to the fact that puberty can be a particularly challenging time for both trans children and young people, and those with SEND.”
For further analysis of the advice for children with SEND:
Encouraging children to transition
The new guide also emphasises and extends the encouragement of children to transition (“We will support you to be you”) and dedicates much more space to advice on directing children towards Stonewall-approved resources, including “groups, volunteer schemes and youth-led projects”, “youth sites and forums” and “services offering face-to-face, phone or online counselling and/or support”. It also suggests “displays in corridors, leaflets in common rooms or on the school website” that children can access anonymously and that schools should check that the ‘trans’ is not blocked on school computers. There is no concern here about teenage girls’ access to videos where FtM celebrities document the physical effects of testosterone and proudly display mastectomy scars, selling medical transition as a cure for girls’ unhappiness. The list of Stonewall-approved resources includes of course Gendered Intelligence and Mermaids.
It reads as if Stonewall wants no child to get away. Otherwise why not encourage children to explore different options and perspectives rather than offer only one prescribed way to understand themselves? Is it healthy for children to surround themselves in an echo chamber of like-minded people, all of whom fervently believe in the Gender Unicorn? These are people who will only tell them they are brave and doing the right thing, and that everyone else is a bigot who doesn’t understand them.
The social transition of children in schools is an experiment. Even the Dutch consistently urge caution. It is a serious concern that schools are following the advice of a political lobby group rather than clinical professionals in an approach towards children with gender dysphoria which has never been tried before.
Another major safeguarding red flag is the insistence on keeping secrets, which this guide advises repeatedly. The transition of a child in school, the child’s use of the facilities of the opposite sex, the access to trans ‘support groups’ and even referral to the Tavistock GIDS (Stonewall provides the helpful information that parental consent for any treatment is only needed for under 16s) may be going on at school without the parents’ knowledge. The school may be “required” to deceive the parents by “using the child’s legal name and their sex assigned at birth when contacting parents, carers or others”.
The importance of keeping secrets about a child’s sex from other children is also stressed repeatedly. This would enable boys to use girls’ toilets, changing-rooms and dormitories without the girls’ knowledge or consent. It is not only a child’s sex that must be kept hidden, but the sex of transgender teachers, thus enabling adult males to work with young girls in sensitive or private situations without the consent of the girls or their parents.
The new guide continues Stonewall’s tradition of redefining words with established meanings in the English language and in law. Having redefined men and women as ‘identities’ and same-sex attraction as ‘same gender’ orientation, this guide goes one step further in claiming that sexual orientation itself is also a part of a person’s ‘identity’. Repeatedly throughout the guide Stonewall cuts out the word ‘sexual’ altogether and just refers to ‘orientation’ which is apparently their new ‘umbrella term’.
“ORIENTATION is an umbrella term describing a person’s attraction to other people. This attraction may be sexual (sexual orientation) and/or romantic (romantic orientation). These terms refers [sic] to a person’s sense of identity based on their attractions, or lack thereof.”
Not only that, but ‘orientation’ is limitless.
“Orientations include, but are not limited to, lesbian, gay, bi, ace and straight.”
What else is included?
In Stonewall’s new guide you no longer even have to bother to ‘identify’ as a woman to be a lesbian:
“LESBIAN refers to a woman who has a romantic and/ or sexual orientation towards women. Some non-binary people may also identify with this term.”
It’s the same for gay men:
“GAY refers to a man who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards men. It is also a generic term for lesbian and gay sexuality – some women define themselves as gay rather than lesbian. Some non-binary people may also identify with this term.”
And not forgetting bisexual people, a category to which Stonewall has invited in a whole new range of ‘identities’:
“Bi people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including, but not limited to, bisexual, pan, queer, and some other non-monosexual and non-monoromantic identities.”
In Stonewall schools guidance words don’t mean anything anymore. The words ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘lesbian’, ‘gay’, ‘bisexual’ – all could mean anything.
The CPS was recently forced to withdraw their Hate Crime guidance for schools, co-written with Stonewall, after a teenage girl threatened legal action. In all Stonewall schools guidance, children are compelled to use a pupil’s ‘preferred pronouns’ whatever they are, advises that not to do so is ‘misgendering’ and defines this as ‘transphobic’ and therefore an example of ‘prejudice-based bullying.’ The new guide goes further in defining transphobia as “denying” a person’s ‘gender identity’ or “refusing to accept it”.
“TRANSPHOBIA is the fear or dislike of someone based on the fact they are trans, including denying their gender identity or refusing to accept it. Transphobia may be targeted at people who are, or who are perceived to be, trans.”
This term ‘gender identity’ is being used in Stonewall schools guidance to obscure what is really happening. One moment schools are instructed “Remember to maintain confidentiality about a new child or young person’s orientation or gender identity”, the next moment children are being accused of ‘transphobia’ if they don’t accept someone’s ‘gender identity’. What the guidance really means is that a child’s sex should not be disclosed, and what ‘transphobia’ means is not accepting that a man is a woman. This guidance is dangerous for girls. It also infringes on the right of every child to freedom of thought and freedom of speech.
What Stonewall schools guidance actually does is train children to believe in a controversial political belief – stated prominently on Stonewall’s website – that “transwomen are women”. This is in breach of the Education Act 1996 which forbids political indoctrination of children in schools.
Stonewall is not a democratically elected body and yet they have been allowed to dictate policy throughout government and public bodies. The Department for Education is a Stonewall Diversity Champion. The DfE has funded Stonewall and signposted them in two statutory schools guidance documents including the new RSE guidance. Schools and local authorities can become “Stonewall Champions”.
A number of authorities across the UK have recently withdrawn their transgender school toolkits due to questions about their legality, following Oxfordshire council’s recent withdrawal from a Judicial Review. Since 2015 Stonewall schools guidance has provided schools with exactly the same advice on toilets, changing-rooms, residential accommodation and sport as all the toolkits now being hastily withdrawn in light of Oxfordshire’s decision.
Stonewall schools guidance must also now be withdrawn from schools on the same basis. It is time to acknowledge the harms being done to this generation of children by allowing political lobby groups such as Stonewall into schools.