Well-meaning people feel unable to push back. New trans guidance for schools may change everything
Politicians are often accused of being out of touch. But nowhere has the divide between the “ruling elite” and reality been more apparent in recent years than in the debate on sex and gender.
Despite clear and immutable differences between men and women, many of those in public life have declared that women can have penises, advocated for male rapists to be housed in women’s prisons, or stated that those who support single-sex spaces are “dinosaurs”. Neither have our institutions escaped this divorce from common sense, with the NHS asking male patients if they may be pregnant and referring to mothers as “birthing parents”.
The wholesale conversion of the establishment to gender ideology has not only shaped discussions among academics and policy-makers, but has also led to rapid changes to our language and to long-established protections for women, generating fear of the consequences of dissenting from the new orthodoxy. Last week, it was reported that a teacher was forced to apologise after addressing a group of girls with the words “good afternoon, girls”. Even the Women’s Institute is struggling to define what a woman is.
Nowhere has the tangible impact of this ideological capture been greater, however, than in schools. A recent report by Policy Exchange laid bare the alarming extent to which schools have swallowed the gender ideology pill, revealing that 28 per cent of secondary schools no longer maintain single-sex toilets, 72 per cent do not routinely inform parents when their child “changes gender”, and 60 per cent do not uphold single-sex sports.
The interim report of the Cass review noted that “social transition” – when a child’s name, pronouns and dress are changed, sometimes without parental knowledge – is not a neutral act, but a potentially serious medical and psychological intervention. Social transition is frequently followed by “treatments” such as the wearing of breast binders or injection of cross-sex hormones, carrying risks of permanent infertility and loss of sexual function.
One of the reasons this insanity has spread is that people have lacked the confidence or have been scared about standing up against it. That’s why, in the case of schools, I’m delighted that the Government has finally committed to producing new guidance on how to approach – and protect – children who express discomfort with their sex.
To turn the tide on this ideological capture – and its harm to children – the guidance must be based on the understanding that biological sex is significant, binary and immutable. It must effectively prevent schools from “socially transitioning” children unless this is “prescribed” by an NHS clinician.
There can be no exceptions to this rule as it is unfair to expect schools to resist pressure from children, parents and activists to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. If a child expresses discomfort with their body – whether they have an eating disorder, anxiety or gender distress – proper safeguarding protocols must be followed, rather than the school agreeing that the child has been “born in the wrong body”.
Some will argue that such an approach lacks compassion. But at present, children who express unhappiness with their bodies are frequently being exempted from normal safeguarding processes and from any attempt to get to the root cause of their unease, which can include autism, trauma, online exploitation and homophobic bullying. It is far from compassionate to affirm a child in their confusion and agree that all their problems can be solved by “changing gender”.
I do not underestimate the significant culture change that the new guidance will require. There will also be political opposition, not least from some unions. But if the schools guidance is robust and legally enforceable, it could have a cascade effect for other institutions, emboldening organisations like the Women’s Institute to remain women-only, or the NHS to re-establish single-sex wards.
In the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes, it took just one brave villager’s statement of truth to open the eyes of the deceived. Perhaps the new guidance for schools will provide the reality check that our institutions are long overdue.