THEY say information is a hand grenade – if so one new title called ‘Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity?’ has just exploded in the middle of the UK’s mounting Culture Wars.
The book published for use in schools to explain transgender issues to children, parents and teachers, has caused what trans activists are now calling “a trans-panic”. Critics, including former Conservative party chairman Lord Tebbit and a Daily Mail columnist have declared it “nonsense” or “damaging to children”, and complained about its advising against the use of the words ‘boys’ and ‘girls’. What is emerging is a debate that threatens to be almost as divisive as that over the repeal of Section 28.
This book, which is pitched at children seven years old and up, belongs to a growing wider campaign, by activists and education experts, to introduce concepts of gender diversity and trans policies to schools across the UK. Here in Scotland, the campaign group TIE – Time for Inclusive Education – is funding the introduction of LGBT-friendly books into primary schools and is pushing for the Scottish government to make it mandatory that all schools pick up the guidance it issues on LGBT education and policies.
Among the voices leading this current ‘trans-panic’ are faith groups, social conservatives, and religious leaders. David Robertson, moderator of the Free Church Of Scotland, describes the book and proposals for transgender teaching as “state sponsored child abuse. In my view,” he says, “this is the latest metro-elite liberal mania. Kids being told by a teacher you can choose whether you’re a boy or a girl? In any society in the world that would be considered insane. It’s that whole idea,” he goes on, “that you can say I am whatever I feel I am. What happens when someone says, ‘well, I’ve actually been born into the wrong species?’ That’s the insanity of the position…But the minute you say anything you’re accused of being transphobic.”
Also a critic, is Nola Leach, Chief Executive of Christian Action Research And Education, who expressed “serious concerns” that the book was “likely to spread confusion as opposed to clarity”. SNP MSP John Mason has voiced concern that education on such issues be given at an appropriate age, and that his “gut feeling” was that seven might be “too young” for such a book. Angela Williams, CEO of Christian Concern has said: “This is highly concerning. A responsible society should be working towards helping children live in the body that they were born in.”
The book that has caused the panic is a guide, written in a friendly and inclusive manner, by CJ Atkinson, a trans person. A tale of a 12 year old child called Kit, “assigned female at birth” and raised as a girl, yet not “ever very happy that way”, it also explains her medical transitioning and discusses the wide range of gender variance. The author hopes the book will “take out some of this perceived threat from the issue”.
So are we going to see the ugly debate that typified Section 28 all over again? Some trans and LGBT activists fear so. “All these years on,” says Jordan Daly of TIE, it still feels like we’re living heavily under Section 28’s shadow. He believes that the current trans-panic is “exactly the same thing”, as the “homo-hysteria of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s”. “People were thinking if we talk about these issues people are going pick to be LGBT, we’re going to turn kids gay.” His concern is that the negative publicity a book like this gets may lead to “head teachers who are already a bit cautious about introducing LGBT issues to their classrooms thinking, ‘Well we’ll just steer clear of that’.”
Others, however, are more sanguine. Juno Roche, a trans education expert and former teacher, says: “It’s amazing for me that we’ve come this far. Am I surprised by the backlash? Not really. Am I bothered by it? Not really. Because it’s the same people objecting. The furore is coming from very few places. It’s coming from the Daily Mail and a few other people and it’s coming from a few really unfortunate feminists, who I grew up admiring.”
Roche and Atkinson, like many trans activists, believe that every school should have a trans policy, though a tiny fraction currently do. “If you’ve not got a policy,” Roche says, “and a pupil wants to transition then you’re firefighting, but at the centre of your firefight is a child.” It’s also a frequently vulnerable child. Studies have shown that trans children, as other LGBT children, experience high levels of bullying and are more likely to self-harm or commit suicide.
Jordan Daly says Atkinson’s book is the sort that TIE would like to see in Scottish primary schools. One of the problems, he says, is teachers often “don’t know these books are available.” This, he notes, is part of a wider problem, revealed by TIE research, that teachers don’t know what’s available in terms of government guidance for teaching and dealing with LGBT issues. For this reason TIE are “pushing the government to take more stringent action, so they actually put the guidance on a basis such that schools are required to pick it up as they are with other subjects.”
A common fear held by critics of gender diversity education is that it will cause trans to become fashionable or “normalised”. Angela Williams of Christian Concern, for instance, declares: “To normalise the confusion around this is not kind to the children. I think there is a reality that the more that we normalise something, the more confusion we get .”
Atkinson has heard such comments many times. “People believe that if a child reads the book that somehow they will ‘catch trans’. I’m sorry but the trans is already in the house. A lot of trans people will know before the age of ten that something feels uncomfortable around their gender alignment.”
Dean Jay Coyle, a trans man who came come out before his final year at Vale of Leven Academy, observes: “People used to be under the impression that if you teach kids about homosexuality you’re going to turn every kid gay. We all know that’s not the case. It’s the same with this. If you teach children about transgender, they’re not suddenly going to think, I’m trans. Kids know who they are. But with trans kids they’ve not been told that transgender is a thing. They’re confused.”
Coyle believes that a book like Atkinson’s, would have made a difference for him. “I would have known that it was normal and okay to be this way. Because a lot of what I felt when I was younger was that no one felt like I felt. So having a book like that is going to be really good for a little kid that’s struggling, and maybe then they’ll have the confidence to say something about it.”
I am probably gonnae get verbally jumped on for this, but I don’t care, I am entitled to voice my opinion. So here goes!!
*OVER MY DEAD BODY* are they gonnae teach my kids about being transgender.
NOT because I am anti transgender, because to be honest, I couldn’t care less what any individual adult does. It’s none of my business!
But it becomes my business when it comes to my kids.
Surely transgender people want to be treated like everybody else. They want to be treated as equals no?
In which case then they wont be teaching ANYTHING about it in schools, because they are not teaching kids about rejoyceing in the gender they were born are they?
My main problem wi this is that transgenders are human beings like everyone else.. NO BETTER & NO WORSE than the next person. THAT is equality.
NO ONE has the right to force this down my kids throat & I WILL NOT ALLOW IT.
I do not have the right to force my opinion on to transgender kids. So I expect the same treatment for my NON transgender kids.
If any of my children decide *as an adult* decide to change their gender, FINE!! But the emphasis is on the word ADULT.
IT IS NORMALISING something that (in my opinion) IS NOT NORMAL.
Not only that, but our children ARE FAILING IN BASIC MATHS & LITERACY SKILLS!!
SO STOP ARSEING AROUND & START TEACHING THEM WHAT THEY ARE MEANT TO BE TAUGHT.
So to summarise, ‘Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity?’ Well, when it comes to MY kids..
NO YOU BLOODY WELL CANNOT
(If i have offended anyone, well that certainly was not my intention, but kinda tough. This is what I think & I will not back down on it.)