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Artillery Row

Apologies are useless without action

It is nice that Gillian Keegan has acknowledged reality, but it is not enough

Gravity has reasserted itself within Parliament; politicians who until recently were floating in the safe space of gender fluidity have been pulled down to earth with a bump. This week education secretary Gillian Keegan signalled her return to reality by telling the Telegraph that she will no longer use the phrase “transwomen are women”. This is apparently because since becoming a minister her understanding of the “complex and challenging subject” (otherwise known as basic biology) has “evolved”. While this is welcome, deeds must now follow these words.

Keegan, like her Labour Party compatriot shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, has clearly seen that the tide is turning (Streeting has acknowledged he had been wrong to use the phrase “trans women are women, get over it”). And thanks to the findings of the Cass Review, the trickle of public figures tentatively voicing their concerns about trans ideology will soon be a roaring flood. 

As a rule, those who survive in British politics tend not to be troubled by self-awareness or a desire to take personal responsibility. Consequently, lobby group Stonewall is being lined-up as the non-gendered fall guy who led our guileless elected representatives astray. 

When last week Dawn Butler MP apologised for “inadvertently misleading the house” she blamed a briefing from the LGBTQ+ lobby group. Keegan appeared to hint at their role too, explaining that when she mouthed trans activist mantras in the past she “didn’t have any direct experience of this topic and took advice on how best to respond”. She is known to have met with Stonewall in 2018.

While Keegan might have belatedly recognised the reality of biological sex, this message has yet to trickle down to classrooms. The need for clarity and unbiased advice has never been greater. Research commissioned by Sex Matters last year found 79 percent of teachers said that their school had at least one pupil on its roll who identifies as trans or non-binary. Yet teachers have been left to muddle through, turning to dodgy lobby groups for support.

After nearly a decade of teachers begging for government help, it was in December last year that Keegan finally published draft trans guidance for schools. The document, which is currently out for consultation, advised teachers that in most circumstances they ought not to affirm children in cross-sex identities without parental consent. It did not impose an outright ban on social transitioning because ministers believed that they would need to amend the Equality Act 2010 in order to do so.

But even this relatively mild step was met with fury from teaching unions. The NEU and NASUWT both advised schools against following the guidance before it is finalised. Some trans activist teachers even pledged to ignore the government. 

Meanwhile, coordinated action from a coalition of well-networked activist groups, some of whom still receive tax-payer funds, are campaigning against the Department for Education guidance. And by the time the consultation closes, there is likely to have been a change of government. To date, Sir Keir has shown he doesn’t have the ovaries to stand-up to the trans activists within his own ranks and there is no reason to think this will change should he become Prime Minister.

And while politicians dither and equivocate, children are still being taught that they each have a gender identity which might not align with their bodies. School administrators are still deferring to lobby groups for their training. And many teachers, and the unions that represent them, are continuing to affirm their students’ identities behind parents’ backs.

As Lucy Marsh from the Family Education Trust tells me, while it’s “good news” that Keegan has had a change of opinion “her personal u-turn will make no difference while transgender lobby groups are free to groom children in schools.”

She adds:

In light of the Cass Review, she must take urgent action to protect children from indoctrination and ban the teaching of transgender ideology in schools. We also need an answer on when the DfE investigation into inappropriate RSE is going to be published.

The magnanimous approach to the Parliamentarians who have belatedly acknowledged their errors would be to welcome them without recrimination. But before the likes of Keegan blithely skip across the golden bridge back to reality, it is only fair to ask that they face up to the monster they helped to unleash. Because with an inevitable Labour electoral victory just over the horizon, and the prospect of trans activists on the front benches, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask that action now follows any weaselly mea culpas. 

It has taken years for Keegan to state the obvious; that she will now confidently say that women don’t have a penis marks progress, but it is not enough to reverse the damage done over the past decade of her own party’s rule. Having been shut out from policy making, and even barred from party conferences, it is not up to gender critical campaigners to push for change from the outside. Now that the grassroots activists and whistleblowers have taken the heat, and the data is out there thanks to Cass, the responsibility to “do something” lies squarely with politicians.

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