Last September, schools in England began implementing a new statutory curriculum for Relationships and Sex Education (RSE). Designed to reflect the changed world in which children are now growing up, the new curriculum included advice on online safety and information about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identities.
Just as schools were starting to implement the curriculum, the Department for Education (DfE) issued new guidelines about how to teach it. The section dealing with gender identity was the first, welcome sign that the government was willing to confront the pernicious influence of trans lobby groups.
The Welsh government is proceeding with an RSE curriculum that peddles the worst of gender ideology
Resources used to teach about gender or biological sex, the guidelines said, should not reinforce harmful stereotypes by suggesting “that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear” or “that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity.” Neither should they suggest to children that if they don’t comply with gender stereotypes, their personality or body is in need of changing. Most importantly, schools should not work with external providers of materials that endorse those ideas.
Although it didn’t name them, those of us familiar with the territory knew the guidance was referring to groups such as Stonewall, the Proud Trust and Mermaids, who have constantly promoted the belief that girls who don’t conform to feminine stereotypes are really boys, and vice versa.
Yet while in England, it appears as if these ideas are finally meeting a deserved end, in Wales, the opposite is happening. The Welsh government is proceeding full steam ahead with an RSE curriculum for children aged 7-18 that peddles the worst of gender ideology.
In Wales, the new statutory RSE curriculum will come into force in September 2022. Schools are likely to be encouraged to use a set of resources called Agenda, developed by Emma Renold, a Cardiff University advocate of queer theory, which insists that biological sex is socially constructed, and that gender can be wrongly assigned at birth. This once-niche set of beliefs originating with the academic Judith Butler is now being presented to seven-year olds as an established truth.
Although aimed at educational practitioners, Agenda has the kind of cheerful, slightly manic look-and-feel that adults imagine will appeal to children. This jolly presentation is perhaps designed to disguise the profoundly ideological nature of the content. Highly contested statements, such as “Gender identity does not necessarily relate to the sex a person is assigned at birth” and “Feelings about gender identity start early, around the age of 2-3” are presented as facts.
This assumption — that each of us has a gender identity that might be at odds with our biological sex — informs much of the educational content. The “mixed muffin gender berry challenge” (not as much fun as it sounds) uses blueberries to represent the stereotype of masculinity, raspberries to represent the stereotype of femininity and mixed muffins to represent gender fluidity. This is apparently designed to teach us that we “can’t assume someone’s gender by how they look” and to think about how it might feel “to be given a gender you might not choose.”
Those familiar with similar resources from groups such as Educate and Celebrate won’t be surprised to see a link to the gender unicorn, a confusing graphic that purports to show the differences between gender identity, gender expression and sex “assigned” at birth. (No, me neither.) There is also nonsense about how seahorses and anglerfish “challenge gender roles’ — as if such a concept even existed within the animal kingdom. It’s not all about the science, however. For history enthusiasts, there is a link to a transgender history website that characterises numerous historical incidents of cross-dressing for political ends (the Rebecca riots) or pragmatism (Dr James Barry) as examples of “trans expression”.
There is no suggestion in the resource that these ideas might be contested. On the contrary, it firmly rejects even the possibility of alternative viewpoints, stating, for example that “trans men are men even if you don’t like it” — a statement self-evidently untrue to anyone whose brain hasn’t been addled by postmodernism.
When it comes to further reading, the recommendations are for materials from Stonewall, Mermaids and the Proud Trust, as well as articles called “What is gender queer?” and “A trans review of 2017: the year of transgender moral panic”. A “feminist activists wordsearch” includes a mish-mash of genuine feminists such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and more questionable organisations such as Sisters Uncut, an extremist campaign group that doesn’t believe criminals — even rapists or domestic abusers — should be sent to prison.
Apart from the fact that most of us would rather schools didn’t lie to our children, there are bigger causes for concern
Does it matter that children are being taught obvious untruths? Apart from the fact that most of us would rather schools didn’t lie to our children, there are bigger causes for concern. The Tavistock Gender Identity Disorder (GIDS) clinic has seen a 4,000 per cent growth in referrals in just 10 years. Encouraging children to believe that their gender identity may be at odds with their biological sex is potentially to send them on a path that leads to puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones — with the harmful consequences that we saw in the case of Keira Bell, a young woman who regretted her transition. Equally worrying is the message sent to children that their own boundaries are not important, and that allowing a boy whose gender identity is female into the girls’ changing rooms or dormitories is not only appropriate, but based in science.
The new RSE curriculum is not yet fixed in stone, but don’t hold out too much hope. The Welsh government’s consultation document on the curriculum makes it clear where it stands. According to the document, sex is “assigned to a person on the basis of primary sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive functions” and “some people’s gender identity does not match up with the sex they were assigned at birth.” Other evidence — the annual payments of £6,000 to Stonewall for advice on equality law, for example — suggests the Welsh government is uncritically in thrall to gender ideology.
Organisations throughout the country are now falling over themselves in the race to dissociate themselves from Stonewall. It is remarkable that the Welsh government, oblivious to the fact that the edifice of gender ideology is crumbling, is doing its utmost to prop it up.
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