Sunday, June 7, 2020
Home News Truss has a tanker to turn at the Equalities Office

Truss has a tanker to turn at the Equalities Office

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LIZ Truss, the Minister for Women and Equalities, recently provided a long-awaited update on the Government’s plans to review the Gender Recognition Act.

She said the Government would ensure that ‘transgender adults are free to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution’ but she added two important provisos. First, she will put in place principles around the ‘protection of single-sex spaces’. Second, she would make sure that under-18s ‘are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future’. 

These are important statements. The mantra that ‘trans women are women’ threatens the existence of single-sex spaces and the safety, privacy and dignity of women and girls. The exponential increase in the number of young people presenting at clinics with gender dysphoria, as well as the emergence of articulate and regretful ‘detransitioners’, suggests that something is wrong in how young people are dealing with the increasingly prevalent notion that you can be born in the wrong body.

Truss has got her work cut out for her. Under the Conservatives, the public sector has been a significant promoter of ‘gender identity’ ideology, as we have documented here. In particular, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) seems to have been captured by the trans lobby. The rest of this article will focus on one example of this. 

A group called EqualiTeach has recently published a document called ‘Free to Be’ which it says is part of a year-long project funded by the Government Equalities Office (in other words the taxpayer)  ‘which has seen EqualiTeach work with 27 primary schools in Greater London’.  This document is designed for use in our primary schools. It promotes gender identity ideology and challenges ‘cis-normativity’. This, for those not up with the language and beliefs of the trans movement, means ‘the sociocultural conditions which allow the belief that being cisgender is the norm and normal’. It is a term which assumes that we all have an ‘inner gender identity’ as well as a biological sex. For ‘cisgender’ people these are aligned, for trans people they are not. The document misrepresents the law. It smears reputable organisations. It suggests schools can hide serious information about primary age children from their own parents. Let’s take a look. 

Firstly, the document tells us about LGBT hate crime. It says: ‘In the past year, there has been a 25 per cent rise in homophobic hate crime and a 37 per cent increase in transphobic hate crime in England and Wales (Home Office, 2019)’. What a scary message. You might think that the authors would insert the cautionary note contained in the same Home Office document: ‘The increases seen over the last five years are thought to have been driven by improvements in crime recording by the police . . . In contrast, the Crime Survey for England and Wales . . . which is unaffected by changes in recording practice, shows a fall in hate crime over the last decade.’ Why present a more nuanced truth when you can worry small children about the country they live in?

The document tells us that ‘schools can be sites that almost exclusively accommodate and are comfortable with heteronormative and cisnormative models of families, identities and relationships.’ This implies that it is a mere social construct that most people more or less accept their bodies and biological sex. Why would you want to pro-actively challenge young children to question their comfort in their bodies?

The document says that gender identity is ‘someone’s innatepsychological understanding of themselves as either a man, woman or another identity beyond the man-woman binary [which] may or may not align with their biological sex’. Now think about the hard and disturbing work expected of a young child told that he or she has an innate gender identity to discover. How are they meant to follow that? Well, by learning resurrected and vacuous gender stereotypes. This instruction from Mermaids really is as good as it gets.

It should beobvious to everyone that this risks pushing more feminine boys towards worrying they might be girls. And causing practically every little girl – because no one looks like Barbie – to worry they are boys. 

The report also introduces the brave new world of ‘pronouns’: ‘Some people are more comfortable using gender-neutral pronouns such as they/their or ze/zir.’

The document has a response to teachers who might be concerned about promoting gender identity to primary school kids. ‘It is not possible to promote a sexual orientation or gender identity. These are a core part of a person’s identity and are not decisions taken.’ Why do the authors choose to ignore the reality of de-transitioners? Many of whom are saying, from experience, that it is possible for the concept of gender identity to be promoted, to lead to mistakes, to have tragic consequences. 

Tackling the issue of whether parents might object to this teaching, the document says ‘It is also worth remembering, however, that the need for this work is written into law and that however much some parents and carers may object, this work is both a moral and legal duty’. This is incorrect and disingenuous. Schools do not have a legal duty to teach kids about cisnormativity, ze/zir, and inner gender identity. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson needs to cancel his Relationships and Sex Education reforms (due for implementation in September 2020) while this dangerous muddle over requirements persists.

Perhaps the most disgraceful part of the document is that it smears groups established to protect the rights of women and children and who have argued for caution in the promotion of gender identity to our children. Within a red box and with a prominent red ‘Beware!’ sign, the document says ‘sometimes anti-LGBT+ groups create resources with the aim of undermining rights for LGBT+ people. Such a resource has been created by a group known as ‘Transgender Trend . . . It is advised to ignore any resources or other communications from this group’. (p16)  And under the same Beware! sign: ‘The organisations Women’s Place UK and Fair Play for Women have also issued guidance which is inaccurate and confusing about toilet provision in schools.’ Truss has now indicated that she is likely to support the guidance of the latter two organisations. I hope all three groups will seek apologies for this slur and ask questions about how it got past the GEO. They should seek reassurance from Truss that this document will not be used in any of our schools. 

Finally, the safeguarding concerns. The document blithely states that ‘transgender young people should have access to the changing room that corresponds to their gender identity’. Never mind the gaslighting of kids who are often profoundly conscious about sex-based privacy. 

Further, if a child discloses their gender identity, the document says: ‘There is no duty to inform the parents/carers and that the duty of care is to the young person and it is their choice when or whether to come out to their parents/carers’. (p34) And: ‘If the child is not out at home, care must be taken to ensure that interactions with parents/carers and documents sent home do not use the child’s preferred name.’ (p43) 

The document also implies that if a child discloses information about his or her sexuality or gender identity, the listener does not need to disclose this to other adults within the school. (p34) What a horrendous muddle. There should be no situation in any school where a single member of staff and a child share a secret of a sexual or gender identity nature. That is what protects children from grooming. That is what protects adults from any suggestion of grooming. 

What I am curious about is how this document came to be  commissioned. What was the brief? How much did it cost? Then how did it get past a review process? Did anyone at the GEO actually read the document? And if so did they think it was okay? Did the GEO think the comments about Transgender Trend and the other groups were just fine? Did no one worry about the misrepresentation of the law? Did no one worry about the fact that there has been no democratic mandate for a challenge to what they define as ‘cis-normativity’? Did no one worry about the advice to hide serious information from parents about their own primary-age children? Did no one have safeguarding concerns? Is the GEO fit for purpose? 

I’m grateful that Liz Truss has drawn a line in the sand. She may not fully realise it, but she has a tanker to turn. I wish her all the courage and the strength in the world.

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Caroline ffiske
Caroline ffiske
Caroline ffiske is a former adviser to the New Zealand Government, served two terms as a Conservative councillor in Hammersmith & Fulham and is currently a full-time mother. She tweets as @carolinefff

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