La­belled big­ots and cast out – for pro­tect­ing our child’s in­no­cence

Up­set by their child’s con­fu­sion when a six-year-old class­mate changed gen­der, they took their son out of school. Little did they know the ha­tred it would un­leash

Daily Mail - - News - by Re­becca Hardy

To wit­ness the vil­i­fi­ca­tion of Chris­tian par­ents nigel and sally Rowe this week, you’d have thought they’d not just bro­ken each and every one of the ten Com­mand­ments but hurled Moses’ stone tablet from the si­lenced bell tower of Big Ben as well.

take the BBC’s Vic­to­ria Der­byshire show, dur­ing which their re­li­gious ideals were said to be ‘as ex­trem­ist as peo­ple like isis’. or this Morn­ing’s Phillip schofield, who hec­tored them: ‘You are the ones with the prob­lem.’

their prob­lem? to voice con­cern about their six-year-old son’s ‘con­fu­sion’ when a class­mate be­gan turn­ing up to his Church of eng­land pri­mary school ask­ing to be treated as a girl one day and a boy the next, which flew in the face of the fam­ily’s Chris­tian be­liefs.

the school re­sponded with a let­ter de­fend­ing its ap­proach on pupils ‘ex­plor­ing their gen­der’ and warn­ing how ‘in­cred­i­bly se­ri­ously’ it would take any ‘trans­pho­bic be­hav­iour’, such as the fail­ure ‘ to use [the pupil’s] adopted name or us­ing gen­der in­ap­pro­pri­ate pro­nouns’.

Given their son is at an age when he hasn’t yet mas­tered joined-up writ­ing, let alone the pol­i­tics of per­sonal pro­nouns, the Rowes, who also have a son aged eight, were hor­ri­fied.

they have since re­moved him from his school on the isle of wight and are now bring­ing a le­gal chal­lenge in the hope that guide­lines — that re­quire schools to ac­cept the wishes of children and their fam­i­lies re­gard­ing gen­der iden­tity, and which are be­ing rolled out in schools the length and breadth of Bri­tain — will be open to public scru­tiny.

‘My son still be­lieves in Father Christ­mas. He is six years old. it’s an age of beau­ti­ful naivety,’ says sally, 42, a house­wife and part-time teach­ing as­sis­tant.

‘they should be ex­plor­ing na­ture, play­ing ball on the beach, skate­board­ing — do­ing the things boys do. You think: “why can’t they just let children be children?”

‘imag­ine go­ing into school at six with­out know­ing whether the boy sit­ting next to you is go­ing to be Johnny or Julie to­day. then hav­ing to treat them like a girl if they’ve de­cided they’re a girl — or a boy if they’ve de­cided that to­day they’re go­ing to be Johnny.

‘this trans­gen­der agenda is al­most like a trendy thing that’s in­fil­trat­ing schools, and if you don’t sub­scribe to it you are a bully. the ha­tred we’ve re­ceived is . . . is . . . ’

sally is in tears now. she stops. Col­lects her­self. ‘this is painful for us, re­ally painful,’ she says. ‘we’ve been so churned up. this is our com­mu­nity, our friends and now . . . now . . . ’

‘now’ sally’s phone pings with nasty texts, while nigel, who runs his own plumb­ing com­pany af­ter giv­ing up his job as an aero­space en­gi­neer, has re­ceived nu­mer­ous vit­ri­olic phone calls and emails. He looks as if he’s barely slept a wink in the week since an­nounc­ing their le­gal chal­lenge.

these are not hard-hearted big­ots. in­deed, they only took this stand af­ter a great deal of soul-searching, for each of them was deeply in­volved in the com­mu­nity and the school. so much so that they took part in a school assem­bly each week and helped with read­ing classes.

in­deed, when a boy in their el­der son’s class an­nounced in a show and tell les­son two years ago that she had de­cided to be a girl and wanted to be ad­dressed by a girl’s name, the Rowes, ow­ing to their close friend­ship with the child’s par­ents, re­solved to live and let live.

this time, how­ever, they felt the sit­u­a­tion was ask­ing too much of very young children.

‘this boy in our youngest son’s class, who’s six at the mo­ment, de­cides one day to be a girl and the next to be a boy,’ says nigel, 46.

‘one night i was put­ting the boys to bed, read­ing them a bed­time story and hav­ing a little chat as we do every night, when my son said, “Daddy i’m con­fused. How can — let’s call him Peter — be a boy one day and a girl the next?” it was re­ally up­set­ting him. At least if the child was a girl all the time you’d have some chance of ex­plain­ing.

‘we wrote to the school ex­press­ing our con­cerns and re­ceived that let­ter about trans­pho­bic bul­ly­ing back. we felt we had no choice but to do what we’ve done.

‘it wasn’t an easy de­ci­sion. we care for these fam­i­lies. we care for the school. this is not about them. we are chal­leng­ing the ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­ity and the dio­cese on the guide­lines they’re giv­ing. we be­lieve they’re quot­ing from laws [ the equal­ity Act 2010] that don’t ap­ply in this sit­u­a­tion; that’s be­cause the age of when some­one is legally recog­nised as trans­gen­der is 18.’ His eyes rest on a happy fam­ily pho­to­graph taken months ago. He shakes his head and is vis­i­bly up­set. sally rubs his arm.

‘when we went to see the head and deputy head to tell them we were re­mov­ing our son from school, they said: “to be hon­est we’re not sur­prised,”’ she says.

‘the head told us: “we’ve done ev­ery­thing we’ve been told to do. i have no choice. if a child wants to come as what­ever, i have to ac­cept it or i could lose my job.” ’

now sally shakes her head in de­spair. she is, she con­fesses, ‘scared stiff’. such is the hate cam­paign be­ing waged against them she is ter­ri­fied for her fam­ily’s safety.

time and again this gen­tly-spo­ken couple have ques­tioned whether they should have taken this stand. in truth, i sus­pect they of­ten wish that they hadn’t.

For they are an easy-go­ing, out­doorsy couple more com­fort­able on the beach with their boys than in a tV stu­dio.

they are also, though, peo­ple of con­science who, while fully ac­cept­ing that not ev­ery­one shares their Chris­tian values or their views on gen­der iden­tity, be­lieve in their right to bring their children up ac­cord­ing to their re­li­gious be­liefs with­out be­ing forced to sub­mit to the wishes of the rain­bow ac­tivists.

Af­ter all, imag­ine the con­dem­na­tion had sally or nigel ac­cused these ac­tivists of be­ing ‘ as ex­trem­ist as peo­ple like isis’. this is what one Les­bian Gay Bi­sex­ual trans­gen­der (LGBt) cam­paigner was al­lowed to la­bel the Rowes’ fel­low Chris­tians with­out so much as a raised eye­brow on the BBC.

‘ it’s all so bizarre,’ says sally. ‘noth­ing seems real any more.’

take, for in­stance, a dis­cus­sion on a BBC cur­rent af­fairs pro­gramme this week dur­ing which it was claimed that the mother of the older trans­gen­der child had said her daugh­ter, who is eight, was ‘scared’ fol­low­ing the Rowes’ stand. the couple were lam­basted for air­ing their griev­ance so very pub­licly when the in­ter­ests of vul­ner­a­ble children were at stake.

that child, how­ever, is the very same one whose mother plas­tered her story over the pages of a tabloid news­pa­per two years ago af­ter she de­cided to be­come a girl.

sally says they had known this child’s fam­ily since pre-school and the mother had spo­ken to her a num­ber of years ago about her then son be­com­ing more in­ter­ested in stereo­typ­i­cally girls’ toys, such as Bar­bies, and more fem­i­nine in his be­hav­iour.

‘she said she didn’t know what to do. i told her not to worry. there’s of­ten a bit of con­fu­sion, isn’t there?’

things changed, ac­cord­ing to nigel, af­ter the BBC broad­cast Louis th­er­oux’s trans­gen­der Kids doc­u­men­tary in April 2015.

‘i be­lieve that was the cat­a­lyst for the whole of Bri­tain,’ he says. ‘the sta­tis­tics for trans­gen­der children went from some­thing like 300 to 3,000 af­ter that pro­gramme.

‘i re­mem­ber speak­ing to the child’s dad in the play­ground af­ter the doc­u­men­tary and he said: “He wants to be a girl, but i’m not sure. we’re go­ing to dis­cuss it.” it went from that to the child an­nounc­ing in show and tell: “i am now a girl.”

‘our son came home and said, mat­ter- of-factly, so-and- so’s now called, let’s say sarah, and is now a girl. we didn’t want to make a big thing about it be­cause our son was only six. But grad­u­ally ques­tions started.

‘they’re like: “A boy can be a girl?” “A girl can be a boy?” “A boy can marry a boy?” that’s fine with some peo­ple, but as Chris­tians we be­lieve mar­riage is be­tween a man and a woman.

‘our boys don’t even know how a baby is made. they know it came out of mummy’s tummy but that’s about it. Gen­der for them is try­ing to work out why they have a willy and mummy doesn’t.’

the Rowes mud­dled through school with their el­der son for an­other year. sally says he be­came in­creas­ingly with­drawn and re­luc­tant to go in. they de­cided to home school him at the end of Year 2.

‘“sarah” was wear­ing skirts and had grown her hair by then.

‘But it has noth­ing to do with boys

‘Say­ing it’s about a boy in a dress is triv­i­al­is­ing it’ Their phones ping with vit­ri­olic texts, emails and calls

wear­ing frocks,’ says Nigel, who spent much of his child­hood in Africa, where his father worked as an eco­nomic ad­viser to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries re­ceiv­ing aid.

‘If a child came into school in a kilt or a sarong, it wouldn’t bother me. When I’m in Kenya I wear a sarong.

‘Say­ing this is about us be­ing up­set that a boy is turn­ing up to school in a dress is triv­i­al­is­ing it.’

Sally nods: ‘My youngest son has dressed up in girls’ stuff. He has a fancy-dress box and used to love dress­ing up as Su­per­girl. It’s just ex­per­i­ment­ing. Kids ex­per­i­ment. You don’t make a thing of it.

‘Aca­demics and med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als are di­vided on whether we should in­tro­duce young children to trans­gen­der poli­cies.

‘Ninety-eight per cent of gen­der­con­fused children stick with their bi­o­log­i­cal sex once they’ve gone through pu­berty.

‘How many of us were tomboys when we were little but en­joy be­ing women now?’

Their younger son was part way through Year 1 when the sec­ond child — the one cur­rently con­fused about their gen­der — joined the school. Sally and Nigel’s youngest told his par­ents: ‘ One e day he was a boy and the next day y a girl,’ which ‘con­fused’ him, and d they de­cided enough was enough. . The ex­change of let­ters fol­lowed, , lead­ing to where they are to­day.. They went public on their de­ci­sion- about le­gal ac­tion last week.

On Satur­day night the mother off the older trans­gen­der child, Sally’s s friend, phoned at 10.45pm. ‘ Shee said: “I can’t be­lieve it. You’ve got t the kind­est heart, how could you u do this to me?” She broke down n and kept sob­bing: “How could youu do this,” ’ Sally re­calls.

‘I said: “I haven’t men­tioned d your name. I haven’t men­tioned d the children. I haven’t men­tioned d the school. I care for you but you u have to un­der­stand our feel­ings.” ” Then she put on Face­book: “Sally y Rowe is go­ing to sue my beau­ti­ful l daugh­ter’s school.”

‘ I sent a text say­ing: “This s isn’t about you. I’m not t at­tack­ing you.”

‘This is a con­cern for children all l over the coun­try. We have to takee a stand. We’re tak­ing le­gal ac­tion n so these guide­lines that af­fect all of our children can be de­bated and scru­ti­nised pub­licly.

‘The last I heard from her she said: “I am go­ing to the po­lice to­mor­row be­cause this is in­cit­ing hate.” I’d ex­plained to her be­fore that we’re not be­ing hate­ful.

‘We’re do­ing this be­cause we’re con­cerned.con­cerned If any­thing any­thing, we’re go­ing to re­ceive the ha­tred.’ Which they have, by the bucket-load. So much so that there is a sense of be­wil­der­ment to­day, as if they’ve fallen down Alice In Won­der­land’s rab­bit hole and noth­ing is the same. ‘Some mums have texted to say: “I’m send­ing you a big hug” but don’t want to speak pub­licly.

‘One par­ent texted on Sun­day to say: “Big love from our fam­ily and you’re in our hearts and thoughts,” but no­body wants to put them­selves through the hos­til­ity we’ve faced . . . ’ Again, she is on the verge of tears.

‘We’re try­ing to keep a low pro­file. The peo­ple who are lovely and sup­port­ive have told us to keep off so­cial me­dia. There’s been a tor­rent of nas­ti­ness. It does churn us up. It does af­fect you, the foul lan­guage, the rant­ing down the phone. Nigel’s tummy has been in knots since last Satur­day.’ She nods to her hus­band.

‘I don’t un­der­stand it,’ says Nigel. ‘ When you go to hos­pi­tal and your child is born, they lift them up and say: “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl.” That’s the way it’s been for cen­turies.

‘Why is there now such a so­cial agenda to change that?’

Mak­ing a stand: Nigel and Sally, above, and with their two sons, whose iden­ti­ties we have ob­scured

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