Dressing up should be seen as play, not an identity crisis
‘As my GP told me, in all but a tiny handful of genuine cases, this is a fashion, a fad’
The other day, a friend handed her 13-year-old son some washing to take to the utility room. “Good boy,” she said automatically. “Assuming my gender there, Mum?” he shot back with a cheeky grin.
The mother burst out laughing. “Has your school gone transgender bonkers, then?” she asked.
The boy – sorry, young person of no fixed sexual orientation trying on multiple identities – confirmed that his school had indeed gone bonkers. Every other child in his year was suddenly claiming to have “gender issues”.
This is new, isn’t it, this spraying around claims of gender dysphoria willy-nilly? Oops, no willies, please, it might be transphobic. Keep up at the back, Marjorie!
As my GP told me recently, in all but a tiny handful of genuine cases, this is a fashion, a fad. In general, and despite aggressive campaigning by transgender activists, boys will still be boys and girls will be girls, and positively revel in that difference. The proper response of any institution to a fad is to hold tight to its core values and wait until it has passed.
How dismaying, therefore, to see the Church of England this week getting its cassock in a twist as it jumped on the bandwagon.
In its first official guidance to its 5,000 schools on transgender issues, the C of E said children should be able to try out “the many cloaks of identity” without being labelled or bullied. Youngsters should be free to “explore the possibilities of who they might be” – including gender identity – and Christian teaching should not be used to make children feel ashamed. At nursery and primary school, they should be able to choose the tutu, tiara and heels, as well as or instead of the helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak, “without expectation or comment”. The document, which offers advice on how to challenge transphobic, biphobic and homophobic bullying, also says young children “should be afforded freedom from the expectation of permanence”.
God help us. Let’s start with the fact that no primary school I’m aware of in the past 20 years has ever prevented a child dressing up in a costume of their choice. Far from it. In my son’s year, one little boy regularly wore fairy wings and sparkly tights and no one batted an eyelid. Nor was it any surprise when he later revealed he was gay, and his friends were incredibly supportive and happy for him.
It’s the talk of “freedom from the expectation of permanence” that is utterly wrong-headed and shocking. Have the authors of the Church document actually met a small child? Little kids are deeply conservative. They like regular meals and fixed bedtimes and a mummy and a daddy, or at least a small cast of utterly dependable adults. It makes them feel safe. Himself used to accuse our then five-year-old of being more reactionary than Enoch Powell. “Are we still in England?” Tom would wail whenever we took him too far from his home. Trust me, he would not have been pleased to be told he might grow up to be a lady.
From the age of three onwards, infants enjoy imaginative play, becoming surgically welded to a Batman costume, a Cinderella gown or a dog onesie. It doesn’t mean they want to become a girl with one shoe, a Labradoodle or a member of the opposite sex. They’re just playing. And that play is only enjoyable in a context of stability and, yes, permanence. Carte blanche is terrifying to a child.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, says that children “should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgment or derision”. Indeed they should. But what about the freedom of little girls to believe that they will grow up to be amazing women like their mum, and of little boys to feel confident they will one day be a man like daddy? Why should any insinuation to the contrary be part of classroom life in the pre-sexual years just to satisfy the demands of a tiny minority?
Lately, the transgender bonkersness has taken an increasingly sinister turn. Joshua Sutcliffe, an Oxfordshire maths teacher, was suspended after he said “Well done, girls” to two teenagers, one of whom identifies as a boy. Mr Sutcliffe apologised after the pupil corrected him, but six weeks later their/his mother lodged a complaint. This week, the poor chap must attend a disciplinary hearing to face misconduct charges for “misgendering”. Miss Gendering? Is she a friend of Miss Apprehension and that ghastly Miss Ogyny?
Meanwhile, up in Scotland, the cravenly politically correct government has told teachers they should allow primary pupils who wish to switch gender identity in school to do so without informing parents. A report produced by LBGT Youth Scotland, and endorsed by Holyrood, also states that teachers should consider approaching the local authority if parents are “struggling to come to terms” with their child’s transgender identity.
So, you send six-year-old Murray off to school in the morning and, by lunchtime, he is identifying as Morag. If you ever find out, and you are narrow-minded and bigoted enough to object to this disturbing behaviour in your young child, then the teacher can inform on you. Chilling, isn’t it?
This has absolutely nothing to do with science. It’s cultural politics. Liberal western society has progressed to the point where it has pretty much run out of things to feel oppressed by. The truly important things like sex discrimination and racism are not solved, not by any means, but vast improvements have been achieved. By trumping up one of the few remaining grievances of a tiny group (not actually shared by many trans people), the Left can undermine traditionalists and convert society to its own secular ends. So boys are girls and girls are boys – who dares to say otherwise?
The Church of England, that’s who should be saying it. C of E schools should be basing their policies on the needs of all pupils, not catering to one small sub-group at the expense of other children, particularly girls. Encouraging impressionable children to believe that changing sex is just another choice on the school lunch menu is at best daft, and at worst plain wicked.
God knows where all this will end up, and even He’s not sure. Sorry, She.