Dress­ing up should be seen as play, not an iden­tity cri­sis

The Daily Telegraph - - Features -

‘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.

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