I am a mother of four teenagers. My whole adult life I have raised my own children and worked with children in voluntary roles and as an early years practitioner. I have served as a Chair of Governors so I have a lot of knowledge of safeguarding and child protection from both an operational and strategic perspective.
When I last worked in Early Years three years ago, at an outstanding setting, one of the many things we were proud of was how well we challenged gender stereotypes. The toys were just toys: they were for all children. The well stocked dressing up box contained everything: Disney Princesses, animals, super heroes, doctors, nurses, firefighters, saris, fairies, pirates – they were all worn by children of both sexes; none of the children said anything, none of the parents said anything, and all the children had fun while learning the important self-care skill of dressing themselves. I am shocked that just three years later children would be referred to gender clinics for such normal behaviour as being a boy whose favourite outfit was the sequined mermaid dress. How have we got here? That a childhood game of make-believe could lead to a lifetime of medication? What happened to celebrating that every child is unique and should be supported to be themselves while not denying biology and reality?
I am extremely concerned about what I am witnessing my children encounter in their schools and online and also the national picture. The fact that one of my daughters is a lesbian means these issues are particularly close to my heart. I have seen other girls at school with my children ‘transition’: according to what I have seen online on their social media accounts, sometimes this happened without parental consent. The girls I have seen transition, to me, just appear to be lesbians like my own daughter, I find it heartbreaking that they are chest binding, that they seem to be suffering from internalised homophobia, that nobody is supporting them and telling them that it’s OK to be a lesbian or gender non-conforming, in an increasingly misogynistic world. My daughter was asked by a classmate which one out of her and her girlfriend would transition when they were older to allow them to have children. This girl seemed to genuinely believe that women can father children, after a ‘sex change’, due to something she had ‘read online’. Fortunately a mutual friend has put me in touch with a lovely lady who used to run a lesbian parents group, so I know where to signpost my daughter and her girlfriend for support if and when they need it, sadly not everyone is this lucky.
A child locally bought testosterone online from an unlicensed clinic, before tragically jumping in front of a train, aged just 18. My heart breaks, not just for the parents and sibling left behind, but for the loss to all of us, of what by all accounts was a truly special and talented individual with so much to offer.
I am angry that as a society we are failing to equip our children for life by providing them with high quality sex education based on biology, reality and their needs. My children’s secondary school school RSE (relationships and sex education) policy contains the following: ‘Single- gender groups – We will use single-gender groups or small group teaching where this will help us to meet the needs more effectively. When using single-gender groups we will encourage students to be part of which ever group most closely aligns with their own gender identity’. This is absolutely insane and deeply damaging and confusing for children. Sex education, when it is necessary to do so, is split by sex, not gender, so that children can learn about the changes their sexed bodies will go through in the privacy and dignity afforded to them by a single sex group, with a teacher of the same sex. I cannot believe that a policy, which seems to suggest that a boy who identifies as a girl should go with the girls to a talk to learn about the changes his body will go through when he starts his periods, made it past the PSHE lead, the safeguarding lead (who signed it off) and the Headteacher and entire Governing Body. I view this as a wholesale failure of their collective duty of care. The policy also contains references to ‘cisgender’ ‘non-cisgender’ ‘non-binary’ ‘gender-fluid’ and ‘asexual’ along with the inference that these terms are in the Equality Act 2010 and schools have a legal duty to recognise them (they’re not and they don’t). This is also all in conflict with the earlier stated aim of the policy to ensure students ‘have a confident understanding of human biology and reproduction’.
The local sixth form was also teaching on their Health and Social Care course the inference that ‘non-binary’ and ‘gender-fluid’ were protected characteristics and that classmates could be compelled to use the pronoun ‘they’. Nobody seems willing or able to answer my questions regarding where all this incorrect, damaging and frankly illegal information is coming from; one senior member of staff was not even able to answer the questions ‘Do lesbians have penises? Should they be encouraged to carry condoms?’
Several local schools have Equality and Diversity policies that misrepresent the law, mostly failing to list “sex” as a protected characteristic, to the detriment of girls.
It seems to me that not only have the governing bodies of these schools failed in their duty of care, but so have the government. What checks have they made on organisations with government funding, pushing ideology in schools? In fact, at this stage, it is my belief that every single adult who does not now stand up and say ‘NO’ has failed in the duty of care that we all share towards children. ‘No’ to the eroding of safeguards, ‘No’ to the erasing of boundaries ‘No’ to inaccurate information about biology. Children have a right to be safeguarded, they have a right to accurate information on reality, biology and the law, they have a right to their PSHE programs to be child led and tailored to their needs, not based on ideology and the validation of adults, they have a right to a childhood. If we as adults fail to provide our children with that, we have failed as a society.Early Years Practitioner, Chair of Governors and Mother, 38, Cambridgeshire