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Letter to Headteachers of Primary Schools

Are you harming children by promoting a transgender ideology?

In my role as chairperson of the Scottish Union for Education I have received several disturbing emails from parents regarding the learning resources being used by schools in the relationship, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) curriculum.

As a result of these concerns the Scottish Union for Education would like to make the following observations:

  1. The relationship, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) curriculum for primary schools promotes a form of transgender ideology.

  2. Schools using these materials with young children are teaching a transgender ideology which is highly contentious and contested and not supported by many parents.

  3. This trans ideology promotes gender stereotypes i.e., if you are not a girlie girl you must be a boy.

  4. Highly influential institutions, organisations and individuals are putting children under pressure to adopt this trans outlook.

  5. Schools using this RSHP material are helping to create a fast-track system towards social and medical transitioning. This process has nothing to do with something ‘inside’ the child, but everything to do with pressure from powerful adults and activist organisations.

  6. As the transgender lessons are not statutory, and you do not have to teach them, you can and should, as a headteacher, drop, at least, this part of the RSHP curriculum.

Since the Scottish Union for Education was formed in February 2023, we have received several emails and phone calls regarding the issue of transgender advocacy education in primary schools. For instance:

  • One member of the public was shocked to find that a Primary 4 teacher/come activist, ‘finds it appropriate to plaster her classroom in trans ideology which quite frankly I view as grooming’.

  • A concerned parent asked a confused headteacher if she agreed that a woman has a vagina, to which she replied. ‘Well…I don’t really know’. After raising this concern more widely and on social media, this parent was visited by the police and was warned, under the Communications Act, to watch what she was saying.

  • Another parent is going through a complaints procedure regarding the RSHP curriculum, and, at present, has had her concerns about the need for a risk assessment rejected. Part of the concern raised by this parent was that materials used for children included ‘additional material’ for parents that encouraged the use of puberty blockers. This advice is for parents of children aged 11-years-old.

The RSHP curriculum at first glance appears to be liberal and caring, promoting diversity and challenging stereotypes and bullying. However, the initial talk about each child being ‘unique’ and the need to encourage children to be ‘happy with who they are’ leads into Part 3: Being Transgender. This part of the curriculum is now taught to 11-year-old children across Scotland.

Note, that Part 3 Being Transgender is not a discussion or debate or a perspective, it is represented as knowledge or fact. Yet this ‘knowledge’ relates to the contested idea of ‘gender identity’, which is discussed in the framework of ‘rights’, and that has ‘learning intentions’ such as, ‘Children consider stereotypes and gender-biased expectation’.

For these 11-year-olds, any questioning of the idea of children being transgender is represented as a form of badness, as something to do with stereotypes and bullying.

Part 3 continues with the statement that children will be encouraged ‘to be whatever kind of girl or boy they want to be, free from stereotypes and gender-biased expectations’. This includes the idea that a child may ‘not wish to be identified as either a boy or a girl’ and may wish to make changes to ‘name or dress or pronouns’.

According to the lesson plan the teacher’s role is to explain that ‘there are some people who grow up feeling that the sex they were born just doesn’t fit how they feel inside’ and to then ‘ask if the children have heard the word transgender and introduce the term/definition’.

Again, this affirmation of the transgender child is connected to the idea of being a good child rather than a bad one who is prejudiced, discriminates or is sexist. Teachers are here instructed to ‘introduce the word transphobia’.

The lesson ends with a hoorah moment: ‘Remember too that everyone of us is born unique and special, this is what makes us so interesting’. Of course, within the context of this lesson plan, it seems clear that it is being transgender that is especially unique, special and interesting.

In the Books for Reading Together section of the RSHP curriculum, Goodnight stories for rebel girls is recommended. One of these heroic rebel girls turns out to be a boy called Coy whom the ‘doctors said was male. She was born in a boy’s body but deep inside, she knew she was a girl’ (p46).

So, parents, and their children are not only being advised about puberty and hormone blockers that are said to ‘give you a bit more control over your life’ but are also being taught that you can be born in the wrong body.

This belief that children can be ‘born in the wrong body’ is not founded on medical evidence or practice but has been given the status of a fact by influential organisations. So has the idea that you are ‘assigned gender at birth’ rather than being born a boy or a girl. One school rejected a parent’s complaint with the support of a statement from the NSPCC that explained that ‘gender identity is different from someone’s biological sex or assigned gender at birth’.

Transgender ideology is contested

Important and influential organisations, individuals, as well as trans activists, who have influenced this RSHP curriculum would probably agree with all the ideas represented above. However, these ideas are opinions, not accepted facts. Furthermore, they make little sense to a majority of the public. Most people do not believe that doctors ‘assign gender at birth’ but that they simply recognise the sex of a baby based on the presence a penis or vagina. However, the idea that we should talk about transgender children and ideology is often rejected by its proponents.

There are academics, authors, politicians, paediatricians, researchers, and campaigners who have challenged the ideas being represented in RSHP but the policymakers don’t want to know. The language used is also highly contested. For instance, the term ‘assigned gender at birth’ is clearly a very recent invention, as the Google Ngrams graph below illustrates.

Credit: Google Ngrams charts the use of terms in books and papers over time.

Transgender lessons encourage the idea that gender is fluid, and that some children are born in the wrong body. Historically, transexuals did not claim that they had been born in the wrong body or that they were not biologically male or female (p14). This idea of an inner you, or perhaps an inner gendered soul, is not only contested but ridiculed by some who describe it as being closer to a new type of ‘state religion, complete with blaspheme laws’ than anything to do with objective truth, knowledge or a fact that should be taught to 11-year-old children. 

Are you teaching children to question their gender identity before they understand their sex?

Joanna Williams notes with reference to Rachel Rooney’s book My Body Is Me that what we are witnessing in schools is a ‘sense of gaslighting young children’ where we encourage ‘young children to question their gender identity before they are certain as to their sex’, something that can ‘lead to confusion’ (p28)

As senior writer at The Economist, Helen Joyce, has noted, until recently, children, almost always young boys, who had gender confusion were said to have a psychiatric disorder called gender dysphoria. Now, through the adoption of a transgender ideology, this psychiatric condition is being rebranded as a normal part of childhood and adolescent life, the manifestation of an ‘inner truth’.

Trans activism is not liberatory

Trans activism comes from some of the most powerful individuals and organisations in Western society. They believe that their outlook is liberatory and a simple recognition of a new truth that has just been discovered: that gender is something distinct from biology which exists deep down within every child.

If this were true, we would expect boys and girls alike to be ‘coming out’ but this is not what is happening. Rather, as Transgender Trend has noted ‘76% of referees to The Tavistock & Portman Gender Identity Service (GIDS) are adolescent girls’. Again, Joyce, in her book Trans, notes that the likely explanation for this is what she calls social contagion, and in particular, the peer influences that affect adolescent girls more than any other section of society.

With reference to the idea that this new inner truth is now simply being recognised, it is noticeable that almost half of the young people visiting the Tavistock clinic in London have autism. As Transgender Trend has noted, ‘this is an astonishing number of young people sharing characteristics that are usually only present in 1% of the population’. And if we factor in the number of trans children who have other behavioural difficulties or social and emotional problems, it is quite clear that there is something else going on other than the liberation of an imagined oppressed minority now free to express their true selves.

Are you harming children?

Some authors and commentators, like Lionel Shriver, have described what is happening as a form of child abuse – I have talked to many parents and teachers who feel the same way.

You may disagree with this outlook or argument, but surely there is something seriously wrong happening in our schools if significant sections of society believe what is being taught is abuse, or a form of gaslighting, or as irrational, or at best confused.

Who has the power to influence children?

Trans activism, as has been noted, is being promoted by some of the most powerful organisations in society. The same activists are often found talking about ‘power’, ‘stereotypes’ and the ‘pressure’ that is brought to bear on children to conform to norms. But when it comes to their understanding of transgender children, all they can see is the child who finds their true self. As if by magic, their critical faculties disappear, and an analysis of their own significant power is nowhere to be found.

One of the concerns raised about the trans ideology is that it reinforces new kinds of gender stereotyping by encouraging individual children to think that if they are not, for example, a boyish boy, then perhaps (and quite probably) they are in fact a girl.

The celebrated trans TikTocker Dylan Mulvaney, for example, has been criticised for ‘performing’ as a woman, something that has understandably been described as a crass caricature of what a woman is. One YouTube critic argues that he is not performing as a woman but as an adolescent girl – something that was arguably demonstrated in his stage performance where he was dressed as a Disney princess. The once gay musical actor sang to a cheering audience about his transition to womanhood.

In the process of his ‘transition’, Mulvaney has become something of a star. He was even invited into the Oval Office to meet Joe Biden. He has ten million followers on TikTok and a plethora of celebrities who, like Drew Barrymore, are literally queuing up to take the knee before him.

In Scotland the LGBT+ flag flies outside many big corporations and institutions. We find support for this transgender trend in government, the education establishment, the teachers union the EIS, and the police in their role as ‘hate’ monitors. Additionally, we find the power of the media, not least of all social media that has so much influence on children and teenagers, expressed in the heavy promotion of transgender ideology. What we do not find however, is a critical examination of the ‘power of the media’, the ‘influence of multi-nationals’, the ‘pressure from state institutions’, or any sense that what we are witnessing is a powerful ideology.

Let’s talk about transgenderism

Whether you agree or disagree with these critics, it is clear that there are many critics and criticisms of the trans trend. It’s a potentially very harmful trend that, as Joyce notes, can result in a fast track to sexual dysfunction and sterility in adulthood.

Ideas that are so contested should have no place in primary schools, especially when the trans ideology is questioned by a majority of the people within the local community that your school is part of.

It cannot be right that ideas that some see as a form of child abuse are being taught to young, largely pre-pubescent children.

The numbers of children lining up at gender clinics to be transitioned has skyrocketed in recent years. If schools continue to promote ‘being transgender’, this trend may continue or to get worse. As well as seeing autistic children being encouraged along this road, there is also a serious concern being raised, especially by lesbian groups, that what we are seeing is the virtual elimination of certain types of lesbianism, as young gay women are encouraged to believe that they are in fact boys trapped in the wrong body.

Even the LGBT movement has been divided over this issue, particularly with the creation of the LGB Alliance who have been heavily critical of Stonewall’s preoccupation with trans issues.

Drop the RSHP now

SUE is supporting a petition to remove the RHSP guidance on transgender from the curriculum. It is due to be discussed by the Citizen Participation and Public Petition Committee but headteachers should not wait for the outcome of this petition.

We would suggest that as well as dropping the RSHP trans education and adopting a wait and see attitude rather than a trans affirmation approach, schools across Scotland should drop the T, and stop promoting transgenderism to children.