Being transgender is not a trend (Part 1)

Guest writers contribute their analysis of damaging ‘guidance’ from Transgender Trend. The Queerness will share these over 5 days.


Introduction

Months ago both I , a qualified teacher of nearly 19 years,  and Karen Pollock, a registered psychotherapist, took apart the ‘guidance’ created by Transgender Trend in the article:  Transgender Trend follow in the footsteps of other anti LGBTQ+ organisations

Since the publication of that document online, they have attempted a crowdfunder to have it printed and sent into schools. This was suspended, but recently reinstated. There have been several organisations, well known and reputable organisations, that have denounced the guidance as damaging, including the National Education Union, Stonewall and Mermaids. The CEO of Mermaids recently made a statement (extract below):

Mermaids Statement in response to removal of the Transgender Trend crowdfunder.

Mermaids are pleased that funding to send a document to schools that could lead them to break the law and contradicts best medical practice worldwide, has now been stopped.

We support the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which refused to endorse the ‘Transgender Trend Resource Pack for Schools’ as it contravenes the 2010 Equality Act. Under the 2010 Equality Act, it is unlawful for schools to treat pupils less favourably on grounds of gender reassignment. The ‘Transgender Trend Resource Pack for Schools’ actively dismisses these legal guidelines, promoting instead withdrawal of support and legal protections.

Stonewall has also denounced this unendorsed literature from Transgender Trend as transphobic and labelled it as ‘a deeply damaging document, packed with factually inaccurate content’, while the pack has also been criticised by qualified education, child welfare and medical professionals throughout the UK. The publication’s advice is also at odds with guidelines available to teachers from unions such as the National Education Union and The Teachers Union (NASUWT).

Additionally, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) also endorses an affirmative model in treating transgender and gender-questioning children, which includes not attempting to change an individual’s identity. The WPATH guidelines and the affirmative approach have been endorsed worldwide by leading experts in the field of transgender research and treatment, including the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, the American Psychological Association, and ANZPATH (the Australian and New Zealand Professional Association for Transgender Health). In October 2017, leading UK psychological professions and Stonewall issued a Memorandum of Understanding opposing conversion therapy in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation. The MOU unequivocally stated that activity that “seeks to supress an individual’s expression of sexual orientation or gender identity” is unethical, potentially harmful and is not supported by evidence….”

The NEU, both ATL and NUT sections, sent out advice directing members and officers to the union’s guidance, which is firmly based on equality law and good practice.

The team here at The Queerness believe firmly in supporting trans young people and adults, and we vigorously denounce Transgender Trend’s damaging ideologies.

We regularly put out requests for guest writers and we have anonymous authors from TACT: Teachers Against Conversion Therapy who have provided this incredibly detailed analysis of the document that Transgender Trend have put out. Due to its length, we will be publishing it in parts. What appears next is written by those guest authors.

Content from the Transgender Trend Resource Pack for Schools or its listed references is quoted in block quotes

Quotes from sources that are not included in the Transgender Trend Resource Pack for Schools are included in italics.

Bold text is highlighted by the authors of this document for emphasis.

Part 1 of 5: Encouragement of Conversion Therapy

“There are no authors listed for the Transgender Trend Resource Pack for Schools, meaning we are unable to comment on the credentials or publication history of the author or authors. We can, however, reasonably assume that the document was produced by the only named individual on the Transgender Trend website. She created the Transgender Trend website in 2015, which, according to the ‘About Us’ section has two ‘concerns’:

“The current trend to diagnose ‘gender non-conforming’ children as transgender”

“Legislation which places transgender rights above the right to safety for girls and young women in public bathrooms and changing rooms”.

The Transgender Trend Resource Pack for Schools is the latest and most substantive attempt by the TT founder to promote an agenda which attempts to discredit the experience of transgender children as a ‘trend’. While we would prefer to ignore this document, rather than risk giving it underserved credence simply through its discussion, the document has already been widely distributed, and has found its way into schools. This document has already had a negative impact on children and families with transgender and gender-diverse children and we fear that if left unchecked, this will be magnified.

In October 2017, a wide range of organisations in the UK, including NHS England, NHS Scotland, the British Psychoanalytic Council, the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the Royal College of General Practitioners amongst others, signed up to Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK (Version 2).

“The primary purpose of this (MoU) is the protection of the public through a commitment to ending the practice of ‘conversion therapy’ in the UK”

“’Conversion therapy’ is an umbrella term for a therapeutic approach, or any model or individual viewpoint that demonstrates an assumption that any sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently preferable to any other, and which attempts to bring about a change of sexual orientation or gender identity, or seeks to supress an individual’s expression of sexual orientation or gender identity on that basis.”

“Signatory organisations agree that the practice of conversion therapy, whether in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity, is unethical and potentially harmful.

“Signatory organisations agree that neither sexual orientation nor gender identity in themselves are indicators of a mental disorder”

Transgender Trend’s agenda, which risks being interpreted as advocacy for conversion therapy, is outlined on the ‘About Us[1]’ part of their website where they state: “We believe that children would ultimately be happier if parents accepted them for who they are, without reinforcing their belief that their body is ‘wrong.’”

In this section, we examine quotations from the Transgender Trend Schools Resource Pack, considering whether sections encourage, or might be interpreted as encouraging schools to deny or suppress gender identity. There are a number of quotations indicating a negative view of transgender identities: 

These ideas of gender identity are having a very negative impact on equality between the sexes and in particular on girls.

In our view, schools should not be supporting the concept of gender identity or encouraging or supporting children to feel or believe they have a gender identity which is different from their biological sex”.

The guidance demonstrates an assumption that a cisgender identity “is inherently preferable” to a trans identity. The document advises schools to make a distinction between ‘self-identified’ girls and ‘other girls’ and between ‘biological sex differences’ and ‘gender’ and, in doing so, rejects the identity of transgender children. The document erases transgender identities, describing trans boys for example as “girls who identify as boys[1]. The document’s use of the term ‘trans-identified’ suppresses and denies acceptance of gender identity.

To clarify the difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ as a foundation for school policies”. Respecting the biological sex differences between boys and girls and encouraging bodily integrity”

In a confusion between gender stereotypes and gender identity, the document equates ‘non-acceptance’ of the ‘reality of biological sex’ with mental ill-health, recommending that children’s gender identity be denied.

To believe that your ‘authentic self’ is split off from the body (in the form of a brain‑based innate ‘gender identity’) results in a mind‑body split which is recognised as an indication of mental ill‑health. The body becomes the enemy. Good mental health is also characterised by the ability to accept reality.”

The guidance seems to suggest that other children should not be corrected for mis-gendering a transgender pupil – effectively condoning bullying of a vulnerable minority with a protected characteristic. This is not in keeping with a school’s obligations and duty of care.

Silencing and censorship around the subject of transgender is endemic in society as a whole and children should not be made to feel that some questions cannot be asked or opinions expressed”

“Empathy and understanding can be expressed through listening both to the child who identifies as transgender and to other children who may be confused or worried, and by acknowledging children’s feelings without judgment.”

When teaching children about sexual orientation, clarify that gay and lesbian people are same‑sex attracted and not ‘same gender’ attracted, ie. a gay man is sexually attracted to males and a lesbian is sexually attracted to females”

The document encourages teachers to pathologise trans children by “not agreeing” with their identity and seeing being transgender as something ‘not to be encouraged’

Teachers are important role models in being sensitive and accepting to a trans‑identified child without pretending to believe an idea which contradicts material reality.”

Teachers need a scripted redirecting /shutting down response “Thank you. Today we’re going to discuss…” and permission to delay /not respond which does not allow a student to divert them with ‘off task’ questions.”

“Do not encourage the child to be publicly celebrated in schools as ‘brave and courageous’. Maintain a neutral stance of ‘kind acceptance’. Children, and on occasions parents in this situation, will be looking for approval and validation.

As with anything else, labelling a child can reinforce the child’s perception of him/herself which may influence the outcome

The document uses deliberately vague wording in a section on social transition in young children, suggesting there is an alternative to allowing the child their identity. It conflates a fully reversible non-medical social transition for young children with surgery that is not available until 18. In the context of school guidance, this should be about whether a child can be accepted or rejected in their identity

“Where a school is unsure about the capacity of the child to consent to such a life changing decision or any other aspect relating to the child’s welfare, schools should always refer to their safeguarding procedures”

“Given the life long impact of drug taking and surgery involved in changing sex it is essential that children and young people below the age of consent are protected from anyone who wishes to influence them into taking these life changing decisions. Where schools have any concerns about the ability of a child to fully comprehend and give active consent to issues, then safeguarding concerns must be raised in the way in the same way that they would be for any vulnerable child.”

The document recommends not accepting a child’s gender identity, and implies not using their appropriate pronoun and or name. This is conversion therapy:

“Do explain in a way that is, factual and simple to understand “Sometimes a boy feels inside that he’s really a girl.”

“Sometimes a girl feels that she should have been born a boy”

Advocating this kind of answer undermines a transgender child’s identity and has the potential to invite bullying

“Don’t use new terminology which is opaque, inaccurate or based on ideology, for example “she was assigned male at birth”

“Do use correct language based on facts and what is actually known “When a boy or a girl feels that they have been born in the wrong body it’s called gender dysphoria. We don’t know why some children feel like that but it can make you feel sad so it’s important that we’re kind””

‘Assigned male at birth’ and abbreviated amab or assigned male, is the ‘correct language’ in that it is in common usage, widely accepted as international consensus and used both by trans people and the academic literature.

The language suggested by the document is pathologising, conflating the experience of gender dysphoria, with gender identity and invalidating of a trans child’s identity.

Note that many transgender people and trans children would not want to be described as having been born in the wrong body, while others may find this a useful way of describing the way they experience life.

“Don’t make the subject of language and pronouns a big issue, it is ultimately unhelpful for a child to be taught that his / her emerging sense of self is dependent on consistent validation from others “

This implies not using a child’s appropriate pronoun and or name is acceptable or even to be encouraged

“Don’t fudge answers to direct questions such as “Is he really a girl?” out of sensitivity towards the transgender child which is well-intentioned but may result in stress and anxiety for the other child”

The inference is that the teacher should be responding that the child is ‘really’ a boy. The reality of the child in question and their well-being is what is important here.

“Do answer such questions directly with factual information while still showing compassion “You can’t actually change from a boy to a girl, but he really feels like he is a girl and wants to be one””

“Affirmation of preferred gender’ is a new approach associated with the full social transition of a child through name change and change of clothes etc. This approach is informed not by research or evidence but by social change.

Affirmation of gender is supported by WPATH as the accepted international approach to gender identity [1]

“Social change has in large part been driven by the tactics of transgender activists to shut down debate and silence those in disagreement. The issue of ‘transgender kids’has become a political social justice issue and anything other than affirmation of a child’s ‘gender identity’ has been painted as ‘conversion therapy’ by health organisations pressured by activists.

Clinicians and researchers in the field have cautioned against any treatment which is difficult to reverse, including social transition,15 puberty blockers 16 and any irreversible hormonal treatments, until after a child’s psycho‑sexual development is complete.”

There is a deliberate conflation here between social transition and affirmative support (which is what schools should be doing) and medical transition (which is not the remit of schools). The accepted majority of clinicians and researchers and WPATH support an affirmative approach.

Authors: Anonymous

Read part 2 here

[1] https://www.transgendertrend.com/about_us/

[2] Note that transgender children may identify as non-binary or have a fluid identity neither of which are addressed in any detail within the document, outside of brief definitions, which dismisses them as ideologies rather than gender identities.

[3 ] WPATH Identity Recognition Statement 15th November 2017 https://s3.amazonaws.com/amo_hub_content/Association140/files/wpath-identity-recognition-statement-11_15_17.pdf

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