Guest writers contribute their analysis of damaging ‘guidance’ from Transgender Trend. This is the final entry in our series.
We are publishing a series of essays provided by Teachers Against Conversion Therapy over 5 days. Read Part 4 here
PART 5 OF 5
Does not provide accurate information on gender identity
The document contains a large number of references to medical care for transgender children and adults. Medical care does not fall into the remit of schools. The frequent reference to medical treatment implies that social support in schools (e.g. affirmation and acceptance of a transgender child) has an impact on medical treatment.
“Most children who start puberty blockers progress to cross-sex hormones at age 16, leaving them infertile; very few come off the path of increasingly invasive medical treatments once they start”.
Readers of this document will probably not understand how conservative the UK NHS treatment protocols are, how long and cautious the processes are (with, currently, a 14-month wait for even the first appointment). The suggestion of a path to increasingly invasive medical treatments is scaremongering.
In a document meant to provide clarity and education for schools on gender identity and transgender children, it presents a very confused understanding of gender identity. It frequently conflates toy or play choice, or gender stereotypes or gender expression with gender identity.
“Schools can reassure parents that it is normal for children to play with ‘gender specific’ toys and to try out different roles. This does not mean that the child is transgender
“This suggests that parents are beginning to see their little girls as ‘trans’ rather than ‘tomboys”.
Gender identity and gender expression are different things. Not all trans girls like stereotypical ‘boys’’ toys, and of course, ‘tom boys’ (a description of gender expression or interests or play preferences) are not the same as trans boys (a description of identity). This line of reasoning is a very basic error that has no place in a guidance document of this nature.
“Extreme gender non-conformity in childhood and adolescence is more predictive of gay or lesbian sexual orientation”.
“The concept of gender identity encourages children to believe that masculine and feminine gender stereotypes are innate, rather than socially constructed, despite the fact that neuro-science has demonstrated categorically that children are not born with ‘pink’ (feminine) or ‘blue’ (masculine) brains.
This is basic misunderstanding of the difference between gender expression and gender identity.
“These ideas of gender identity are having a very negative impact on equality between the sexes and in particular on girls. From early-years education onwards, schools should be encouraging children to play and undertake a variety of activities which challenge gender stereotypes, rather than reinforce them.”
A school can and should challenge gender stereotypes. A school can and should support transgender children. These are two different things. A transgender child is no more in thrall to stereotypes than any other child.
“Only a few years ago young girls were allowed to be ‘tomboys’ – have short hair, wear trousers, and undertake games and activities which traditionally have been considered the domain of boys, without being told that they had to change their sex”.
This is a dangerous fiction. No evidence is provided for this outrageous claim. This unsubstantiated claim plays on people’s ignorance and fear to undermine care and support for vulnerable transgender children.
“Adolescent young lesbians in schools who do not want to conform to feminine stereotypes (sometimes also labelled as ‘butch’) are being bullied, stigmatised, isolated and pressurised to socially transition, since being a trans boy is now regarded as a more positive and fashionable identity”
This is unevidenced and fear mongering, aiming to reduce support for a marginalised minority. It also claims that being trans is fashionable, which ignores the enormous level of hostility, minority stress, prejudice and even violence that transgender children face (see 2017 Stonewall school report).
The Transgender Trend Resource Pack for Schools also conflates gender identity and sexual orientation:
“The majority of teenage girls identifying as ‘trans’ are lesbians”
“Research with young female to male trans has indicated that 95% are same sex attracted indicating the deep homophobia of the trans agenda”
The fact that gender identity and sexual orientation are different is basic. The fact that transgender people have a range of sexual orientations including lesbian and gay is also a basic incontrovertible fact. The trope that there is a ‘trans agenda’ and that all trans people are homophobic is unsubstantiated and fear mongering.
5 Key Critical Concerns about the Transgender Trend Resource Pack
1. Encouragement of Conversion Therapy
Transgender Trend appear to advocate conversion therapy with a number of references that might be interpreted as encouraging schools to deny or suppress gender identity. “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”.
Approaches which assume any gender identity is preferable to any other or which seem to suppress gender identity constitutes conversion therapy. 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.”
2. Misrepresentation of medical consensus
The information provided on transgender children does not represent current medical consensus. The reference list omits the most recent and most credible peer reviewed publications on the health and effective care of transgender and gender diverse children. The reference list also omits any of the existing guidance materials for supporting transgender children in schools, including those developed by Cornwall Council, Brighton and Hove, Scottish Government Guidance etc.
The references that are included of very poor quality. From the very limited number of journal articles, few are peer reviewed, and several are in new and unranked journals. Research findings and scientific consensus is misrepresented, and fringe theories are presented as though mainstream, including the assertion that parents are influencing children to be transgender. This view is discredited and out of touch with modern consensus. Here’s a recent peer reviewed academic journal from the respected Lancett: “to date, research has established no clear correlations between parenting and gender incongruence”
3. Denial of the existence and validity of trans people
The document appears to deny the existence and validity of transgender people and appears deeply prejudiced against transgender people. The document uses the terms like “trans-identified” in place of transgender and describes a trans child as “an idea which contradicts material reality”.
There is scientific consensus that transgender people exist. There is also peer reviewed research evidence that transgender children’s gender identity is real:
Olson, K.; Key, A.; Eaton, N. (2015) Gender Cognition in Transgender Children Psychological Science: “Transgender children do indeed exist and their identity is a deeply held one.”
The 2017 Endocrine Society Guidelines:“Considerable scientific evidence has emerged demonstrating a durable biological element underlying gender identity”.
4. Suggests being transgender is a mental disorder.
The document contains numerous statements associating being transgender with a mental illness or delusion. The document does not accept transgender as a natural part of human variation, instead pathologising gender diversity, associating it with ‘underlying problems’ or ‘abuse’.
The suggestion that being transgender is a mental disorder is out of step with medical consensus.
The Endocrine Society 2017 Guidelines states: “The medical consensus in the late 20th century was that transgender and gender incongruent individuals suffered a mental health disorder termed “gender identity disorder.” Gender identity was considered malleable and subject to external influences. Today, however, this attitude is no longer considered valid.”
5. Does not provide accurate information on gender identity
In a document meant to provide clarity and education for schools on gender identity and transgender children, it presents a very confused understanding of gender identity. It frequently confuses behaviour, interests or expression with gender identity. It confuses gender identity and sexual orientation including reference to a ‘trans agenda’ and the assertion that trans people are homophobic. This is unsubstantiated and fear mongering.
Overall, the document attempts to subject teachers to a specific anti-trans ideology which denies the legitimacy and even the existence of trans children, and attempts to prevent trans children from obtaining the care, affirmation and understanding that they need. We consider this document to constitute a threat to the wellbeing of trans children and as such, that it should be condemned forcefully and unequivocally.
 These Guidelines have been endorsed by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the American Society of Andrology, the European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology, the European Society of Endocrinology, the Pediatric Endocrine Society, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health). https://www.endocrine.org/advocacy/priorities-and-positions/transgender-health
These guidelines are endorsed by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the American Society of Andrology, the European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology, the European Society of Endocrinology, the Pediatric Endocrine Society, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.
 Winter et al (2016), http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)00683-8/fulltext
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Go back and read from the beginning in part 1 here