In recent weeks I have been speaking to Carolyn Mason*, the mother of three children, who has shared with me a harrowing account of the devastation visited on the Mason family since her daughter, Lucy*, saw a presentation from a transgender ideology charity in the second year of her secondary schooling. Lucy – now fifteen – is gender-non-conforming, same-sex attracted, and had been subjected to homophobic bullying in her primary school that continued into her secondary schooling: a profile many of us will recognise. This is a textbook case of the new “conversion therapy” that will be dangerously reinforced should the Government’s new “conversion therapy” bill be passed with its current intentions: a subject explored in today’s linked piece on Lesbian and Gay News.
It has been necessary to protect the identity of both Lucy and her mother for reasons of child safeguarding; and the identities of the lamentably unhelpful MP and local authority are also withheld to obscure regional identification. The appalling experience of the Mason family is one currently blighting the lives of so many families as a result of gender ideology promotion in schools.
When Lucy “came out” as lesbian at the age of twelve, her parents were supportive. However, the homophobic bullying that had begun at primary school, and that had been poorly dealt with by the school, continued after she arrived at her secondary school.
Shortly after a gender lobby organisation sent a visitor to give a presentation at the school – a trans-identified person who depicted transition as a route for the possible resolution of confusion and emotional pain – Lucy spent two weeks on the Internet in her bedroom, after which time she informed her mother that she now identified as male and requested a visit to her GP surgery for a gender clinic referral. She seemed to be very well informed about the procedures. Lucy was thirteen.
The doctor’s appointment took place a month later, and Carolyn accompanied her daughter to it. By this point, Lucy had developed an eating disorder. Carolyn was surprised at how easily Lucy met the criteria for a referral to the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock Clinic, and they were informed of an 18- to 24-month waiting list. Carolyn hoped Lucy would change her mind in the meantime. Later, the referring GP privately shared with Carolyn her own misgivings and explained that doctors risk losing their jobs if they do not comply with making the referrals.
Carolyn has now spent two years dreading the arrival of the GIDS appointment letter. An interim letter arrived, addressed to Lucy, asking whether she wished to remain on the appointment list: which she did. Carolyn has been informed that the appointment cannot be cancelled without Lucy’s consent.
Unsurprisingly, Carolyn is rapidly losing faith in social institutions – schools, the NHS, local government – in which she had previously placed significant trust.
Her local council subscribes to Stonewall UK’s Children & Young People’s Services Champions Programme, which provides “training” for headteachers, school governors, safeguarding leads, and CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) therapists. Carolyn informed her council of the harm being caused to children and families by the promotion of gender ideology in local schools. Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 and section 175 of the Education Act 2002 oblige local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The same child safeguarding duties are imposed on maintained schools, independent schools, academies, free schools, and technology colleges, by section 157 of the Education Act 2002.
The response received by Carolyn from the Council’s Director of Learning not only failed to appreciate her concerns; it also revealed a staggering lack of knowledge about what gender ideology teaches, simply confusing it with the rejection of gender stereotypes. This is the very opposite of what gender ideology does, given the primacy it accords to gender stereotypes for defining male and female identity. The letter ended with an invitation for Carolyn to attend a Council “LGBTQ+ session”.
Unsurprisingly, Carolyn is rapidly losing faith in social institutions – schools, the NHS, local government – in which she had previously placed significant trust. Her Stonewall-captured MP also gave her the brush-off when presented with her account of events. Who is there left to stand up for children?
When gender ideology encourages vulnerable children to present with a transgender identity, suicide threats may soon follow. Last spring, Lucy responded to her parents’ scepticism about transgender identity by threatening to take her own life. Carolyn has gained the impression, from talking to other affected parents, that there is a formulaic element to the suicide threats, as though the children are being groomed in what to say in order to get what they think they want.
Lucy had also begun to self-harm: and perhaps it is not surprising that children who are repeatedly told by adults that transgender-identified people are at high risk of suicide might feel that self-harm is a natural, normal, and reasonable step to take if their parents do not comply. The suicide threats plunged her parents into such an intense state of anxiety that Carolyn felt compelled to make regular checks on Lucy during the night to make sure she was still alive.
Lucy responded to her parents’ scepticism about transgender identity by threatening to take her own life. Carolyn has gained the impression that there is a formulaic element to the suicide threats, as though the children are being groomed in what to say in order to get what they think they want.
This appalling case, however, also provides evidence that protest can result in some positive outcomes. Eighteen months after receiving the results of Carolyn’s research on the legal and medical risks of gender ideology, Lucy’s school decided to end their Stonewall subscription, to end their promotion of Mermaids, and to stop teaching “gender identity theory”, as the school now describes it. There is still a mountain to climb in the school, nonetheless, as it has individual teachers who continue to promote gender ideology, who “correct” Carolyn when she uses her daughter’s legal name, and who raise the prospect of making a referral to social services for her parents’ “abusive” non-compliance with Lucy’s declared gender identity.
Her two other children, attending two different schools, are also being taught gender ideology, and Carolyn is working strategically to share her research with these schools also. In one Zoom lesson during lockdown, Carolyn heard her twelve-year-old being taught that parents are guilty of a hate crime if they do not affirm the self-identified “gender” of their children. Lucy is now receiving objective, non-affirmative-model counselling for gender dysphoria, and this Zoom lesson characterised such counselling as “conversion therapy” and called for it to be illegal. The siblings of trans-identified youths are therefore being actively conscripted into this ideological war that targets the parental right and responsibility to protect children from harm.
Carolyn’s youngest attends a school that misrepresents the Equality Act on its website and that is very creative in declaring ostensible protected characteristics that do not exist in law. Lucy’s parents are now exploring potential Sixth Form possibilities for her, and four of the five Sixth Form departments they have visited, prominently display materials that promote gender identity, LGBT+ clubs, and Mermaids. Carolyn is understandably at a loss as to how to protect her children from this ideology.
Lucy’s school also undermined parental rights with secretive behaviour in a way that would be unthinkable if applied to other domains. Transgender ideology promotion is commonly accorded a status that trumps normal professional standards and legal requirements. The school changed Lucy’s name and pronouns without her parents’ consent, implying an unquestioning acceptance of the child’s self-diagnosis and conferring on it an authority that disregarded the views or wishes of her parents. Contrast with this, for example, the fact that Carolyn still has to provide written consent for such banal events as enrichment trips.
The school suggested to Carolyn that she join an LGBT+ parents’ group to help her come to terms with the new “reality”.
The frequent culture-concealment in schools with respect to transgender issues was reflected in the fact that the presentation by the gender lobby representative was not disclosed to parents, whereas parents at Lucy’s school are routinely informed when speakers such as politicians come to visit.
The school suggested to Carolyn that she join an LGBT+ parents’ group to help her come to terms with the new “reality”. Despite the greater caution now exercised by the school, Carolyn has nonetheless learned that gender identity has been integrated into some subject lessons, and she has been informed by another parent that every child bar three in one specific class is now identifying as trans, non-binary, or as another letter in the “T+” section of the gender lobby initialism. Teachers are all complying with the children’s new preferred names and pronouns. A further parent reports having been instructed to call her daughter’s friend “it”: her preferred pronoun.
Carolyn insists that schools must do more to protect children who are subjected to homophobic bullying: something that other affected parents have confirmed as a factor that can encourage children to believe they would be better off identifying as “trans” (and therefore putatively heterosexual) rather than seeing themselves as lesbian or gay. After experiencing so much homophobic bullying, Carolyn can completely understand why her daughter has decided to declare that she identifies as transgender rather than lesbian: “Where were all the LGBT lobby groups when my daughter was subjected to years of homophobic bullying? The anti-bullying policies they promote only seemed to snap into place once she was trans. What’s more, because the trans identity is perceived by other kids as cool, the bullying seemed to stop anyway.”
She is also keen for schools to understand that the LGBT+ initialism is invalid, and that sexual orientation has nothing to do with gender identity. She believes that teachers promoting gender ideology may mistakenly regard their allegiance as a simple extension of supporting gay rights: especially if they are gay or lesbian themselves.
…she has been informed by another parent that every child bar three in one specific class is now identifying as trans, non-binary, or as another letter in the “T+” section of the gender lobby initialism. Teachers are all complying with the children’s new preferred names and pronouns.
LGBT+ clubs in schools are also, in Carolyn’s view, in need of more supervision, as they are often forums where children advise one another on transgender and non-binary identities, as well as on how to pursue such objectives as breast-binders, puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones. Furthermore, she would like to see teachers desisting from diagnosing gender dysphoria when they lack any medical or psychological qualifications to do so.
“There is nothing kind or accepting about social transitioning,” Carolyn asserts. “Instead, it is a measure that sets children – often gay and lesbian children – on a pathway towards making irreversible changes to their bodies. Schools should also desist from celebrating transgender holidays, such as Transgender Awareness Week and the Transgender Day of Remembrance, and schools should not allow LGBT History Month and Pride Month to be hijacked by gender ideology.”
The false and dangerous claims about 48% of transgender-identified children attempting suicide, frequently used as a weapon to shut down debate and emotionally blackmail parents, should not continue to be proclaimed by schools, Carolyn asserts. In addition, schools should restrict themselves to an accurate representation of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act. “Schools must remember that children are not ‘mini-adults’: they need guidance and protection from responsible adults. It is unacceptable for outcomes to be ‘led by the child’ when it comes to making informed decisions where only adults have competence.”
Carolyn continues to be put through the mill as she and her husband attempt to restore an emotionally healthy equilibrium to their family. Fighting this battle on several fronts, including at three different ideologically-captured schools, is something that she describes as akin to “playing whack-a-mole”, and she dreads the prospect of having to battle on further fronts still when her children attend Sixth Form. For this nightmare to end, she believes that policy changes must happen at state level, beginning with the Department for Education, which seems to have shown no interest in enforcing the policy declared in September 2020 that was supposed to ban schools from telling children they could have been born in the wrong body and from using resources that promote such ideology from outside organisations. Carolyn calls on Nadhim Zahawi, the Secretary of State for Education, to issue stronger guidance, and for Ofsted to be required to identify and penalise schools that fail to follow it.
LGBT+ clubs in schools are also, in Carolyn’s view, in need of more supervision, as they are often forums where children advise one another on transgender and non-binary identities, as well as on how to pursue such objectives as breast-binders, puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones.
It is crucial, Carolyn feels, that more parents be enabled to understand what is being taught in schools to their children. From other parents, she has heard of children being radicalised who do not identify as trans or non-binary, and that this is causing arguments and conflicts in family homes. Even if parents’ own children do not come to identify as transgender as a result of the school gender ideology curriculum, they may still bring identity politics warfare back to their homes and families.
Distress can also be caused to the siblings of trans-identified children when the former are taught gender ideology at school and are encouraged to believe that their parents are abusive and committing human rights violations if they do not believe in the ideology and fail to affirm their sibling’s transgender identity. Carolyn refers to the clamp-down that has happened in Sweden on surgical and medical transitioning for minors, after which trans people began to visit schools to warn children of the dangers associated with transitioning and to encourage them to accept themselves as they are, rather than embrace the mistaken concept of ontological disjunction with their biological sex. Carolyn would like to see a similar deradicalisation programme take hold in the UK.
She believes that teachers and politicians need to make a greater effort to understand how transgender ideology propaganda in schools destroys family bonds, and that new partnerships with parents must be forged to support children who are in distress, instead of engaging in, or colluding with, machinations that deliberately exclude children’s primary caregivers. Portraying parents as abusive or bigoted simply for defending their child’s right to be lesbian or gay, or gender-non-conforming, or protected from an adult political agenda, is a depiction Carolyn believes to be highly damaging.
Carolyn would like gender ideology to be identified as unambiguously political, asserting that the outrage that would attend the aggressive promotion of any other political ideology in schools needs to start being directed at gender lobby propaganda also. It is a political ideology that is psychologically harmful to children, creating mental health problems that school counsellors and CAMHS do not have the resources to address – even if they were not actively promoting the ideology themselves, as is so often the case today.
Many parents in Carolyn’s situation are discouraged from seeking a therapist for themselves, given that most are these days trained to affirm transgender identities and may suffer sanctions from their agencies or professional organisations if they fail to fall in line.
The capture of children by gender ideology can have a devastating impact on families, including on the emotional health of parents who are trying to protect them from harm. Carolyn’s own health has taken a battering over the past two years as a result of the crisis inflicted on her family by Lucy’s school. Despite her considerable reluctance, she has now begun a course of antidepressants, hoping they will alleviate her current reliance on the support of empathic friends and relatives: “I feel really guilty about subjecting friends and family to my woes and rants. It has been more than two years, and I feel like such a burden.”
Many parents in Carolyn’s situation are discouraged from seeking a therapist for themselves, given that most are these days trained to affirm transgender identities and may suffer sanctions from their agencies or professional organisations if they fail to fall in line. “Because most parents are looking for a safe space to vent their fears and anxieties, where they can share their experiences of constant gaslighting by the very people and authorities meant to help our children, having a therapist tell you that your child’s situation is all your fault because you don’t affirm them is very upsetting and totally counterproductive.” One therapist Carolyn consulted for help with her anxiety even told her: “Well, you must have always known she was a boy”.
While Carolyn continues to dread the arrival of the Tavistock letter, we must surely ask ourselves how, in modern Britain, the very people who should be promoting and enforcing child safeguarding in schools are instead promoting transgender ideology that is capturing the identities of vulnerable lesbian and gay schoolchildren and providing them with an alluring escape into faux-heterosexuality, new social status, and protection from bullying. This is the new gay conversion therapy: possibly now to be reinforced by new Government legislation that will, for the first time, embed the highly-disputed concept of “gender identity” into law and, at the very least, have a chilling effect on counsellors and psychotherapists who will fear the prospect of any words they utter being presented as an attempt to dissuade a client that he or she is “transgender”: a topic that is explored in this linked piece. Carolyn is in no doubt about the harmful reality underlying these new legislative measures, and she asks a crucial question:
“The conversion therapy consultation seems to focus on horrific treatments to stop people from being gay. I would argue that trans ideology, and the extreme medical and surgical alterations adolescents are encouraged to demand, are in fact conversion therapy. Many of these kids are same-sex attracted. Why aren’t they being left alone?”
Today, in spite of legal equality having been achieved for lesbian and gay people, and in spite of the sea-change in social acceptance from which we benefit, something very harmful has emerged that threatens to dismantle our hard-won rights. This insidious emanation is focusing its efforts at the very point where we are most vulnerable – our insecure childhood years. At the very time when we need supportive and affirming adult voices, dogmatic adults now emerge who are derailing same-sex attracted children into pseudo-heterosexuality and even doing so under the false cloak of promoting gay rights.
Gary Powell is a gay man and has been active in gay politics since 1980. He is the Research Fellow for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity at the Bow Group and the European Special Consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture.
Photo by Sestovic/iStock Getty Images, posed by model.