Joanna Williams Joanna Williams

Suella Braverman is right to take on trans teaching in schools

(Photo: Getty)

Three cheers for Suella Braverman. The Attorney General has made clear that it is not appropriate for schools to teach young children that gender is a choice. Speaking at the think tank Policy Exchange on Wednesday, Braverman stated that teachers should not be in the business of indoctrinating children with ‘one sided and controversial views on gender’. To do so, she warned, may leave them in breach of government guidance.

What’s more, Braverman indicated, schools should not allow children to change gender – whether by using a different name or pronouns, wearing a different uniform, or using the toilets meant for the opposite sex – without their parents’ consent.

Thank goodness this has finally been said. But what a sad sign of how far schools have succumbed to the progressive doctrines promoted by groups like Stonewall and Mermaids that such statements of the obvious needed saying at all.

Braverman is right to turn her attention to what children are learning at school that is leaving so many confused about their gender

A fortnight ago, the announcement that the Tavistock is to be shut down came as a huge relief to those who have long raised concerns about practices at the NHS’s child gender clinic. But this was only ever half the story. The Tavistock dealt with children after they had been referred for medical intervention. It was not solely responsible for the 20-fold increase in such referrals in a decade, with more than 5,000 children referred in the last year alone. Braverman is absolutely right to turn her attention to what children are learning at school that is leaving so many confused about their gender.

As I wrote on Coffee House last month, schools have played a huge part in promoting the idea that gender is an identity distinct from the reality of biological sex. Braverman seems determined to tackle this concerning politicisation of education head on. She said:

In my view, a primary school where they are teaching Year 4 pupils, aged eight and nine, ‘key words’ such as transgender, pansexual, asexual, gender expression, intersex, gender fluid, gender dysphoria, questioning or queer, would be falling foul of government guidance.

As I asked in response to this very lesson: ‘Why must an eight-year-old know the difference between bisexual and pansexual? Wouldn’t their time be better spent learning their times tables or becoming engrossed in a story?’

Unlike many who now work in schools, Braverman understands what education is actually supposed to be for. ‘It is important to be clear what are scientifically tested and established facts and what are questionable beliefs,’ she said yesterday. Sadly, ‘questionable beliefs’ are all too readily confused with ‘established facts’ – and not just by teachers.

Even medically trained professionals now seem to find biological facts difficult to communicate. Bloody Brilliant, a period-information campaign run by NHS Wales, has removed the word ‘girls’ from its website. It refers instead to ‘young people who bleed’. This is confusing in so many ways. Clearly, as Shylock puts it so eloquently in The Merchant of Venice, to be human is to bleed. You have read between the lines to realise that the ‘bleeding’ referred to is menstruation.

We can never know how many girls desperately searching for advice will overlook such vague and euphemistic ‘information’ as irrelevant to their specific concerns. More troubling is the message NHS Wales is sending to young girls struggling with puberty: womanhood is not only unmentionable and undesirable, it is also something that you can seemingly opt out of. Although Braverman has made a bold step in the right direction, it seems there is quite a way to go before schools are finally rid of gender ideology.

In response to the Attorney General’s speech yesterday, Mermaids, the charity that supports ‘gender variant’ children, doubled-down on current practice. It issued a statement declaring, ‘The contents of Braverman’s speech do not reflect our understanding of the Equality Act 2010 or the realities of being a trans child in schools. Her speech is not legally binding on schools and does not mark a change in school’s duties toward trans children in their care.’

This is quite the challenge. Mermaids’ starting point – as suggested in these two sentences – is that some children are transgender. In other words, they have been born in the wrong body and need society and medicine to affirm their ‘true’ gender identity. Such assumptions are utterly groundless. They rely on crude stereotypes (the young boy who plays with a doll may be trying to communicate that he is really a girl) and are dependent upon positive affirmation: the boy should be allowed to change his name and be referred to as ‘she’. As all attempts to question this approach are ruled out through nods to spurious ‘legal protections’ the existence of the transgender child becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So thank goodness for Suella Braverman. She might have her work cut out but at least she has the balls to take on the vested interests of Stonewall and Mermaids. Let’s hope whoever wins the Conservative leadership race has room for her in their cabinet.