A piece by Nicholas Hellen, Social Affairs Editor, in today’s Sunday Times:
The BBC has told teachers who work with children aged 9-12 that there are “100, if not more” gender identities.
Children are seeking in record numbers to change their gender because they feel they were born in the wrong body, and the advice has sparked concerns that it could fuel confusion.
The claim appears in a series of nine films created by BBC Teach to support the personal, social and health education (PSHE) curriculum in schools.
In one question-and-answer session a young boy asks: “What are the different gender identities?” He is then praised by a head teacher for asking a “really, really exciting question”.
The film cuts to a PSHE teacher called Kate Daniels, who explains to two other young children: “We know that we have got male and female, but there are over 100, if not more, gender identities now.”
She goes on to explain that some people are “bi-gender” and feel that they are two genders at once. “And then you’ve got some people who might call themselves gender-queer, who are just like: ‘I don’t really want to be anything in particular. I am just going to be me.’”
The Royal College of General Practitioners, which represents those who are the first point of contact for people questioning their identity, recognises six genders in a recent position statement. These are male, female, gender-neutral, non-binary, gender-fluid and gender-queer.
The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which received 2,519 referrals of young people to its gender identity development service in 2017-18, said: “While younger children tend to have more binary, male or female, notions of gender, some older children can be more fluid in how they come to think of their gender identity.”
Stephanie Davies-Arai, founder of Transgender Trend, which represents parents concerned about the surge in the diagnosis of children as transgender, said: “This is made-up nonsense. People are free to identify as anything they like, but this does not change the reality that there are only two sexes.
“To suggest that being male or female is just a personal identity is false and will inevitably confuse children into believing that their biological sex is a choice.”
Davies-Arai said she had not been consulted by the BBC even though Transgender Trend was shortlisted for the John Maddox prize 2018, run by Sense about Science, specifically on the strength of its schools resources pack.
The BBC is not alone in listing many gender identities. Until recently Facebook offered 71 gender options, but since 2015 it has given the options of male, female or writing one’s own description.
Daniels worked as a consultant for the nine BBC Teach films for teachers of the PSHE curriculum. Her reply to the boy’s question appears in a film entitled Identity — Understanding Sexual and Gender Identities. Other topics include Sex — What’s It All About? and Body Image — What Is Perfect?
In the introduction to the film, she says she has worked for a decade as a primary school teacher. She did not respond to questions from this newspaper, but in her introduction to the series Daniels says: “This subject is vital . . . If you don’t teach these sessions, [children] will be going online to search for themselves, and when they do that they will come across some very nasty and inappropriate material.”
Leo, a transgender man, explains in the film why he changed his gender. “I always just felt really uncomfortable . . . I felt when I looked at the mirror I was seeing the wrong person,” he says.
The BBC said: “The Big Talk series was contributed to by more than 50 independent experts and professionals and is intended to be used by teachers, within the safe space of the classroom, to prompt further conversation with their pupils on the topics raised.”
Men, women . . . it’s complicated
Facebook used to offer users 71 different gender options, before deciding that was insufficient and allowing people to self-define. The social media group’s list included: agender, androgyne, asexual, cis female, cis male, gender questioning, gender nonconforming, gender variant, intersex, hermaphrodite, man, MTF, neither, other, pangender, polygender, T*woman, transsexual person, transmasculine, two-spirit person and woman
Stonewall, which advises government and employers on gender matters, lists 17 terms to describe transgender people.
They may describe themselves as transgender, transsexual, gender queer (GQ), gender fluid, non-binary, gender variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, transmasculine, transfeminine and neutrois.
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