The clash between common sense and “woker-than-thou” institutions leads to some ridiculous moments. This is exemplified by what happened to Christian Wilton-King, a college lecturer from Cardiff who found himself hauled in front of the Education Workforce Committee for raising an eyebrow, or more precisely “eyebrows”.
The story started when Christian, who specialises in teaching students with autism, became concerned that children and young people who “didn’t fit in” were being encouraged to see themselves as transgender thanks to the training offered to local authorities by trans advocacy groups like Mermaids, Stonewall and Gendered Intelligence. Notably, Department of Education (DfE) guidance now being rolled out in England has been designed to curb the influence of such groups.
Autistic children make up nearly half of those referred to the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS); 35 per cent have moderate to severe autistic spectrum disorder traits and a further 13 per cent have a milder manifestation. Given these alarming figures, it is understandable that Christian adopted a critical eye to how the matter was covered by educational institutions. And his concern was not unwarranted — it seems many of the advocacy groups charged with supporting this particularly vulnerable group have been promoting an ideological agenda rather than evidence-based best practice.
Transgender Trend are a group of parents, academics and childcare professionals who question the trans narrative. An analysis of Stonewall’s guidance for schools by Transgender Trend highlighted serious safeguarding failures and inaccuracies, particularly with regard to the advice given to teachers of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). Transgender Trend note that autistic children are “especially vulnerable to peer pressure, due to a strong desire to fit in”. Stonewall’s An Introduction to Supporting LGBT Young People (2020) advises teachers to look out for signs that a SEND child might be trans, with signs said to include “preferences for clothing types or hair length” and “fear of puberty”.
As Christian told me: “Bearing in mind the higher prevalence of autistic people identifying as transgender, it would be essential, as a teacher, to help students navigate the complex issues regarding gender and sex-roles through my teaching and challenging gender stereotypes in my lessons.”
Christian was careful to keep his work life and campaigning separate, so it came as a surprise when comments he had made in a private Facebook group were shared. In the group, parents aired their concerns about the embedding of transgender ideology in schools. These largely dry conversations about how best to support children who identify as trans were screenshot and sent to the Education Workforce Council (EWC) as evidence of “transphobia”. One comment which Christian made on his personal page was a somewhat light-hearted dig about the eyebrows of a transgender activist. This was singled out as particularly egregious. Christian then had to wait months to hear if he would keep his job. He has apologised repeatedly for the comment. Had the eyebrows been growing from the face of someone who didn’t identify as transgender then there would have been no case to answer.
Christian isn’t the sort of person you’d imagine would be hauled up in front of disciplinary panel for taking a political stand. Earnest and good-natured, it is clear he cares about the autistic teenagers under his tutelage. Although he was reprimanded by the EWC he was ultimately found fit to teach, though he now doesn’t feel he has a place in the profession. He told me: “If I am unable to safeguard my learners without fear of being reported to my employers and sacked for my views, I’d be unable to fulfil my duty of care to my students. It would be impossible for me to teach if I was compelled to perpetuate such stereotypes in lessons.”
“I still have a passion for working with autistic people and would love to continue in some way. But clearly teaching may not be possible if my views are deemed too controversial and ‘harmful’ for those in my care.”
What’s interesting is that Christian’s concerns have now been vindicated by the Department for Education (DfE). New guidance released by the DfE last Thursday states that “teachers should not suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing”. It also advises schools to be cautious about using training from external providers, noting that these must be in line with the “school’s legal duties regarding political impartiality”.
Christian is not alone in having been forced out of his profession for questioning the implementation of transgender ideology in educational institutions. Last year Reverend John Parker hit the headlines when he resigned from his post as a school governor in Essex after voicing concerns that the school had been misled by the Mermaids group. Revered Parker told the Mail that a training session run by the charity was full of “factual inaccuracies… I am an Oxford biologist by background so I was gobsmacked by what was being said from a biological perspective.” In response, the Mermaids trainer was reported to have told him, “My job is to deliver training. I have done that. I don’t have to listen.” One wonders in light of the new guidance from the DfE whether he might be offered an apology.
Michael Conroy is the founder of Men At Work C.I.C., and he delivers training in schools to unpick the “causes and effects of sexist stereotyping”. He told me: “It’s been hard to witness the funding and credibility offered to organisations like Mermaids, Stonewall and Gendered Intelligence in recent years… I have been trained by all three of these organisations and not for one second of that has sexism and rigid gender stereotyping been addressed or even acknowledged. On the contrary, we are invited to see the enactment of stereotypical behaviours and tastes as ‘proof of an authentic self’.” He added “I expected it [training] to be poor but I wasn’t ready for… their approach to suicide, safeguarding and science. They must be held to account.”
For years, those who raised concerns about the imposition of baseless transgender training have been vilified, cast as backward and bigoted. Slowly it seems the sexist reality behind the transgender narrative is being exposed. Far from being progressive, to believe that there can be a mismatch between mind and body is to assume that certain behaviours and personality traits cannot be shared by both sexes.
After many years of pushing for “no debate”, the transgender lobby groups that have influenced policies in schools have been put back in their pink-and-blue-themed boxes. That the Department of Education has finally woken up to the damage done by transgender lobby groups is to be welcomed, but it comes too late for those like Christian and Reverend Parker. Those forced out of their positions for matters of conscience might just be a footnote in history at a time of mass hysteria, but they matter. No one should have to endure being slandered, smeared or sacked for simply trying to safeguard children. The new DfE guidance does not just state that external providers be politically neutral with evidence-based resources, they also require that children are taught the “importance of freedom of speech and freedom of association to a tolerant and free society”. As the experiences of Christian and Reverend Parker make clear, it seems some head teachers would benefit from this lesson, and indeed from some critical thinking.