RCT trans kit review is a warning to Welsh Government

Yesterday’s Times reported that a boy in Rhondda Cynon Taff county council area had been ‘socially transitioned’ by his school, where he was treated as a girl. The parents describe their son’s wish to be a girl to have ‘come out of the blue’ with no prior indications. It appears that the child has been subjected to bullying at school – a factor which could have influenced his decision but which was not taken into account by the school.

The parents asked for time and caution, and were planning therapy to explore their sons’ state of mind – a reasonable and caring response. Yet, within a week of the boy’s request, the school had begun referring to him as a girl, and had connected him with a ‘charity advocate.’ Notes of meetings between the two give the impression that the advocate was forcefully urging the boy towards gender transition rather than exploring his feelings neutrally. The advocate stated if the boy’s name was not changed on the school register “arse would be kicked big time” and encouraged him to wear feminine clothes.

Dereliction of duty

Christian Wilton-King, an experienced trainer, autism specialist teacher and advanced practitioner, noted that often, children and young people with autism have confused feelings around gender, a fact which is seldom acknowledged in transgender guidance for schools. He described this case as an ‘appalling dereliction of duty to safeguard the child’, stating that ‘channels of communication should have been more open with the parents and more planning should have been considered and put in place.’

He also pointed out the dangers of rushed transition, and the vital importance of exploring these issues with young people, especially those who might have difficulty in conceptualising the long-term impacts:

We know that for those young people who eventually get access to puberty blockers, they almost certainly move on to cross-sex hormones, risking sterility in the longer term. Therefore, it is essential these issues are communicated effectively to children in a way which is accessible to them in a way they understand.

Instead, the school asked the parents to create a transition ‘timeline’ for their son, and discussed consulting with the council’s legal team in relation to the case. At this point, the parents felt so embattled they sought legal help to protect their child.

Paul Conrathe, their lawyer, pointed out that ‘social transition’ often sets in motion a chain that leads to hormonal and surgical interventions, referring to the recent case of Keira Bell. (Bell is a young woman who regretted transitioning and felt that other, less invasive options to explore her dysphoria had not been explored.)

High-handed and inappropriate

The school in Rhondda Cynon Taff was obliged to follow guidance – a so-called ‘trans toolkit’ – issued by the local council, which advised schools to ‘support children to change gender.’ However, after the family launched a judicial review, the council have temporarily withdrawn the toolkit and are reviewing its use. It is now the second council in the UK which has been forced to review its transgender policies after legal challenges.

Psychotherapist Stella O’Malley describes this ‘high-handed, inappropriate behaviour’ as common in schools and councils in dealing with the parents of children they have marked as transgender.

Tanya Carter, speaking for Safe Schools Alliance said:

We are appalled that once again legal action has had to be taken against a local authority’s dangerous and unlawful guidance. After the cases against Oxfordshire County Council and the CPS, all toolkits making similar misrepresentations of the law should have been withdrawn.

The school’s actions in this saddening case have been both illegal and damaging. The school have acted not only as if they have parental responsibility for this child, which they do not, but as if they are medical practitioners able to diagnose gender dysphoria and prescribe treatment (social transition).

Social transition is the first step on the path to puberty blockers, cross sex hormones and irreversible surgery. This should only be embarked on with the agreement of those with parental responsibility for a child and after extensive consultation with mental health professionals.

More cases likely to follow

She pointed out that many parents had similar stories, and that these occurred in clusters, including Brighton, Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Warwickshire and Chester. She has seen an explosion of cases of parents concerned about their children in Wales, and Scotland, due to the devolved government’s unquestioning acceptance of gender ideology. She predicts that more legal cases are likely to follow in Wales.

That is, unless Welsh Government can change course. It is not only schools that are exhibiting ‘high-handed’ behaviour. It comes from the top. Welsh Government have issued policies without consulting beyond a select in-group with close connections to the government. They have ignored experts that do not fit their agenda. They have ignored safeguarding concerns around the transition of children. They have ignored the evidence base from clinicians and researchers.

It is not just Rhondda Cynon Taff council that needs to urgently review its policy. If, as is likely in the future, there are more cases like the one in Rhondda Cynon Taff – more families in turmoil, forced to take legal action against schools and councils – then it is Welsh Government that bears the ultimate responsibility.

Merched Cymru is an organisation made up of mothers and grandmothers, teachers and feminists, women from across Wales. We have consistently raised these issues with our MPs, our Senedd members and beyond. With a few noble exceptions, we have consistently been ignored.

Our political leaders cannot say they were not warned. They have chosen not to take heed. We will not stop raising our concerns. When they are ready to listen, we will be more than ready to talk to them.

Picture courtesy of Richard Szwejkowski