Church of England to schools: Allow children to explore gender identity

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, photo from
  • Church of England says Christian teaching should not be used to make children feel ashamed of who they are.
  • Church expanded guidelines now include preventing transphobic bullying in schools.
  • Critics decry marginalization of certain Christian beliefs, specifically the belief that gender is assigned at birth.
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Church England urged 5,000 schools to let children be able explore their gender identity in a report by the Independent yesterday.

“Pupils need to be able to play with the many cloaks of identity and to explore the possibility of who they might be,” revealed the guidelines that will likely spark national controversy. “Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision.”

The Church stated that children should be allowed to explore the possibilities of who they might be, including gender identity. Additionally, they said Christian teaching should not be used to make children feel ashamed of who they are.

Formative years and gender identity

Furthermore, the Church’s guidelines explained that nursery and primary school is a time of intense creative exploration and that children be allowed to wear clothes — be it a tutu, tiara and heels, as well as or instead of the helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak — without expectation or comment.

The guidelines clarified, “In the early years context and throughout primary school, play should be a hallmark of creative exploration.”

“Children should be afforded freedom from the expectation of permanence. They are in a ‘trying on’ stage of life, and not yet adult and so no labels need to be fixed,” it added.

Advocating for sensitivity in terms of language used when referring to children, the guidelines went on to explain, “It may be best to avoid labels and assumptions which deem children’s behaviour irregular, abnormal or problematic just because it does not conform to gender stereotypes or today’s play preferences.”

It has also expanded its guidelines on bullying that was first established three years ago to include transphobic bullying besides homophobic bullying.

Due to possible psychological damage it can cause, it has warned that schools must take necessary steps to stop bullying on the basis of perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.

Church leaders

The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote the foreword to the advice and said that central to Christian theology is the truth that every individual is created in the image of God and is therefore loved by God.

“All bullying, including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying causes profound damage, leading to higher levels of mental health disorders,self-harm, depression and suicide,” the Archbishop wrote. “We must avoid, at all costs, diminishing the dignity of any individual to a stereotype or a problem.”

Another statement, written by the Most Rev Justin Welby, added that the Church’s advice will help schools to offer the Christian message of love, joy and the celebration of shared humanity without exception or exclusion.

Gender identity debate among children

The recently released guidelines are expected to rekindle the debate on gender identity issues among children.

For instance, a related news on transgender topic hit headlines few months ago regarding parents from the Isle of Wight who removed their child from school over a transgender classmate in September.

Critics have slammed the sudden trend toward gender fluidity. Christian Concern, a conservative campaign group, claimed that dissenting voices are silenced and accused of bigotry.

For instance, Joshua Sutcliffe, a Christian Maths teacher from Oxfordshire, is set to appear in a disciplinary hearing allegedly for failing to use gender-neutral language. He claimed that he was not given any instructions and did not mean any offence when he addressed the whole class Well done girls that upset a female-born pupil.

Christian Concern reported that Joshua later diffused the situation and apologized, saying, “Since the pupil started at the school, Joshua has tried to balance his sincerely held Christian belief that biological sex is God-given and defined at birth, with the need to treat sensitively the pupil. He avoided the use of gender-specific pronouns, and instead referred to the pupil by the pupil’s chosen name.”

Responding to the allegation, Sutcliffe said he was saddened by the response of his actions and asserted that it reflects a growing trend in marginalizing and punishing people with Christian beliefs, specifically the belief that gender is assigned at birth.

“While the suggestion that gender is fluid conflicts sharply with my Christian beliefs, I recognize my responsibility as a teacher and Christian to treat each of my pupils with respect and dignity,” Mr. Sutcliffe said. “I have balanced these factors by calling the pupil by the chosen name and although I did not intentionally refer to the pupil as a ‘girl’, I do not believe it is unreasonable to call someone a girl if they were born a girl.”

He further stated, “The aggressive way in which transgender ideology is being imposed is undermining my freedom of belief and conscience, as well as the conscience of many people throughout our nation who believe that gender is assigned at birth.”

Christian Legal Center, an advocacy group, has backed Sutcliffe on the proceedings.

“This case is one of a flood of cases we are encountering where teachers are finding themselves silenced or punished if they refuse to fall in line with the current transgender fad,” Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Center, said. “We all know how much we change during our teenage years. It is vital that during those years we help our children to live in the biological sex they were born rather than encouraging them to change ‘gender’. If we encourage them to change gender it is not kind and compassionate; it is cruel.”

The case followed after Professor Lord Robert Winston, genetics expert and Labor member of the Lords, said that transgender individuals could end up damaged. “What I’ve been seeing in my fertility clinic is the long-term results of often very unhappy people who are now quite badly damaged,” he said.

Numbers from the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) showed a quadruple increase on the number of very young children between three and seven being referred to clinics due to gender confusion over the past few years.

There were 2,016 referred cases in GIDS’ Travistock center of children between three and 18, more than six times for the past previous five years.


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