Gender Identity captures the CofE: ‘the shameful brainwashing of children’

Church House, London. Photo credit: Paasikivi, Wikipedia.
Church House, Westminster Abbey, London. Photo credit: Paasikivi, Wikipedia.

Sarah RutherfordBy Sarah Rutherford

Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

I started looking into the whole area of gender identity ideology in about 2018.  I use this terminology rather than trans rights, which I think is confusing. What I and many others object to is the wholescale recategorisation of what it means to be a male or female with the ensuing consequences that this has specifically for women and girls and gay and lesbian people. This was when there was a proposal to permit the Census 2021 question on sex to be answered according to gender identity. Until then I rather naively thought that this whole issue would be confined to democratic states in the US and perhaps our own universities.

The insertion of gender identity theory, its concepts and language into all aspects of society has been a determined calculated strategy by a global lobby. Only adults? Good practices in legal gender recognition for youth was published by Dentons, the biggest law firm in the world and promoted by Thomson Reuters. These two bodies are the main global disseminators of the ideology.  Their main argument is that children should be allowed to change their legal gender without the involvement of medical professionals or parents, and the state should take ‘action’ against parents who attempt to intervene. Realising that the transitioning of children may provoke some opposition in the population, the report gives guidance to activists on how best to achieve their aims. Go under the radar, target young politicians, keep out of the press, it advises.

In their quest to get gender identity legitimised in law global activists have targeted key institutions: education, law and government departments. The success of this strategy can be seen through organisations that feature highly in the Stonewall Workplace Equality index: law firms, universities and NHS Trusts.

The more I researched the more I realised that this was an extremely well-funded global movement that had already infiltrated human rights organisations all round the world, and were conducting their campaign via this vehicle rather than through individual country’s equality laws. In this way it was possible to bypass any national debate and before anyone had blinked we were being presented with a new human right: the right to change sex almost just on self-declaration.

“If the Church is struggling with same sex relationships how come it is not struggling with an ideology which prioritises gender identity over biological sex?”

In order for the concept of gender identity to be credible it was necessary to implant the belief that we all possessed one. This was not a term just to be used for the few thousand people who had previously been called transsexuals (which it had been originally since the 1970’s) and were profoundly unhappy in their own sexed body. Most adults would not accept this concept for themselves. Where was the evidence? What actually was a credible definition of gender identity without reference to biological sex? The majority of adults were not exercised by the question because they didn’t have cause to be, although the words gender identity were cropping up more and more in company surveys and in the media and being used as if we all knew what it meant. I would guess that most people today still don’t really know what it means, as we saw in the mess of the responses to the 2021 Census.

If adults may be reluctant to swallow an ideology that it isn’t our bodies that determines our sex but something altogether more ethereal, then children might be more receptive. Feminists have always railed against gender stereotypes and argued that boys and girls should be free to express themselves how they wanted. Women fought for the right to wear trousers, even wear trousers at work, something that used to be banned a few decades ago. So it is particularly galling to see very young children being taught that if they are a boy and play with dolls it may mean they are in fact a girl. We are witnessing an entrenchment of the very stereotypes feminists tried so hard to erase.

Most people are by now familiar with the scandal of targeting children with this ideology and the tragic results we are seeing. (See Hannah Barnes’ book on the collapse of GIDS, Time to Think).

We are now witnessing large numbers of gender non conforming kids, some of whom may have turned out to be gay, instead being pushed into believing they are the opposite sex. For this to be appealing it has to be lauded and applauded by adults. That is the main scandal.  Plus for teenagers being trans now has the appeal of being ‘different’ but a cool kind of different. It is definitely more cool to be trans than to be gay or lesbian.

This is a long but necessary preamble to my, and others attempts, to get the Church of England to take more notice and hence responsibility for its own shameful participation in this brainwashing of children via its guidance, Valuing All God’s Children: Guidance for Church of England Schools on Challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

Valuing All God’s Children: Questionable Guidance

The gender identity lobbyists have sought to influence the school agenda by gaining access indirectly through the teaching of RSE and or via anti bullying guidance which is aimed specifically at homophobic and transphobic bullying. I am not sure who thinks it a good idea that primary school children are being introduced to these themes given not many have gone through puberty, their sexuality is not yet fixed, and young children are very rarely trans. But via these trainings, the concept of gender identity is being deeply embedded in our children’s minds. This is why drag queen story time has been so popular, another way to teach kids that they may be in the wrong body and that physical reality is not a signifier of sex. There is also a plethora of children’s literature with the same themes, which have found their way into most public and school libraries.

Stonewall Glossary used verbatim, uncritically repeated

So when I came across Valuing All God’s Children I just sighed and thought ‘what them too, how disappointing’. The real red flag was the glossary at the back of the document which was verbatim Stonewall’s glossary of terms. Here is gender identity defined: ‘A person’s internal sense of their own gender, whether male, female, non-binary or something else’. Like all other institutions the Church had taken ‘advice’ from the ‘experts’ and uncritically repeated it.  It all seemed totally at odds with an institution which has been struggling to openly recognise gay members of its own clergy, let alone gay partnerships within the clergy and could not agree on whether to allow gay marriage in church.  Yet guidance aimed at primary school children which includes as taken for granted same sex attracted and trans children as young as five was issued by the Church back in 2014.

One of my first thoughts was if the Church is struggling with same sex relationships how come it is not struggling with an ideology which prioritises gender identity over biological sex? Surely this is much more contentious and with grave consequences like medical transition, lifetime of medication, destruction of sexual function, sterility and more recently regret from young adults who have detransitioned.

Challenging the guidance

In 2019 I first wrote to Rev Canon Nigel Genders (no I haven’t made that up) in October. He was, and remains, the Chief Education Officer for the Church of England. In that letter I told him that several school governors had spoken to me with alarm at this guidance and I asked whether he was aware that the whole notion of child transition was coming under a lot of public scrutiny. I mentioned the clear evidence of Stonewall’s influence on the guidance including the language, ‘assigned at birth’ for example. I also pointed out that gender identity was not included in the Equality Act and that the Church had been wrongly advised on this. I drew attention to the presence of a large global business lobby, the danger of puberty blockers, and the conflict with women’s rights e.g. single sex spaces.

There is nothing healthy, progressive or even Christian about promoting an ideology based on sexist stereotypes which feminism has been arguing against for years.

I received a short sharpish reply saying that he disagreed with me. He gave no specifics and argued that the guidance was about bullying not about RSE so that was the end of it. He rejected my suggestion that Stonewall had influenced the guidance and said it was mentioned extensively only because of their School Report on bullying LGBT pupils and theirs was the only one of its kind. Within the guidance, training for staff on these issues was recommended, and in a later update it was revealed that Stonewall itself had undertaken much of the training in schools.

“There is nothing healthy, progressive or even Christian about promoting an ideology based on sexist stereotypes”

I wrote again in June 2020 to alert Rev Genders to a court case in which there was a legal challenge being made to Oxfordshire County Council on the use of a trans inclusion toolkit being used in its schools.  I also noted that some of the guidance in Valuing All God’s Children was still wrong – that there was a public duty to measure the potential impact on girls if certain policies like unisex loos were introduced and that the guidance of telling parents of a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity would be viewed as a breach of confidentiality and posed a major safeguarding risk. Basically the letter listed all the recent developments, such as the NHS changing its guidance on puberty blockers and the government’s decision not to implement Self ID as well as recommending alternative approaches to gender questioning children via Safe Schools Alliance  and TransgenderTrend.  Again the response was ‘this is about bullying – nothing else’.

My research discovered that the church had their own relationship manager at Stonewall who advised them on all things LGBT. There is no way a guidance of this kind could have been written without activist input.  But as far as Church House, the CofE headquarters was concerned I couldn’t get any further.

Washing his hands of any responsibility seems to be Rev Genders’ approach when questioned about the teaching of gender identity ideology in schools. This summer (2023) after being criticised for his failure of responsibility in what children in a church school were being taught on gender identity, Rev Genders said it was the school’s ‘responsibility’ to determine which resources are used to deliver Religion, Sex and Health Education (RHSE) lessons.

Valuing All God’s Children has been criticised by some Christian groups as promoting the idea of a trans child and recently Rev Genders responded by saying that the guidance is a ‘valued resource’ in both church and non-affiliated schools, and aligns with the Equalities Act 2010, to which all schools and academies were subject. It ‘does not go beyond the law, but rather gives a practical advisory framework, underpinned by our Christian theological conviction, to be a resource for schools’, he said. This is another tactic adopted by trans lobbyists: when in doubt use the Equality Act 2010 to give legitimacy and silence critics. However, as I mentioned, an earlier version of the guidance mistakenly said that gender identity was covered by the Act. It isn’t.

So in response to criticisms of this guidance to its 4,630 linked or controlled schools, the CofE is trying to absolve itself of all responsibility. I am not sure how long the Church can hide behind this veil of innocence. Genders said he was awaiting the new guidance on trans in schools from the government – well we all are.

Living in Love and Faith suffers the same fate

In 2020 I had noticed another CofE resource, a teaching tool for adults, Living in Love and Faith was being developed. Rev Genders introduced me to the project leader Eeva John with whom I have had much more fruitful contact. She seemed quite responsive to my various critiques of gender identity so I was pretty disappointed with the final result and wrote a lengthy post about it.

On the more local level I received some praise from my vicar on my attempts to highlight the issue but when we held our own meetings about Living in Love and Faith, the focus was on same sex relationships and the whole trans issue was avoided. In another church I also visit regularly I wrote to the vicar and the member of the laity running a group to discuss Living in Love and Faith with my paper and some comments and the wish to discuss it further. Neither replied and when I questioned the vicar she said yes it would be interesting to discuss some time and has avoided it and me ever since! Maybe I haven’t been persistent enough but I reckon that if the Head of Education for the whole of the Church of England cannot give me more than a five line response to a whole series of queries then there is little chance of a local vicar running a busy parish wanting to delve into such controversial waters.

The General Synod: morphs into Stonewall mouthpiece

The addition of the T to the LGB was a masterstroke by activists and by setting the dominant discourse as ‘LGBT rights’.  It puts anyone who challenges the ideology on the back foot and open to accusations of transphobia. It sounds condescending to accuse senior leaders of the Church, even the General Synod, of not understanding the conflict and consequences of adopting this ideology. However they still seem to believe it is about being kind and supportive to a very discriminated against minority. This relative naivety was again evident when the General Synod voted unanimously in favour of the government’s Stonewall-inspired ban on conversion therapy in 2017 and the Church has continued to support the ban. Only last month (November 2023) the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally expressed her disappointment that the government had still not passed this bill.

I do believe that these words are well intended but that perhaps the Bishops are unaware that whilst the practice of trying to convert homosexuals to be straight should be universally condemned, a ban on conversion therapy with regard to gender identity is a different matter altogether. It could mean that therapists would be unable to question the motives of children and adults on their desire to change sex. Given that there are almost always co-morbidities that accompany gender questioning young people – autism, anorexia and other mental health conditions – preventing an exploration of other issues for their distress would further embed the notion that all their problems can be reduced to being born the wrong sex and only transition will remedy it.

So, as with so many other institutions we are left wondering about leadership: do they really understand the issues or are they being unduly guided by unaccountable lobby groups and genuinely fail to see the conflict with women’s and LGB rights, as well as the dangers to children, and let’s face it, the fact that this ideology is in direct contrast to pretty basic Christian teaching?

Dr Sarah Rutherford is a consultant, researcher, author, coach and mentor focusing on women’s careers and organizational cultures. Sarah gained her doctorate on organizational cultures and their impact on women managers in 1998. She has worked with many global and UK companies to create more inclusive cultures particularly for women. She is an active Anglican. Her book Women’s Work, Men’s Cultures was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2011.

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