The Cass Review: response from LGB Christians to CofE Education Office

Image Featuring Rev Nigel Genders, Hilary Cass, The Cass Review Logo and cover of Valuing All God's Children Report

LGB Christians are very concerned by the influence of gender identity ideology over the Church of England.  Here, we share recent correspondence with Rev Nigel Genders CBE, the Chief Education Officer of the Church of England (pictured in the image) in the light of the Cass review.

Dear Mr Genders

We are an ecumenical and non-party political network of lesbian, gay and bi Christians and our friends committed to defending the rights of same-sex attracted people in the face of increasing backlash, confusion, and risks caused by ideas which replace the biological reality of the two sexes with self defined, gender identities.

The Cass Review and the Government’s draft guidance raise fresh questions about the adequacy of Church of England’s Guidance for schools on challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying

The recent publication of the Independent Review of gender identity services for Children and Young People (The Cass Review) represents a watershed moment in the care and treatment of gender-distressed children and young people. The Review has major implications for the care, guidance and support Church Schools and Diocesan Boards of Education offer in the school setting. The Cass Review follows the recent publication of the Government’s non-statutory guidance for schools and colleges in England regarding gender-questioning children, which was published in draft for consultation in December 2023.

Both the Cass Review and the Government’s draft guidance raise fresh questions about the adequacy of the Church of England Education Office’s Guidance for Church of England schools on challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying (Valuing God’s Children, Second Edition, 2019 (VAGC)). Indeed, the guidance as currently expressed, raises serious safeguarding concerns, in addition to containing biological, legal, and many other inaccuracies.

Perhaps the most significant find of the Cass Review relevant to VAGC relates to ‘social transitioning’. Social transition broadly refers to “social changes to live as a different gender such as altering hair or clothing, name change, and/or use of different pronouns” (para 71, p 31). One of the Review’s key recommendations is that “When families/carers are making decisions about social transition of pre-pubertal children, services should ensure that they can be seen as early as possible by a clinical professional with relevant experience” (Recommendation 4, para 79, p 32, para 12:37, p 165). The Review based this recommendation on a systematic review of the research on the impact of social transition relating to gender of children/young persons. The Review concluded that the research in this area was weak, and the impact on the trajectory of gender development unclear, in particular, its short or longer-term impact on mental health (para 12.31, p 163). The Government’s draft guidance, greatly influenced by the Cass Interim Report, observes that “Social transitioning is not a neutral act, as it has been recognised that it can have a formative influence on a child’s future development” (Government Draft Guidance, p 7).

Stonewall’s guidance poses a safeguarding danger to gender non-conforming children many of whom would otherwise grow up to be healthy gay men and women.

The clear implication is that teachers are not qualified to make decisions in this area and more needs to be done to halt social transition in schools. Accordingly, the advice given in the VAGC at p 19 to support trans people by, for example, making changes to toilet facilities, or changing the name or pronoun by which staff and classmates refer to them, is erroneous and potentially poses a safeguarding risk to the children concerned. Moreover, suggesting that “It is important to teach pupils to understand that the appropriate use of gender labels and names for transpeople and to explore why calling someone the gender other than which they choose to identify as is a form of bullying” is, in the light of the findings of the Cass Review, erroneous, misleading and potentially harmful to gender questioning pupils (VAGC, p 21). Indeed, to require staff and pupils to use another pupil’s preferred pronouns (cf. pp 19, 27), under threat of being accused of ‘misgendering’ or ‘transphobia’ or ‘bullying’ is a shocking form of compelled speech and belief.

VAGC is replete with biological inaccuracies which suggest that the drafters of the document presuppose and endorse the tenets of a gender-affirming philosophy. For example, the Glossary of Terms defines ‘Sex’ as something “assigned (my italics) to a person on the basis of primary sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive functions.” This is misleading. Sex is not assigned at birth. Sex is established at conception and observed and declared at birth, as any authoritative medical textbook will attest. The sexes are defined by their structure and function, the reproductive anatomy that produces sperm and eggs, not by the secondary sex characteristics of genitalia, gonads, and chromosomes. Similar criticisms apply to the definitions of ‘Trans’, ‘Transgender man’ and ‘Transgender woman’ (Glossary, p 26).

The definition of ‘gender identity’ (used 39 times) as a “person’s internal sense of their own gender, whether male, female, non-binary, or something else” (Glossary, p 26) is also fiercely contested. Many, perhaps most, people do not consider that they or others have a gender identity at all and that the definition of ‘gender’ which underpins this interior understanding is either circular or associated with regressive gender stereotypes. The authors of VAGC appear to have assumed the central tenets of gender identity theory without question, and thus adopted a particular metaphysical position, which is in tension, if not completely inconsistent, with a proper biblical and Christian understanding of the human person. As officers of the Church of England, the authors do not have the authority to adopt this alien philosophy as a basis for public policy.

These shortcomings are likely influenced by the heavy reliance that the Education Office’s guidance has placed on several guidance documents produced by Stonewall, a prominent LGBTQ+ rights charity and transactivist campaigning organisation based in the United Kingdom, in particular its Schools Report 2017. Stonewall is a membership organisation with no medical or professional expertise relating to the care, support and treatment of children and adolescents experiencing gender discomfort and distress.

We oppose Stonewall’s guidance precisely because it poses a safeguarding danger to gender non-conforming children many of whom will not experience persistent gender dysphoria and who would otherwise grow up to be healthy gay men and women. Gender non-conforming children customarily change their hair and clothing and should not be led to think that this is a sign of a transgender identity warranting social transition leading to a higher likelihood of embarking on a pathway towards medical and perhaps surgical transition. Stonewall’s guidance narrows the “bandwidth” of how one can express oneself as a boy or girl, man or woman. Indeed, it regressively appeals to outdated social norms and stereotypes and promotes the inherent sexism, indeed mysogyny and homophobia, that animates gender identity theory and encourages gender affirming care.

For all these reasons, VAGC in its current form poses a safeguarding risk to pupils, and reflects an ideology which is inconsistent with Christian theological insights and principles. It requires radical amendment, replacement, or withdrawal of the guidance as a matter of urgency.

Best wishes,

Revd Dr Mark Quinn Bratton
Research Officer, LGB Christians
Hon Canon Coventry Cathedral
Honorary Clinical Lecturer, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick

Further reading:

Gender Identity captures the CofE: ‘the shameful brainwashing of children’ by Dr Sarah Rutherford (12 December 2023)

Same-sex attracted Christians are now caught between two competing orthodoxies by By Revd Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal (10 October 2023)

Letter to Church Times about concept of gender identity in C of E schools (2 February 2024)