Cllr Gary Powell is a councillor in Buckinghamshire

Local authorities have a legal and moral safeguarding duty in relation to how their services impact on children and also people with protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act 2010. There are nine protected characteristics, including sexual orientation, sex, disability and gender reassignment. With the onward march of extreme gender ideology, we are seeing an alarming number of false positives among children identified – or “self-identifying” – as transgender. Most at risk of being catapulted along a false transing pathway are children who are actually gay, lesbian, on the autistic spectrum, or gender-non-conforming.

Councils need to take reasonable and appropriate steps to prevent the services that they provide or support causing harm to children because of reckless political virtue-signalling, (which includes allowing boys to use girls’ toilets in schools). If they do not, then those local authorities will be in serious breach of their child safeguarding duties and their duties to avoid causing indirect discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 with regard to sexual orientation, disability (autism) and sex. Betraying vulnerable children will rightly expose councils to legal action in due course by the victims of that betrayal.

The main purveyor in the UK of what I would term extreme gender ideology is the LGBT+ lobbying group, Stonewall: an multi-million-pound turnover outfit that receives over £600,000 from local and national government, and that I wrote about previously in Conservative Home. It has enormous influence on Relationship and Sex Education in schools via its LGBT+ education programmes. As a gay rights activist for forty years, I regard Stonewall as having become a highly pernicious influence in modern British society.

The LGBT+ movement, as distinct from the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) movement, is particularly effective at throwing mud at good people who oppose extreme gender ideology, including attempts to get gender heretics sacked merely for daring to say that biological sex is real. However, when a BBC Newsnight report highlighted the probability that gay and lesbian children are wrongly self-identifying as trans and being referred to gender clinics, the LGBT+ movement responded with silence.

The allegations in a recent report on BBC Newsnight into events at the Tavistock Centre, England’s only NHS children’s gender clinic, highlight how out-of-control the western leftist obsession with gender ideology has become. BBC Newsnight had read a “sizeable portion” of staff interview transcripts resulting from a review into the Tavistock Centre GIDS (Gender Identity Development Service): a review triggered by “serious concerns about children’s welfare raised by staff in an internal report”. Newsnight reported that, in all the interview transcripts they saw, there was mention of homophobia in the families of the children attending the clinic. Transcripts contained reports of young people struggling with their sexual orientation, and some parents appearing to prefer their children to be transgender (and therefore heterosexual), rather than gay or lesbian.

How do children land up in these GIDS clinics? The Tavistock declares:

“We accept self-referrals as well as referrals from GPs and other professionals such as social workers, psychiatrists and teachers.”

Social workers, teachers … we are squarely in local authority child safeguarding and Equality Act territory.

How many local authorities are responsible for creating a culture that responds to the vulnerabilities of gay and lesbian children by giving so much prominence to transgender issues that children grasp at an escape route out of their stigmatised homosexuality? A lesbian girl who is attracted to females now self-identifies as a heterosexual boy in a female body. Not only that, but with staggering implausibility, children are treated by the medical and political establishment as capable of giving informed consent to receive hormones that will block their puberty – and after only three counselling sessions at a GIDS clinic. The physically damaging process of puberty blockers almost always leads to cross-sex hormones at a later date, followed by breast or genital amputations. This is surely a shocking and abject failure in child safeguarding.

Stonewall is strikingly quiet about the transing of gay and lesbian children. It campaigns for people to be recognised as trans without any diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and for people to be able to enjoy all the rights associated with being trans simply by self-identifying as trans. 80 per cent of transwomen retain their male genitalia. Predatory men with male genitalia pretending to be transwomen so they can access girls’ and women’s changing rooms? This is a child safeguarding nightmare.

Stonewall reveal on their website (page last updated in 2015) that 56 local authorities have signed up to their Diversity Champions programme (annual subscription £2,500). Of these, 10 are Conservative-run councils.

Not only are gay and lesbian children in danger of being wrongly transed with the tacit or active consent of their local authority: in equal danger are the many boys and girls who simply do not confirm to 1950s gender stereotypes, and who may become persuaded they are transgender. Children on the autistic spectrum constitute another high-risk group. The Tavistock Centre’s internal review revealed that 35 per cent of the children referred to them had autistic traits, compared to a normal community prevalence of three per cent.

A disproportionate number of children with autism are ending up in GIDS clinics: something about which a leading Asperger syndrome specialist, Prof. Tony Attwood, has expressed concern. Many such children can come to mistakenly view gender transition as a potential cure for their autism-related struggles and difficulties.

Local authorities have an important duty to support those children with genuine gender dysphoria, which is a complex and potentially very distressing pathology. However, this duty is matched by an equal duty not to cause harm to other groups of children, and to provide clear guidance to their own departments, schools, and partner agencies, in order to ensure that trans issues are taught about and dealt with in a sensible and sensitive manner. This is potentially a child safeguarding timebomb waiting to explode. Not for the first time, the suffering of child victims is being tolerated and ignored in the service of political or social expediency.