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Gary Powell is a former councillor in Buckinghamshire.

A distressed mother recently shared with me an account that lays bare the lamentable state of child safeguarding in British schools and the usurpation of parental rights by politicised state institutions.

The promotion of gender ideology to children creates a long-term income stream for certain charities, pharmaceutical companies, and physicians. It also causes serious harm to same-sex attracted, gender non-conforming and high-functioning autistic children. It is an adult ideology that is being deliberately targeted at young people under the guise of diversity and inclusivity.

Local authorities are obliged under section 11 of the Children Act 2004 and section 175 of the Education Act 2002 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Furthermore, section 157 of the Education Act 2002 imposes the same child safeguarding duties on maintained schools, independent schools, academies, free schools, and technology colleges.

Extreme gender ideology is not a peripheral political issue. Anyone with young or adolescent children or grandchildren, or other young family members, should know that what is described below could one day befall them, too, and pull their family into a vortex of anguish.

In order to protect the identity of a vulnerable child, names have been changed or omitted. A Labour local authority and a Labour MP will remain unidentified, but their behaviour is typical of the responses concerned parents can expect in today’s culture. What is shared here is a textbook experience reported by many parents whose children’s lives have been derailed by the promotion of gender ideology in schools.

Carolyn Mason* has a fifteen-year-old daughter, Lucy*, who attends a maintained school. Lucy is same-sex attracted, has tomboyish characteristics, and experienced anti-gay bullying in her primary school.

The Masons have respectful and accepting attitudes towards lesbian and gay people. On turning twelve, Lucy “came out” as a lesbian, and the anti-gay bullying continued: this time at her secondary school.

However, shortly after a visit to the school by a controversial organisation that promotes extreme gender ideology – represented, Mrs Mason believes, by a transgender-identified speaker who promoted transition as a sensible lifestyle choice and a possible resolution to emotional pain – Lucy spent two weeks in her room engrossed in the Internet. A month later, Lucy told her mother that she now identified as a boy and wished to visit her GP for a gender clinic referral. Lucy was thirteen.

A month later, Mrs Mason accompanied her daughter to the GP appointment, by which time Lucy had developed an eating disorder: a common condition among children presenting with gender dysphoria. Lucy qualified with surprising ease for the referral to the Tavistock Clinic. There was to be an 18 to 24-month wait for the appointment, and Mrs Mason hoped that Lucy might change her mind in the meantime. The GP later privately shared with Mrs Mason her misgivings about gender clinic referrals for children but explained that doctors risked losing their jobs if they refused to comply.

Two years later, Mrs Mason continues to dread the day when the appointment confirmation letter from the Tavistock finally arrives. If the consultations lead to a referral for puberty blockers, Lucy could become a transgender medical patient for life: puberty blockers almost always lead to cross-sex hormones. This is very bad news for those children who realise later in life – following damage to their bodies, their fertility, and their sexual function – that they have been sold a pig in a poke. How can children make informed decisions about irreversible medical choices that their parents are powerless to veto?

An interim letter from the Tavistock, addressed to Lucy herself, asked her whether she still wished to remain on the waiting list. Indeed, Mrs Mason was informed by the GP that her daughter’s name could not be removed from the referral list without Lucy’s consent. A proselytising, politicised nanny state continues to erode parental rights.

Mrs Mason wrote to her local authority to flag up the harm being caused by the promotion of gender ideology in its schools: a council that uses taxpayers’ money to subscribe to the gender lobby group, Stonewall UK’s, “Children & Young People’s Services Champions Programme”, membership of which provides “training” for headteachers, safeguarding leads, CAMHS therapists, and school governors.

The Council’s Director of Learning sent Mrs Mason a response, composed with the help of his “Public Health Sexual Health Outreach Support Officers”. The reply failed to address her concerns and revealed a staggering degree of ignorance as to what gender ideology teaches.

One paragraph stated:

“Information around transgender rights will be taught within the themes of gender and societal expectations. In these sessions we unpack the characteristics of ‘being a boy’ and ‘being a girl’ with the aim of reducing gender expectations. Within these sessions we also highlight the idea that ‘gender is on a spectrum’ and that just because someone may have a penis/vagina does not mean they have to behave in a certain way, have a certain job or dress in a specific way.”

It is surely worrying that the Director of Learning and his colleagues apparently have no idea what gender ideology teaches. Explaining to children that they do not need to conform to conventional gender stereotypes has nothing to do with “transgender rights”. Transgender ideology suggests instead that a girl who demonstrates traditionally “masculine” characteristics, and who has an inner feeling of being a boy, may really be a boy. And vice versa for boys. It replaces the sex-based definitions of “man” and “woman” with “gender”-based definitions informed by 1950s sexual stereotypes and quack-science introspective perceptions of putatively gendered souls.

Similarly, the reference to “gender being on a spectrum” is regularly presented by gender activists as a challenge to the biological reality that people fall into one of only two sexes. It has nothing to do with countering sexual stereotypes.

The Director of Learning ended his letter by inviting Mrs Mason to attend one of the Council’s “LGBTQ+ sessions”. The clear implication was that the real problem existed in her mind, and not with the Council or the Council’s schools.

Mrs Mason has lost faith in the institutions that are betraying children and visiting anguish on their parents. She is dismayed with her Labour MP, who also gave her the brush-off, suggesting she instead get in touch directly with the bodies promoting gender ideology to express her concerns.

Last winter, Lucy repeatedly threatened to commit suicide, demanding greater affirmation for her new gender identity. Mrs Mason has discovered, from talking to other parents, that such threats are common and bear an uncanny resemblance to one another, as though they are being deliberately encouraged by children’s transgender networks as tools for emotional blackmail. To compound the anxiety, Lucy had in fact begun to self-harm. Mrs Mason fell into a constant state of anxiety, regularly checking on Lucy during the night to make sure she was still alive.

Safeguarding laws already exist to deal with this problem. However, they need to be beefed up. New legislation is required that explicitly banishes the promotion of extreme gender ideology from all schools and introduces the means to enforce the ban, with serious penalties. Child safeguarding is a red line, and tanks are already being allowed to trundle over it.

*name changed