What a weird attitude we have to children today. We curtail their freedom when it comes to play and food and the rough-and-tumble of school life. We don’t let them run wild in the great outdoors, for fear they’ll be kidnapped or encounter some plant we’ve convinced ourselves they’re allergic to. Schools forbid their taste buds the rush of a sugary treat or the joy of salt on chips. We monitor like crazy their interactions with other kids lest any of them say a mean word or have some fisticuffs.
Yet when it comes to choosing their gender, to overhauling their entire identity, we say: “Go for it.”
This society that doesn’t trust children to ride a bike through woodland does trust them to decide what sex they are. To insist nature made a mistake. To assert that the doctor who said they were a boy or a girl was wrong.
That children are more mollycoddled than ever, yet entrusted with overthrowing centuries of reason on matters of sex, should make us suspicious about the trend for trans issues in schools. It self-identifies – to use the parlance – as a liberatory campaign, designed to unleash kids’ free-wheelin’ inner self. That would be more believable if the same “experts” who applaud as little Johnny becomes little Jenny weren’t also the kind of people keen to forbid Johnny/Jenny from playing conkers or eating cake.
No, the encouragement of trans confusion among schoolkids has nothing to do with freedom, and everything to do with relativism. It speaks not to any instinct among the young to throw off the alleged shackles of sex definitions, but to adults’ abdication of their responsibilities in relation to children’s identities and futures. To such a profound loss of focus in the adult world, especially in teaching, that some now find it difficult to say: “No, Connor, you may not go into the girls’ bathroom.”
Children need boundaries. It’s how they learn. Those boundaries can be physical: “Don’t step into the road.” Or moral: “It’s naughty to use bad language.” Or, very often, biological: “Boys don’t cry”, “Be a good girl”, “Who’s daddy’s princess?”
The sex divide is central to children’s navigation of the world and to their understanding of themselves and others. We know this. We know that mothers nurture where fathers punish. That boys form gangs and girls make cliques.
Anyone who has ever met a three-year-old will know that, while they don’t know much, they do know there are two sexes and that they play different roles. (Not always, of course. There are exceptions. Mums can be fearsome, dads soft.)
It is incredibly irresponsible for schools, now with a nod from the Church of England, to erase the structure through which children come to know their world: mummy and daddy; female and male; difference. It’s like taking a map away from people lost in a thick jungle. It is cruel. Cruelty born of a relativism that will not even say “There are men and women”, far less uphold grander truths.
Churches, and church schools, should be at the forefront of resisting the pressure to flood schools with “gender fluidity”. Because if a school cannot say “You are a boy” or “You are a girl”, then it can make no moral judgment at all.
The cult of gender fluidity is a threat to the teaching of truth, the offering of pastoral care according to kids’ specific needs, and adults’ responsibility to help the young make sense of the world. That is, to those things that ought to be the mission of every good school.
Brendan O’Neill is the editor of Spiked
This article first appeared in the November 24 2017 issue of the Catholic Herald. To read the magazine in full, from anywhere in the world, go here