The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has rejected calls to scrap the Church of England’s (CofE) transgender guidance which affirms children as young as five in gender confusion.
In an open letter to the Archbishop, Nigel and Sally Rowe had called on the CofE to scrap its “Valuing All God’s Children” (VAGC) guidance, which covers 4,700 CofE primary schools.
The letter was sent following the Rowes’ legal victory against the Department for Education (DfE) in September, which led to a £22,000 settlement for legal costs and a commitment from the Government to reform its transgender policies.
As part of the case, the parents presented international expert evidence to the DfE which revealed how transgender affirming policies lead to “catastrophic outcomes” for gender confused children.
The Rowes had taken legal action against the DfE after they and their six-year-old son were labelled “transphobic” by a CofE primary school on the Isle of Wight for refusing to “believe” in transgender affirming policies.
The Rowes made clear in their letter to Justin Welby that when they raised concern with the CofE’s Portsmouth Diocesan Board of Education in 2017, the VAGC guidance was used to dismiss and shut down their complaints.
The Rowes raised alarm that the CofE was continuing to endorse the VAGC guidance which they said says that children as young as five years old should be affirmed by Church of England schools if they wish to identify as the opposite sex.
This year, then Attorney General, Suella Braverman, stated that such a transgender affirming approach taken by the school and the Church of England, is not supported by law.
A petition calling for the guidance to be scrapped has since been signed by over 15,000 people.
In response to the Rowes’ open letter and subsequent national media attention, last month the CofE’s Chief Education Officer, Nigel Genders, published a contradictory statement on the CofE’s website claiming that VAGC in no way affirms primary school children in gender confusion.
However, on page 20 of VAGC, the guidance states:
In creating a school environment that promotes dignity for all and a call to live fulfilled lives as uniquely gifted individuals, pupils will be equipped to accept difference of all varieties and be supported to accept their own gender identity or sexual orientation and that of others. In order to do this it will be essential to provide curriculum opportunities where difference is explored, same-sex relationships, same-sex parenting and transgender issues may be mentioned as a fact in some people’s lives.
This statement is on a page specifically addressing issues for CofE primary schools, and therefore the treatment of pupils as young as five years old.
The paragraph states that children as young as five: “should be supported to accept their own gender identity”. It also states that transgender issues “may be mentioned as a fact in some people’s lives.” The next paragraph goes on to make this even clearer by saying: “Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision.” This section cannot be read as anything other than advocating affirming children as young as five if they wish to identify as the opposite gender.
The VAGC guidance also states (on page 14):
Schools must not discriminate (either directly or indirectly) against gender variant pupils, pupils who are perceived to be gender variant or pupils with trans parents. In the context of a school, indirect discrimination could include an inflexible uniform policy that creates a particular difficulty for trans pupils.