When maths teacher Kevin Lister received a message from his 17-year-old student, Lizzie, telling him she would now like to be called Liam, he was concerned.
It was September 2021, only days into the new term at the college where he worked in the South West, and Lizzie had previously shown no signs of wanting to identify as a boy.
‘I’d experienced this in my previous school, where a girl had wanted to transition,’ says Mr Lister, a 60-year-old father of two. ‘I’d had no idea about gender ideology at the time and raised concerns but went along with it, calling her by a different name and he/him pronouns.
‘But at parents’ evening, when I had referred to the pupil as “him”, the parents referred to “her” throughout. They didn’t challenge me, but it made things rather awkward.
‘So, I’d already had my fingers burnt. I read up extensively on the problem and learned of serious long-term medical complications associated with transitioning.’
When the issue rose again, Mr Lister raised a safeguarding concern with the college, asking whether Lizzie’s parents had been told of her request (they had not, although Mr Lister found this out only later) and whether Lizzie was aware of the potential long-term ramifications of such a decision.
He also queried whether there was a risk of her self-medicating with cross-sex hormones (unavailable to under-18s without prescription, but accessible off-prescription online) as this would violate the college’s drug policy.
Mr Lister says he was uncomfortable ‘socially transitioning’ (using different names and pronouns) his student until these concerns had been addressed.
Crucially, he also says his bosses never gave him any written guidance. Instead, they expected staff to make decisions on their own, presumably to avoid any liability for the management. But Mr Lister’s well-intentioned report sparked a chain of events that would turn his life upside down.
Five months later, he was suspended on full pay for ‘transphobia’. And last September, he was sacked for ‘gross misconduct’ and reported to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) for a safeguarding violation, which he claims is preposterous and vehemently denies. He is now taking legal action against the college for wrongful dismissal and discrimination.
Mr Lister’s story, though far from unique, reveals the extent to which gender ideology has infiltrated our educational establishments, confusing teachers and pupils alike.
It is also the perfect illustration of how teachers in UK schools have effectively been put on the front line of this brave new world of gender politics, but with precious little back-up or official guidance to call on when circumstances become fraught, as they so often do.
Last month, the Mail published my investigation into school children who are being ‘socially transitioned’ without their parents’ consent — with requests from parents not to refer to their child using different names or pronouns ignored by teachers. I was surprised by the number of desperate teachers, from primary schools to further educational colleges, who contacted me after they’d read my article.
They spoke of the ‘enormous pressure’ they face to socially transition students — some as young as five — whether their parents are involved or not.