By Michael Swain, Executive Director of FOR SA

There is a saying that if you do not learn from the mistakes of others, you are doomed to learn the same lessons from your own mistakes.  Why would anyone put themselves (let alone others) in harm’s way when there is no necessity to do so?  Yet this is precisely what the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) is in danger of doing in the development of its recently published  Draft Guidelines on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation in Public Schools (“the draft Guidelines”) for public comment. The public had until June 19th, 2020 to submit their views. 

The draft Guidelines purport to address the challenges faced by children suffering from gender dysphoria – the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex.  However, as stated in our previous article, a major problem with the draft Guidelines is their large scale buy-in of transgenderism as an ideology.  Transgenderism states that gender is separate from a person’s biological sex.  It is not a “binary” of male and female but rather exists on a spectrum and is merely a fluid, social construct. These viewpoints are strongly disputed by top experts in paediatric health.  However, by adopting the fundamental principles of transgender ideology, the Department is essentially recommending to public schools in the Western Cape that they should follow the same position.  It is also highly likely that any “Guidelines” which are adopted in Western Cape schools will shortly thereafter be rolled out nationally. 

Let’s be clear up front – there is both deep sympathy and concern for children who struggle with a gender dysphoria condition.  However, regardless of any level of medical intervention, a person’s sex is a genetic and biological certainty and every cell of their body will always have the XY or XX chromosome. Equally, in over 95% of cases, this condition will naturally resolve itself with the onset of puberty.  The problem is that if a school simply treats gender as if it is “fluid”, with locker room policies, bathroom policies and sports policies that embody the belief that gender exists on a spectrum, students will inevitably be influenced by this environment.  The ecosystem of the school is bound to shape, form, and mold the beliefs of its students, even if there is no explicit curriculum that teaches this ideological position.

One serious impact of transgender ideology is that children who suffer from gender dysphoria are encouraged and affirmed in their “choice”, rather than be supported and counselled until they are at an age and stage of their lives when they can make informed decisions.  Parents, who are understandably concerned for their child’s mental and emotional well-being, are often encouraged to affirm their child’s transition to their chosen gender.  They are typically informed – with zero scientific basis – that unless they encourage this delusion, their children are more likely to suffer from higher levels of depression, confusion, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts and inclinations,  By contrast, they are told that those who do “transition” are better able to cope with life in their chosen sex. As a consequence, instead of (at least) attempting what is possible – helping children to align their thoughts and feelings with reality, including the reality of their bodies – there is often a headlong rush towards irreversible puberty blocking, hormone therapy and (ultimately) gender reassignment surgery.

In support of this questionable position, in 2019 Swedish researchers (Dr Richard Bränström and Dr John Pachankis) released highly publicised results from a study which claimed that transgender people who undergo surgery to ‘change sex’ have better mental health outcomes and are less likely to need mental health treatment than those who do not. They also said that the likelihood of being treated for a mood or anxiety disorder reduces over time.  However, they have now been forced to admitted they skewed the results of their survey.  Scrutiny of their study by other academics revealed that their major conclusion was based on the outcomes of just three people, despite having collected the data of more than 2,500 gender-confused people in Sweden. They have now admitted – with almost zero media coverage – that the results of their study demonstrate “no advantage of surgery” in relation to subsequent mental health treatments or a reduction in hospitalisations following suicide attempts.

Apart from the irreversible harm which inevitably afflicts children who suffer from gender dysphoria and elect the route to “transition”, other students and teachers are also negatively impacted. Internationally, where policies similar to those recommended in the draft Guidelines are in place in schools, teachers are already in the firing line for “mis-gendering” children, often leading to disciplinary action and the loss of their job.  A policy or guideline which effectively forces a teacher to say something or to use speech with which they disagree is in direct conflict with rights to freedom of conscience, belief, thought, opinion and speech.  Privacy issues are also at stake, where schools are pushed towards requiring all schoolchildren to use sex-neutral bathrooms.  This goes against the long held common sense practice of protecting well-established privacy interests by providing separate bathroom facilities away from the opposite sex. 

FOR SA has made a submission to the WCED presenting our views on, and concerns with, their draft guidelines.  We trust, in light of the growing body of evidence highlighting the dangers of transgender ideology, that common sense will prevail and that an outcome will be achieved which will be in the best interests of all the children of the Province.

Michael was raised in England, graduating from the University of Bristol with an honours degree in Law before immigrating to South Africa in 1983. He has been a successful businessman as well as having spent over 30 years in ministry in South Africa, Europe and the USA. He serves as the Executive Director of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA).



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