written by: Anonymous
NOTE: This is one of many testimonies regarding institutional capture, given to me by employees, students and service users in various sectors across the UK. See this page for more examples.
We are taught that we all have an innate gender, and gender ideology is presented as fact. Anything deviating from this narrative is ‘hateful’ – anyone who does not believe that sex is a spectrum, or that trans women are women, is labelled as a transphobe.
I’m a year 12 student in a Stonewall Champion school, and there is a troubling dissonance between the school’s professed values (of inclusion, freedom of speech, tolerance) and the reality (a culture of censorship and a lack of free thinking).
We are taught that we all have an innate gender, and gender ideology is presented as fact. Anything deviating from this narrative is ‘hateful’ – anyone who does not believe that sex is a spectrum, or that trans women are women, is labelled as a transphobe. This has created an environment of intimidation and speech policing which stifles discussion and bullies into silence those who dare to question gender ideology.
Following Stonewall’s advice, the school has asked us to list our preferred pronouns next to our names, and meet in groups to discuss how we could improve the school’s EDI policies. Students (like myself) who chose not to share our pronouns and did not want the school closely associating with controversial lobby groups like Stonewall were reprimanded for not being inclusive enough.
In these meetings, students also reported individual teachers for misgendering – when the headteacher started an assembly with “good morning, girls” (we are an all-girls school), students called her out for non-inclusive language which ‘failed to validate the identities of trans and non-binary people’. Similarly, teachers who used gendered language in emails or in the classroom were criticized for a lack of LGBT allyship.
Interestingly, while misgendering and trans inclusivity were the focal points of these discussions, most students (and staff) failed to notice that the school’s EDI policies fundamentally misrepresent the law, and rather echo the ideology taught by lobby groups like Stonewall. They list ‘gender identity’ as a protected characteristic (while entirely omitting ‘sex’), and suggest a number of controversial organisations (eg. Stonewall, Mermaids, the LGBT Foundation) as useful resources.
I have struggled to speak up about this at school, and I know that the anxiety around ideological capture is shared by some of my classmates. The issue of gender and women’s sex-based rights is very important to me, and as an all-girls school we should be encouraging this debate, not silencing it. The thought of being honest about my gender-critical views at school is terrifying, and groups like Stonewall have contributed to this culture of fear and repression. Even talking about the fundamental concepts of sex and womanhood requires courage, and I’m always nervous when raising my concerns with gender ideology – anyone who contradicts the idea of innate gender identity risks being vilified as a transphobic bigot.
I hope schools (and all other academic institutions) can recognise this problem, and understand the danger of polarising debate and demonising people with different beliefs.