Anti-trans groups claim schools are pushing gay and lesbian kids to transition at UK sex ed review

A person holds a sign reading "kids should feel safe to be who they are" in the colour of the trans pride flag

Gender-critical groups giving evidence at a review examining the UK’s relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) curriculum have claimed schools are telling gay and lesbian youngsters to transition, if they express same-sex attraction. 

Six representatives from various groups presented oral evidence at the Women and Equalities Committee one-off session held on Wednesday (10 May). 

The non-inquiry session looked at the current RSHE curriculum in schools, what parents and young people want in this subject area and how the curriculum is being delivered, as well as this the committee also looked at how the government’s review of RSHE is being carried out and stakeholders’ “confidence” in it. 

A private session began at 2pm which was followed by two public segments at 2.30pm and 3.30pm. 

During the first session, the committee heard from a panel of three witnesses representing Biology Matters at Policy Exchange, Safe Schools Alliance UK and the Family Education Trust; organisations which have expressed anti-trans and anti-drag views

Labour MP Kate Osborne, who headed up the committee, questioned if reviewing RSHE lessons and how gender issues are taught would “repeat the failings of Section 28”. 

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“My campaigning life started around the 80s, pushing back on Section 28 and the damage that it done and to me it feels like we’re just going backwards a little bit. So do you think there’s a risk there?,” the Jarrow MP asked the panel.

In response, Tanya Carter – a spokesperson for Safe Schools Alliance UK – went on to claim schools are encouraging gay and lesbian pupils to change genders. 

The claim is not new and is one which is often pushed on social media as an anti-trans conspiracy theory, akin to the “groomer” conspiracy theory that all LGBTQ+ people are out to harm children.  

Lottie Moore, Head of Biology Matters, Policy Exchange; Tanya Carter, Spokesperson, Safe Schools Alliance UK; Lucy Marsh, Communications and PR Officer, Family Education Trust (PinkNews)

She told the committee her daughter is a lesbian who came out and had a girlfriend in secondary school. While she said there were issues initially, these were dealt with and her child was able to be comfortably out. 

However, she said when her daughter joined sixth form there was a pride group which was “stonewalled” and taught “lies about the Equality Act”, which she claimed caused her daughter to go back in the closet. 

“What people have said to me, which I find really sad, is I’ve had lesbians say to me, that they think that young lesbians in school today are now in a worse situation than they were when they went to their convent school and nothing was mentioned at all,” she told the committee. 

Carter went on to say there is currently a situation of “medical conversion therapy” of children who would “otherwise grow up to be gay and lesbian”. 

“I’m incredibly concerned about what children who would grow up to be gay and lesbian are exposed to these days not only online, but in schools,” she said. 

“Schools should be challenging the misinformation that children are subjected to online when they’re reading online that having a same sex attraction may mean they’re really the opposite sex. Schools should be challenging this misinformation not reinforcing.” 

During the session, the representatives repeatedly called for sex education to get “back to basics”, focus on “biology” and not be used by adults “spreading their worldview”, with Lottie Moore suggesting being trans is a “contested belief system”. 

Moore, head of Biology Matters at conservative thinktank Policy Exchange, said: “Gender identity is a contested belief system. In the same way that there are other beliefs. 

“It’s not based on evidence, it’s not based on facts and that’s what I mean with when I say a belief.”

Biology Matters was founded by Labour MP Rosie Duffield, SNP MP Joanna Cherry and Conservative peer Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, who all hold gender critical views. 

Launched in October 2022, the cross-party group seeks to document and scrutinise policies based on “gender identity theory” rather than biological sex, which the politicians claim put women, children and LGB people at risk of harm. 

Why is the Tory government reviewing sex education?

In September 2020, relationships and health education became compulsory in all schools and sex education compulsory for all secondary school pupils.

Just over two years later in March 2023, the Department for Education announced it would undertake a statutory review of RSHE guidance.

The review was launched after the department said it received “disturbing” reports of “inappropriate material” being taught in some schools, which education secretary Gillian Keegan said she was “deeply concerned” about.

“This urgent review will get to the heart of how RSHE is currently taught and should be taught in the future,” Keegan said in a statement. 

“This will leave no room for any disturbing content, restore parents’ confidence, and make sure children are even better protected.”

Controversy arose in April when leaks from guidance on trans pupils in schools, which is being put together at the same time, suggested teachers would be forced to our trans kids to their parents.

Both the new RSHE guidance and guidance for schools on trans pupils are set to be released this summer.