Right-wing think tank Civitas accused of ‘fuelling panic’ over teen transition claims

Teenagers and trans flag coloiurs

A report claiming that one in 10 teenagers, aged between 16 and 18, wants to change their gender has been criticised for “fuelling panic” about the LGBTQ+ community. 

The report, by right-wing “think tank” Civitas, written by journalist and Conservative politician Jo-Anne Nadler, delved into relationships, sex and health education (RHSE) lessons in schools, surveying teens and parents about sex education, as well as other issues, including racism, sexuality and climate change.

The think tank is housed at 55 Tufton Street, an office space in London shared by some of the UK’s more extreme and right-wing groups such as LGB Alliance, Leave Means Leave and Brexit Central.

The report, which made headlines in The Times and The Daily Mail, claimed that one in 10 teens between the ages of 16 and 18 “wants to change their gender or has done so in the past”. That figure does not correlate with official UK census data that estimates the trans and non-binary population at around 0.5 per cent. 

Despite the report claiming that “political ideology” has overtaken RSHE lessons, it found that a majority of schools did not mark LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations, celebrate Black History Month or discuss trans issues.

It also called for more parental involvement in RSHE lessons, with the majority (64 per cent) of parents surveyed wanting the right to remove their child from lessons related to sex, relationships and gender. 

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“Our polling indicates that many parents are concerned about these issues and want to be able to monitor what children are being taught in school and to retain – or effectively to extend – rights to withdraw children from classes,” the report read. 

The survey polled just 1,168 teenagers (aged between 16 and 18) and 1,097 parents (with children aged 12 to 16) in England, but did not explain why it had asked sixth form students to describe their experience, while the adults were parents of secondary school-aged children. 

The students were asked questions about what they had learnt at school, including specifically if they had been taught “that a woman can have a penis”, or “that a man can get pregnant”. The majority of teens answered “no” to both questions (62 per cent and 76 per cent respectively). 

In the Civitas report’s conclusion, Nadler – a Wandsworth borough Tory councillor between 2010 and 2014, who has written books about Conservative Party leaders Willian Hague and David Cameron – called for a national “union of parents” to support those worried about RSHE lesson content.

“Stop instrumentalising schools, stop racialising, radicalising, sexualising, and activating kids with assertive, partisan content. Put tried-and-tested literacy, numeracy and knowledge back centre stage and let them form their own opinions,” she tweeted following the report’s publication.

A spokesperson for trans-led charity Gendered Intelligence (GI) said: “This report, like previous Civitas reports, will spread misinformation and fuel panic about young trans people. 

“Trans people make up a small but statistically significant part of the population, including young people in schools. There is nothing wrong with those young people, and there is nothing wrong with schools looking after them. 

“Trans young people deserve to be heard, supported and cared for like any other child, and it’s disheartening to see organisations like Civitas dragging them into political debates.”

A person holds up a sign in the colours of the trans pride flag (blue, pink and white) with the words 'Trans rights are human rights' as a group lambast the Tory government's attempts to rollback trans rights and lack of funding for gender-affirming healthcare through the NHS
Possible new laws being considered in the UK have been described as dangerous. (Getty Images)

The report comes amid a review ordered by PM Rishi Sunak into the UK’s RSHE curriculum, following “disturbing” reports of “inappropriate material” being taught in some schools, with new government guidance set to be released this summer.

Leaks in April suggested that the government was looking at bringing in guidance which would see trans pupils outed to their parents, a move teachers and LGBTQ+ groups labelled “dangerous”.

GI voiced worries about the calls to review RSHE lessons, with some groups reportedly hoping to remove some LGBTQ+ content from the curriculum. 

“We are concerned about the direction the UK is taking on relationships and sex education,” the charity said. “Inclusive RSE isn’t a political argument, it’s a matter of young people’s wellbeing.

“The voices opposing LGBT-inclusive RSE are the same ones who oppose common-sense education about contraception and abortion. 

“Hundreds of studies have shown that inclusive RSE improves outcomes for young people, including reductions in unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and harmful sexual behaviours.

“If we start to go backwards, it would be a disaster for our young people.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson told PinkNews: “The safety and wellbeing of children and young people is our top priority. Following reports of inappropriate materials being used to teach relationships and sex education, the education secretary has already brought forward an urgent review of the curriculum, which will be informed by an independent panel.”

In March, an investigation into “inappropriate” sex education in a school on the Isle of Man found claims made were “almost entirely incorrect”. Teachers at the school were subjected to death threats.

The DfE spokesperson added: “Separately, the education secretary is working closely with the minister for women and equalities to support schools in relation to children who are questioning their gender.”

Relationships and health education has been compulsory in all schools, and sex education compulsory for all secondary school pupils, since September 2020. 

PinkNews has contacted Civitas and Jo-Anne Nadler for comment.