An English teacher has been banned from the profession indefinitely after referring to a female pupil who identifies as a boy as a girl. Joshua Sutcliffe, a Christian, was struck off by the Teaching Regulation Authority (TRA) for “misgendering” and failing to use “preferred pronouns”, including during a television interview in which he referred to the pupil. The TRA also reprimanded him for sharing his orthodox views on marriage, sexuality, and Islam.
This case is complex, and people will disagree with aspects of Sutcliffe’s conduct, but it does raise two issues of note. It involves a UK teacher being taken to task by educational authorities for refusing to bow at the altar of gender identity theory. And it exposes a prejudice in state education when it comes to the expression of religious beliefs. I’m not aware of a teacher ever being struck off for sharing their support for gay marriage or opposition to Christianity with pupils.
The first issue has been emphasised in mainstream media reports. With growing numbers of children and young people adopting ‘trans’ or ‘non-binary’ personas, and society starkly divided on how to respond, it was only a matter of time before a teacher was barred for objecting to trans policies. State schools overwhelmingly adhere to one-sided advice from groups such as Stonewall and Mermaids, with little scrutiny of the contested ideology they promote.
This is becoming very hard to justify in light of testimonies from detransitioners, and expert warnings. Children told they are in the “wrong body” are established on a path toward extreme interventions: puberty blockers, chest-binding, cross-sex hormones and ‘sex change’ surgeries. Whilst gender dysphoria is a recognised condition that requires a sensitive response, such interventions are by no means agreed upon treatments. Experts from a range of disciplines oppose them.
The TRA’s decision on Joshua Sutcliffe will do nothing to help other English teachers hoping for reasonable accommodation of their views. Dissenters will have to hope that coming UK Government schools’ guidance on trans issues will carve out protections. For now, Christian teachers and others who oppose gender dogma will have to continue operating in a stifling atmosphere, with schools taking different approaches. This week, the Association of Christian Teachers (ACT) described the illiberal situation many of its members face.
ACT’s CEO, Lizzie Harewood, spoke of a “myriad” of Christians in education who see their beliefs “marginalised and policed”. She said: “I regularly hear from teachers who feel silenced and intimidated. I hear from colleagues who have resigned their roles because they cannot work within their school’s policy on transgender pupils. I hear from members that they have been removed from certain responsibilities in teaching PSHE or RSE because of their Christian views”.
The atmosphere in Scotland is, if anything, worse than in England, given ideological capture of central government. The Scottish Government has already issued schools’ guidance saying young children who question their identity must be affirmed in the opposite sex without question. It says “deadnaming” and using “wrong pronouns” is bullying. And it sets out steps where a child’s assumed identity can be kept secret. The document makes no provision for staff who disagree.
This uncritical promotion of gender identity theory is appalling. Not only are objectors being sidelined, authorities are ignoring evidence of children being harmed. In what other area would this be acceptable? To see change, we need many more people of courage, wisdom, and integrity in politics, the media, medicine, and other areas to speak up. Opposition must become so loud, it cannot be ignored. I pray this moment comes soon.