I was sacked after 20 years as a teacher for standing up to gender ideology. The new guidance is welcome – but we must go further, writes KEVIN LISTER
It was around 11am one February morning last year that my two decades-long teaching career was unceremoniously terminated by an HR manager at the college where I taught A-level maths.
I was told, to my bewilderment, that I was being suspended with immediate effect over transphobia allegations and I was then escorted off the premises — never to return, as it happens, because I was later sacked.
What was the terrible, bigoted offence I had committed that ended my life’s vocation? I dared to challenge whether my colleagues and I should be affirming a 17-year-old female student’s assertion that she was ‘a boy’ without first speaking to her parents.
That morning, I realised I had become a casualty of the culture wars — the frontline of which is in our schools.
My real crime was that I had questioned a dangerous gender ideology that has infiltrated our education system and countless other institutions, threatening to undermine the very foundations of objective truth by telling children they can change their biological sex.
Kevin Lister (above) ost his job for not referring to a 17-year-old pupil, who was born biologically female, by their preferred male name and he/him pronouns in A-level lessons
But on Tuesday, after I had endured almost two years of vilification for ‘transphobia’, my scepticism was finally vindicated when the Government published transgender guidance for schools that will put child safeguarding and parental rights first.
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It was announced that teachers will be told, apart from in the most exceptional cases, that parents should be immediately informed if their child expresses a wish to change gender at school.
Pupils and teachers will not be pressured to use a student’s preferred pronouns or be sanctioned if they choose not to do so, as I was.
Schools will have to protect single-sex spaces — like toilets, dormitories and changing rooms — and will not have an obligation to provide gender-neutral facilities.
Nor will boys partake in contact sports with girls, and single-sex schools will be told that they do not need to accommodate transgender pupils. That is, if the guidelines are followed.
Within hours of publication, the biggest teaching union in England suggested that schools could flout the new guidance. And, Kate Osborne, Labour MP for Jarrow, called on schools to ‘put their students’ needs ahead of’ the Government’s ‘hate’.
This is why, as the former prime minister Liz Truss said yesterday, the rules needs to be statutory. Ms Truss also warned of a backlash against the guidance from Tory MPs who would like to see an outright ban of social transitioning in schools and want the new guidelines to be backed by law.
It was announced that teachers will be told, apart from in the most exceptional cases, that parents should be immediately informed if their child expresses a wish to change gender at school
Concerned about Lizzie’s wellbeing, I raised a safeguarding concern with the school — Swindon New College — and asked if her parents had been notified or asked for their consent to their daughter changing gender at school
I say this because no teacher should ever again be put through the hell that I have had to endure — simply for trying to protect one of my students.
My ordeal began in September 2021, when I received an email from one of my A-level pupils, Lizzie*, informing me that she wanted to be known as ‘Liam’, and addressed with male pronouns.
The request came out of the blue. There had been no suggestion that she felt uncomfortable as a girl.
Concerned about Lizzie’s wellbeing, I raised a safeguarding concern with the school — Swindon New College — and asked if her parents had been notified or asked for their consent to their daughter changing gender at school. I also raised the possibility that she might be self-medicating with testosterone.
The reason for this is that I had read reports of young women recklessly purchasing this hormone online — which aids the physical transition from female to male — if they are unable to obtain it on prescription.
A few weeks later, the college’s safeguarding team told me they were not going to contact Lizzie’s parents. They didn’t justify this decision, but I strongly believe the college was taking the advice given by trans activist groups not to inform parents of a student’s gender change without the child’s permission.
I was a loss at what to do next. I wanted to avoid calling Lizzie by her original name and pronouns in case this upset her, but at the same time I was deeply unhappy to support a student transitioning without parental consent.
It was an impossible situation, as I had never been given guidance by my bosses about how to handle transgender pupils at school.
Liz Truss also warned of a backlash against the guidance from Tory MPs who would like to see an outright ban of social transitioning in schools and want the new guidelines to be backed by law
Matters deteriorated the next month when the pupil — now ‘Liam’ — wanted to enter a maths competition for girls. I put her female name, ‘Lizzie’, on the board with the other students to reflect that the competition was for girls.
This action was deemed transphobic — and I found myself suspended.
After a so-called ‘investigation’ into the transphobia allegations against me, I was fired for ‘gross misconduct’ in September 2022.
I was later reported to the Government’s Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) — which aims to ‘help employers make safer recruitment decisions’ — for a safeguarding violation. This is a preposterous suggestion and I plan to sue my former employer for unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal next year.
But I am by no means the only teacher who has suffered in this epidemic of trans activism in schools.
Teachers up and down the country have been disciplined or dismissed for taking a stand against extreme trans ideology. One teacher, Cathy Kirby, was investigated by Norfolk police for a ‘non-crime hate incident’ following social media posts on trans issues — despite never being told which of her tweets were offensive.
Another teacher was ordered to apologise to a class of 11-year-olds at a private girls’ school — for addressing them as ‘girls’.
One study last year found that 55 per cent of teachers in England said they had at least one pupil who claimed to be transgender. For secondary-school teachers that figure was 87 per cent.
Yet, until today, there has been a lack of clear guidance about how to deal with gender-confused children, and schools have relied on highly controversial trans-activist groups for advice.
Among these groups are Mermaids, Gendered Intelligence and Stonewall UK, which all recommend pro-LGBTQ+ teaching materials.
One study last year found that 55 per cent of teachers in England said they had at least one pupil who claimed to be transgender. For secondary-school teachers that figure was 87 per cent
So pervasive is their influence that, according to a report by the think-tank Policy Exchange — fittingly titled Asleep At The Wheel — no fewer than 72 per cent of schools, almost three in four, now teach that ‘gender identity’ can differ from biological sex.
Of course, gender dysphoria is a genuine condition for a small minority of children, and they deserve all the help they can get.
But in blindly ‘affirming’ the trans identity of any child who announces that they do not feel comfortable in their own body — which is a normal part of adolescence — schools are potentially pushing huge numbers of pupils on a dangerous medicalised path.
Many of these girls and boys come from broken homes or difficult family situations. Others are mentally unwell or have been recognised as having neurobiological conditions such as autism or ADHD.
And many ‘gender-non-conforming’ children are simply gay. This dogma has caused untold damage to our education system. Because no one is allowed to question trans ideology, we now have a generation of young people who do not understand the basics of free speech, argument or the pursuit of truth.
Our next generation of young teachers, too, have been indoctrinated and, as we have seen, will try to plough on with their toxic agenda.
That is why ‘guidance’ on its own will not be strong enough to hold back the tide of gender dogma. We need legally binding rules to banish this extremist ideology from the classroom once and for all.
* The pupil’s name has been changed. Kevin Lister is a former maths teacher.
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