Mark Latham wants schools to teach that trans people do not exist. He wants any teacher who breaks this rule to be sacked, and prevented from teaching ever again. Could he do that?
If you ban something, you have to define it. If Latham’s bill were passed, the Education Standards Authority would have to revoke accreditation for any teacher who “teaches gender fluidity”. Here’s Latham’s definition:
gender fluidity means a belief there is a difference between biological sex (including people who are, by their chromosomes, male or female but are born with disorders of sexual differentiation) and human gender and that human gender is socially constructed rather being equivalent to a person’s biological sex.
It’s not well defined. A girl with androgen insensitivity syndrome is, by her chromosomes, male XY. Someone with Klinefelter’s syndrome, XXY, is not clearly “by their chromosomes male or female”.
But, leaving diversity of sexual development out of it for the moment, there is a Truth, to be defined in law, that teachers must teach. There are two views posited, though in reality there are many shades of opinion.
For Latham, the Truth is that human gender is equivalent to biological sex. That might mean that changing the word from “transsexual” to “transgender” makes no difference. I could go back to being “transsexual”, and “have a sex change”. I’m female. Or, changing my gender means that therefore I have changed my sex.
Or, it could mean that “gender” is a redundant concept, that there is only sex. But then, what are we to call particular behaviours? Is playing football “masculine”, and doing ballet training “feminine”? Is a long curly wig and brightly coloured velvet clothes “masculine” or “feminine”? Here are some portraits of Charles II.
If gender is the same as sex, then anything a boy does becomes masculine. A little boy uncomfortable with another playing with dolls should not mock or bully him, because (gender being the same as sex) playing with dolls is gendered masculine. If gender is not socially constructed, then gender does not exist. Or it can be individually constructed. The boy is not constrained by gender norms. He can do what he likes, wear what he likes. The only thing he can’t do is claim to be a girl- unless he is “transsexual”.
If you can’t teach that gender is socially constructed, the bully mocking the boy playing with a doll stops being part of normal society, constructing gender as normal society has evolved to do, and becomes merely a bully. The teacher turning a blind eye to the bullying, because the boy with the doll has to learn how society works, is then abetting the bullying.
Then Latham’s other requirement, that parents define the values taught in schools, comes into play.
matters of parental primacy means, in relation to the education of children, moral and ethical standards, political and social values, and matters of personal wellbeing and identity including gender and sexuality.
That’s the responsibility of the parents, the bill says. The school can’t teach it. Imagine a boy is gay. The teacher does not know that boy’s parents’ view. It’s not a matter of “values”, but of fact. The boy is same sex attracted, whether or not the parents accept that, or consider it a good or bad thing. The teacher is forbidden to teach that this is in any way objectionable, because such things are for parents to decide.
Latham’s Bill requires schools to consult parents on teaching such values. What if parents disagree? In a conservative area most parents want to teach that being gay is an abomination unto the Lord, but one parent has a gay brother and wants to teach that gay is OK. That parent’s right must not be curtailed by the school. So any suggestion that gay is not OK must be refuted by the school, as trampling on at least some parents’ right to teach that gay is OK.
That the bill is ridiculous and unworkable does not mean that it is not evil. Law should not dictate reality. Science should decide whether “gender is socially constructed”, or whether the concept of gender has any value at all. But it is a good sign: Latham cannot rely on society to construct itself in the way he desires, so he tries to make the law force it to. Society is moving, despite Latham’s efforts.
Mark Latham’s ridiculous attempt is in New South Wales. I heard of it here. Here is the draft Bill. In that Guardian article, I also learned the word “endosex”. It’s a way of accepting intersex people, and the first sites when I googled it were Australian. Endosex means not intersex, just as cis means not trans, straight means not gay or bi. Intersex people are people, not “abnormal”.