Mark Latham and Gender Fluidity

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”.

An anchor of stability

If I were to write to her, to express desire or resentment
the best I could expect would be indifference
the worst, mockery and disdain.
I still think of it-

I fear for S., starting work again. I fear she will find the idiocies and vilenesses of the situation- no respect for her professionalism, no care for the good of the pupils, as far as she can see- too much to bear. She may do it for the money, which makes a certain amount of sense. I beg her, look after yourself. Healthy children test boundaries, so you should be expert by now- push them as hard as you can, without overstepping. After months off work, she is only just now relaxed. She fears being stressed within five minutes, and counts the weeks until Summer.

She gave me a copy of an article on Quaker membership from the Friends Quarterly. For some, membership is a life-line, a connection that provides an anchor of stability in times and situations of personal challenge or isolation. So it was for me. It gave me the sense of support, and so the courage, I needed to transition. I needed somewhere to belong. We have our usual conversation about membership. She finds it divisive, I a necessity.

It comes to me that because I needed the life-line, I was prevented from seeing the Society as it actually is. I needed rose-tinted spectacles, because I needed a sense of safety. I was like that with HAI, come to think of it.

I still think of it, but I would be better to phone J. I could write to her, but my main need is more reassurance, someone else for my Support Network, and J offered.

S’s Sufi group, by contrast, refuses entry to people who need a life-line. They are there for spiritual- something, and the Spiritual cannot be emotional. Here I disagree. I am intensely emotional, so my spiritual experience is emotional. I get the point, I see the value, it is not for me.

I am only just relaxing into my quiet lifestyle, two years on.

Am I projecting when I say Quakers locally do too much work for too little value added, too little joy in service? Is it just me? S reassures me, I am intuiting not projecting. She also finds me extremely feminine. I fought and denied that for so long, and it created my every action though I did not see it.

S says we have to be able to trust. I think, but do not say,

I need to KNOW.

Then S mentions the parable of the talents, which I use to beat myself up, I weep.

I feel drained after that. I could just cycle home, but I decide to face the supermarket.

It is not she I should write to, but he.

van Gogh, corridor in the asylum


lucie-leon-at-the-piano-1892 Berthe Morisot made a child cry. I am not proud of this.

When I visited last Christmas, Alice, now 15, was playing the piano and about to take grade 3. Since then, she gave up. Possibly she started a wee bit old: by 15, I was playing pieces which interested me, and my obsessive nature kept me on scales and fiddling with a bar until I got it: I spent a week getting the first four bars of the Maple Leaf Rag, aged about 15.

Her sister Olivia, now 7, has started, and is playing tunes with both hands, but not both hands together. I thought the way to interact over the piano was to let her explore it, and ask me for any help she wanted. Her mother told her to play it: she has not been playing over Christmas.

I asked her if she enjoyed playing the piano. “Yes”, she lied. I am almost certain of that. She sounded completely insincere. It was the wrong question. Does she want to play the piano? If so, she might be willing to work at it.

Jacob Maris, girl at the pianoOf course I would like a child mad keen to play the piano, with a clear idea of how to improve at it, natural talent, and a desire to explore my expertise to help her on- but I want to inspire the child, get her interested, and give her some ideas to bring her on a bit.

She needs to count on the notes and count on the stave to work out the first note of a piece she has played before.  I had a trick for H, which was done with me: my parents hold out thumb and fingers horizontally as if on a stave, and indicate a position for the child to name the note. The point is that rather than spending half an hour on the piano, or even ten minutes, which can be tiring and boring, you can do this for half a minute and give the child praise.

When she looks at the score and sees that there is a Bâ™­, next time she sees a B she still plays Bâ™®. I can sympathise with this: it is the kind of mistake I can imagine myself making. And- playing Bâ™® she hears it is wrong, checks the score and gets it right. This gives me hope. I want to make it easier for her to correct her mistakes.

How I brought a tear to her eye: I explained that a minim, a quaver and a crotchet- the one with the hole, the one with the tail, and the one with neither- last different times, and when she played the piece again with each note the same length, the third time I ejaculated “No!” I suppose I was pushing her to learn something when she found the rest of it difficult enough.

Unfortunately, that evening, they were still tired after their hogmanay party, and I could not enthuse her family to play that game with their hands.

Saying nothing

Lots of debate goes on blogs about equal marriage and Christianity. I got involved here, and an oppressor commented:

Homosexuality is not the issue at hand… the issue is sin in ALL forms. As I follow Jesus I am learning more about taking the plank out of my own eye before the speck out of my brothers eye. To me I come to understand this as don’t be sure of your “rightness’ to the point that you hate, judge, or condemn others. But this also does not allow me to sit around and say nothing when Christ is being made into something He is not according to the Bible (Old and New Testament) so that we can continue in sin.

Here is someone who proclaims loudly and repeatedly that all gay sex, even between monogamous partners, is sinful. He does this, he would say, in Love, asserting the truth of Christ. According to him, he is not judging gay people, because all sin, and all are subject to judgment, and the sacrifice of Christ is available to all who believe- and believers continue to sin, though should try not to. All he is doing is stating the truth of Christianity, as some would deny it, and say gay sex is all right really. In a country with free speech, that should be permissible.

I do not think that position can be justified.

First, there is the question of how important it is. With some people, it seems their creed goes
Credo in unum Deum
Patrem Omnipotentem
qui damnat homosexuales
factorem caeli et terrae
Indeed for some, it is a shibboleth of the Faith: if you respect the Bible properly, you must condemn homosexual behaviour. However, we can debate what the Bible actually says, and whether we have to follow that. I say the homosexual acts which the Bible might condemn involve violence, and Christians should avoid violence in heterosexual relationships too. I say if the Bible does forbid homosexual activity, it forbids it in the context of idol worship, not in loving relationships, and so the rule has no more weight now than the other ritual purity rules, like not eating shellfish. But I realise that some people think that the Bible condemns all homosexual acts, and that matters more than “love your neighbour”.

Then, how important are they, as sins? Far less important than adultery. Adultery breaks relationships, while making love strengthens a relationship. It is not good for a lesbian to be alone, any more than a straight man. Perhaps the energy the Evangelicals put into fighting equal marriage should be put into preventing adultery instead.


Then, how important is the message that homosexual lovemaking is wrong, in the context of Christianity? I would say that “God is Love” is the central message, possibly “Jesus died for our sins” is pretty central too, but “God condemns homosexual sex” comes pretty low on the list. In the post linked to, Argylenerd comments that he is agnostic, but does not believe in God as defined by Evangelicals. And two of them weigh in and say that the Bible condemns homosexuality and therefore so does God. Is this the first winsome message to tell someone who is not yet Saved?


Finally, what does the right to proclaim the Faith have to do with preventing equal marriage? “Simple Theologian” may want to state his understanding of Christianity, but if he does anything further- such as campaigning for the North Carolina constitutional amendment- he is going beyond that, and his homophobic oppressive instincts stand revealed.

If an Evangelical states to someone outside his church that the Bible condemns homosexual love, he is an Oppressor.


Oh, I got a bit hot under the collar. I feel better after those pictures- and this Wikipedia article. The truth increasingly flourishes.