Do No Harm:  Navigating Gender Identity Theory in School | Josie Holford | 11 Min Read

August 9, 2023

In her thoroughly researched and scrupulously fair-minded book Time to Think, Hannah Barnes relates the history and calamitous downfall of the Tavistock—England’s only child gender clinic. It’s a sobering story of the harm done to hundreds of children. It’s about distressed adolescents, desperate parents, over-stressed professionals, and out-of-control activist organizations. Barnes shows us just who these children are and what conditions they presented in addition to gender dysphoria.  Some of the patients report being happy with their treatment and Barnes tells their stories too. But for many of the children, treatment led to severe depression, sexual dysfunction, stunted growth, and osteoporosis. Almost all of them presented with other—and sometimes multiple—social and emotional problems that were simply ignored.

Time to Think is essential reading for any educator who wants to understand the issues. Many of the children who presented for care were autistic and struggling with a sense of being different and socially awkward. Many were children—some with homophobic parents—who, if left alone, would grow up to be gay or lesbian.

This is important for educators because schools are making decisions about whether to teach the gender identity theory that underpins medical interventions for gender-questioning minors. My advice is to “Get informed” and reach out beyond your usual media information sources. Some of the most accurate and best-researched reporting on this subject is coming from outlets around the world that you probably would not usually read. As the condescending phrase goes: “Educate yourself”. Don’t outsource your capacity for independent and critical thinking to your go-to pundits and politicians.

My Path through the Maze

For the last decade or so—ever since “pronouns” and “cis’” started popping onto my radar (c.2008) and since the time high school kids started declaring they were “pansexual” or “non-binary”—I’ve been watching what’s been going on with children and schools. 

When Tumblr caught on I saw these labels and this language proliferate with kids. When same-sex marriage passed, I noticed that LGB and other civil rights organizations started switching their focus. Over time, something about it did not sit well with me. It activated my progressive and Gaydar alert systems. The more I learned, the more alarmed I became that this was cuckoos laying eggs in the LGB nest. I got a whiff of all kinds of regressive intellectual trappings. 

  • Why was everything wrapped in baby blue and pink? 
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Josie Holford

Josie Holford is an educator from a family of educators who has taught in London, New York City, and New York State. She has taught every level from 4th grade to freshman college and has served as middle and high school division director, head of school, and trustee. She maintains a blog, Rattlebag and Rhurbarb, where she writes on a wide range of topics related to culture, society, and learning.