January 1, 2017 at 09:51PM

“My name is Kit and I’m 12 years old. I live in a house with my mum and dad, and our dog, Pickle. When I was born, the doctors told my mum and dad that they had a baby girl, and so for the first few years of my life that’s how my parents raised me. This is called being assigned female at birth. I wasn’t ever very happy that way.”

These are the opening lines of a controversial new book called Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? which is being introduced into some primary schools as a resource for children, parents and teachers, and claims to be the first book to explain “medical transitioning” to children as young as seven.

It is not published until later this month, but the slim volume has already prompted fury from the Mail on Sunday, former Tory party chairman Lord Tebbit and one-time Conservative Home Office minister Ann Widdecombe, as well as Mail columnist Sarah Vine who complained that the target audience was children not even ready to choose their A-levels, “let alone challenge their own biology”.

The book is written by LGBT activist CJ Atkinson. Speaking to the Guardian in their first ever interview, Atkinson condemned the media coverage as misleading, inaccurate and potentially harmful for young people who identify as transgender.

“We call it trans-panic,” said Atkinson, adding: “This mud-slinging has to stop. It causes active harm. When you have a group of transgender young people, one in two will consider suicide, one in three will attempt it.”

Under the headline “Stop calling them boys and girls!”, the Mail on Sunday told readers that the book advised that children as young as seven should be taught in schools to stop using the terms boys and girls in case they discriminate against transgender pupils. In response, Tebbit said it was damaging to children to introduce uncertainty into their minds.

Meanwhile, under the headline “Gender, our children and the death of common sense”, Vine said in her column: “In attempting to improve the lives of a vanishingly small minority, we are threatening the sanity of – and yes I’m going to say it – normal children. It’s time to put an end to this nonsense.”

Atkinson, a published poet but first-time author, denied advocating that school children should stop using the terms boys and girls as widely reported. “I would not go to a seven-year-old and say, ‘You can’t call yourself anything.’ That’s not what I’ve written.

“If you identify as a girl, assigned female at birth, and you like the colour pink, you like wearing dresses and sparkly things, that’s awesome. But if you are a boy who likes pink sparkly things that’s also awesome.

“It’s not a case of saying, let’s break everything down so that there’s nothing, so there’s no meaning in anything. It’s a case of opening it up so everybody can have access to everything.

“Writing the book, I had joked about the fact that I knew there would be some people who would not read it but would still have a lot to say about it. I’m not naive,” said Atkinson, who is an ambassador for Educate & Celebrate, which has developed an Ofsted-recognised programme to support LGBTQ inclusion in schools with the help of £200,000 funding from the Department for Education.

“Lord Tebbit said it’s the worst thing on earth – he’s very opposed to the idea of the book. Ann Widdecombe said it was dotty. In this particular case, quite literally they don’t know what they are talking about. They have not read the book,” said Atkinson.

The 60-page booklet is the latest in the Can I Tell You About …? series of books published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers which are designed to offer a simple introduction to sometimes complex and challenging issues, including adoption, autism, depression, eating disorders and ME/chronic fatigue syndrome.

“The books are designed for kids from the age of seven,” explains Atkinson, who identifies as queer and uses the pronouns they, their and them. Two-thirds of each book in the series is about a person who is experiencing the issue the book aims to discuss (in this case Kit and gender diversity), and the remainder is a section called “How other people can help” which provides factual information for others, including teachers and parents.

Kit, the protagonist, doesn’t like playing with dolls or wearing dresses and at the age of three asks to be called Christopher. “You see,” explains Kit, “I have a different gender identity than I was assigned at birth. Another name for this is called being transgender.” He begins to wear boys’ clothes, using he/him pronouns, changes his name on his birth certificate and explains that hormone blockers will stop him going through female puberty “and stop my body developing in ways that make me unhappy”.

He thinks he will take testosterone at 16 so he can go through male puberty with the other boys in his class; he goes on to talk about surgery as part of transitioning, about gender dysphoria and the use of different pronouns – while Kit has chosen he, his friend Amy is she, Sam has chosen they, and Leigh xe.

Atkinson, a practising Anglican who grew up in Bradford and went to an all-girls grammar school, said: “My upbringing was very traditional. My parents have always been very supportive. I know I’m lucky. But I know that the luck that I have is not shared by a lot of people.

“The world is changing. A book like this is needed. People want to help. They want to know. They want to have conversations but they don’t know how. A lot of the time it is not being dealt with or talked about in schools.”

Last week it emerged that Childline has been receiving an average of eight calls a day from children and adolescents about gender dysphoria and transgender issues – more than double the number received the year before, with callers complaining of bullying and transphobia.

A spokesperson for Jessica Kingsley Publishers said the book had been commissioned because of a lack of available resources currently in schools. “With the growing number of children questioning their gender, schools and parents across the country have been challenged over the limited support they can offer them.

“The introduction of gender-neutral toilets and non-binary pronouns are important first steps, but there is a definite lack of resources out there for teachers, parents and children themselves.

“This book will spark discussion in the classroom and at home, answering difficult questions that children may have about gender diversity.”

from Education | The Guardian http://ift.tt/2hJAykb