Communications Officer Rebekah Moffett sits down with Nigel and Sally Rowe to find out more about their case, their hopes and expectations, and to find out what they’ve been up to in the four years since first bringing their case to the media’s attention.
Not for the first time, I’m sat down with Nigel and Sally Rowe – only this time it’s over Zoom. The few times we’ve met, we’ve shared laughs, jokes and stories of our respective homes and churches. Now, Sally’s face beams at me from behind the computer screen before the couple launch into a story about how they first met. Despite the trials of the past four years, the difficulties and rejections they’ve faced, the sacrifices they’ve made, they are one of the most joyful couples I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
Their case first appeared in the media over four years ago, after a child in their six-year-old son’s class started cross dressing at school and supposedly identifying as girl – at least on some days. Previously, their elder son had also had a similar experience in his own class, where a boy came in wanting to identify as a girl – also aged six. Both boys had come home from school confused by each of their respective situations, asking questions about changing gender and the like.
As concerned parents, Nigel and Sally met with the headteacher and class teacher, following up with a letter asking a few questions about the situation. They were met with hostility, the school writing back to the parents that an “inability to believe a transgender person is actually a ‘real’ female or male” and the refusal to “acknowledge a transgendered person’s true gender” was “transphobic behaviour” and considered a form of bullying.
Sadly, this policy is one that has been adopted by the Department for Education as ‘best practice’.
Nigel and Sally are now hoping to challenge this policy, taking the case to a judicial review. What’s particularly shocking is the fact that the Department for Education has explicitly made it clear to schools not to promote transgender ideology in class. Yet the belief that a child – no less a six-year-old – can identify as ‘transgender’ and then go further to affirm that belief, is still one that the DfE seems to hold.
Nigel and Sally – it’s great to see you both. Remind us why you initially decided to take this case on.
Nigel: At the time, four years ago, we felt we had a duty to challenge the school’s policy because it was pushing an ideology that was harmful. It seemed they were stating that children had to adhere to transgender ideology. We had a real problem with that, because we don’t believe that aged six, children have the cognitive ability to fully understand that or decide what gender they are. That hasn’t changed.
Both of our boys challenged us, really. They came home from school asking us the question, ‘can boys become girls?’ Our eldest was six. I thought, I shouldn’t be having this discussion with my son at this age, it was distressing to talk about those things with my child, to have to explain that you’re born either male or female, and biologically you can’t change gender, but some children struggle with that. It’s too young to push those kinds of discussions on children – they should be protected from that.
And why, four years on, are you still taking this case forward?
Sally: Well, four years on, the Department for Education is upholding this guidance as best practice, which affirms and promotes transgenderism in primary schools. There’s scientific evidence that this is harmful, and yet the DfE won’t do anything about it. So we want to take this to a judicial review because we want to protect children from this political, partisan agenda that’s being stormed through our educational institutions.
This challenge has clearly been a long time in the making. What are you both hoping to achieve from it?
Nigel: One of the issues we really have is that this is a fantasy; it’s not scientific. We have males and females, it’s scientific, it’s biology. From a moral and Biblical perspective, we have a moral arbiter. But those things have both been put to one side. We believe that needs challenging; we want people to get on board and be asking these kinds of questions, challenging why this ideology is being pushed on children.
You’ve both had to deal with quite a lot of push back from taking this case forward – not least comments that you’re ‘transphobic’ and ‘hateful’. But you’ve also had to personally sacrifice a lot to homeschool your children (Sally had to give up dreams of returning to a role in teaching), take up the case, attend court, etc. Why – knowing all the suffering you’ve had to face – are you so passionate about this case?
Nigel: We have to make a stand. It’s a battle I feel I have to fight – whatever the consequences, really. It’s just a matter of conscience.
For me, I’m staggered that adults can advocate transgender ideology for children. It’s the fact that it’s being affirmed on them, it’s so immoral.
I’m passionate because I’m a father. When you have your own children in an environment that is pure, where they aren’t fed ideologies that are anti-Biblical, you see them flourish. And I supposed that I want that for other people’s children, too. As Christians, we’re told to be compassionate. And so, compassionately, I want to say let’s not lead children down an unhealthy road.
Sally: As adults, we have a responsibility to look after children and protect them. Children don’t have the same capacity to think through the consequences of something like adults do. We’re passionate about this case because we want children to be allowed to be children. We don’t want harmful ideas to be imposed on them; children should be in an environment where they are safe.
What would you both say to those who believe your case is actually harming ‘trans children’?
Sally: I’d want to dispute the idea of ‘trans child’ first – what is a ‘trans child’?
Nigel: There isn’t such a thing as a ‘transgender child’. Sure, there are children who have gender confusion, or struggle with gender dysphoria, but a child can’t be transgender – not even in law. It’s nonsense. A child of primary school age doesn’t have the mental ability to work out what it is to be transgender.
What about those who have labelled you ‘hateful’?
Nigel: We don’t hate anyone – we don’t hate anyone’s child, we don’t hate parents. It’s purely a matter of morality, a matter of absolute truth. Promoting transgender ideology to children is what is harmful: it’s lying to children. Children are impressionable – and they look for affirmation. But when you’re affirming them to be transgender, you’re lying to them. As Christians, we need to make a stand for truth – that is the loving thing to do.
Sally: Exactly. We’re doing this because we care for the children. We deeply care for the children, and especially for those who are confused. But these things affect the whole school, and they’re just not things that children need to be thinking about. We’ve seen the regret of people who have gone down the transgender route; we’ve seen the rising statistics of children being pushed down that road – and the more you affirm a child as transgender, the further down that pathway they go. This is a health crisis. It’s about pushing an agenda in schools, and now the numbers are off the scale, it’s devastating. And so we’ve been moved with compassion to act and make a stand on this.
Nigel: Actually, what’s interesting is that although we’re challenging this, the hatred hasn’t come from us, it’s come towards us – verbally, even physically. There is no hatred on our side; we’re just standing up for the truth.
There are also those who might agree with your stance but are too afraid to speak up for fear of being deemed as ‘hateful’. What might you say to people in that position?
Nigel: We completely understand why there’s a fear of standing up to this. In fact, there seems to be a fear in general society. But I genuinely think that most people don’t agree with this agenda being pushed on small primary school children.
It’s true that if you stand up to it then you’re bound to face some persecution – that’s what we’ve felt. But, as the saying goes, “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Someone has to be willing to stick their head above the parapet. No, you’re not going to be popular. But history shows that change can happen when a few good people stand for truth; and the truth will set us free.
Sally: I think people – parents especially – don’t realise that their rights are actually being undermined. Children are being taught political ideologies. In Scotland, children can identify as a different gender from the age of four, without parental knowledge or consent. I mean, this is shocking; it’s state control. I think parents need to be informed as well, because this is the reality.
Nigel: Ultimately, this is a battle that has to be fought. If it isn’t, the ramifications will be catastrophic.
Sally: It’s not even an exaggeration. The trouble is, once you self-censor, you’re shutting down free speech, you’re shutting down conversation and debate. So then, who is going to call the shots on what is true and right?
Nigel: It is an absolute tragedy that churches have been silent over this. The apathy in the Church is a serious crisis in itself, there’s no depth of understanding. But if we’re really serious about Christianity, then we need to speak the truth in love.
Love warns. A lot of people say love wins, but true love warns. True love tells the truth. The issue is, nobody wants to tell the truth because it exposes, it offends. But if we’re really serious about our faith, then we’ll cling to the truth and not be afraid to speak it.
You’ve both decided to homeschool your children since the incident at their school. How has that been going?
Nigel: When it comes to gender with my boys, they recognise that they are boys! But it also comes down to having role models. I try to teach my boys how they should respect girls, I teach them values of kindness, respect, to be protectors. They might be things that our society seems to hate now, but it’s actually a beautiful thing to see boys treating women with respect, gentleness and kindness. But it’s good to encourage boys to grow up to be good men.
But we also allow them to do what they’re interested in. They’re interested in sport – in windsurfing and other water sports and beach activities, cycling as well – so we encourage them in that.
Sally: The boys are living the dream! They’re able to do what they’re interested in. And we’re able to enjoy our outdoor activities as a family, which is great.
But we’re also part of a wider community, involved with a Christian home education programme called Classical Conversations. We meet once a week to learn together, to do science, fine arts, Latin. It’s a very rich and diverse curriculum and the boys are very happy.
They’ve formed some really good friendships with other children who are also being homeschooled – so they’re not missing anything by not being educated in school. But it’s also been an amazing support network for us. The boys are both now thriving and flourishing, and that thrills us!
What else have you been up to in these past four years since we last heard from you?
Nigel: We feel that God’s provision to us in these past four years has been phenomenal. We’re part of a very supportive church, a group of people that stand with us on Biblical truth. It’s been really encouraging – they understand the signs of the times.
Sally: The homeschooling community has also been an enormous blessing, and we give glory to God for that.
Nigel: Obviously we’ve been through lockdown like everyone else, as well, although it didn’t seem to affect us too much. We’re very blessed with where we live, as we’ve got the beach, and we were able to keep active together as a family. We’ve been very encouraged, generally.
It’s true that we’ve come up against opposition as well – there are many people who dislike us. But despite being unpopular with some, we’ve found God’s provision and we’ve made close friendships with others that we never might have had the chance to otherwise. And despite some unpleasantness, we feel great joy.
The Christian Legal Centre has been supporting you these past four years – what has that been like?
Sally: Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre have been amazing. As soon as we raised a concern, they were right there, talking with four lawyers! I mean, it was a little overwhelming at first; we’d never been involved in a court case before. But the Christian Concern team have been a tremendous support. They’ve always been right beside us, every step of the way.
Nigel: It’s such a blessing to have the people at Christian Concern in our lives (and I’m not just saying that because I’m talking to you!). They will always be very special people to us – in fact, they’re some of our closest friends and allies. If we didn’t have Christian Concern, who would we have to help us challenge this?
These are people who have come alongside us, standing on Biblical truth, which is so important. I so admire them, because they seem to have no fear!
We continue to pray for you both – it’s our privilege to support you! Finally, knowing what you’ve had to face, the trials you’ve both been through, if you had to make the same stand again – would you?
Nigel: Absolutely! Absolutely we would make that stand. It’s a matter of conviction and I don’t think either of us would hesitate to do it again. As adults, we have a moral and Biblical responsibility to protect children.
The Bible gives serious warnings to those who cause children to stumble into sin. In fact, Jesus says it’s better for a millstone to be hung around their neck and for them to be cast into the sea than to cause these little ones to sin. There are severe consequences if we push children down a road that is evil.
Which is why we would always make this stand again – absolutely.
Nigel and Sally, it’s a pleasure to stand with you.
Give today to stand with Nigel and Sally, and support other parents like them.
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