teacher blackboard
I had no idea I was about to find myself on the front line of the gender identity revolution playing out in our schools.
One chilly Monday morning I spotted, among the throng of pupils flooding into the playground, one of our male students standing alone, wearing a skirt.

This quiet, gentle teenager had few friends and was known to teachers at the secondary school where I taught because he had been suffering from anorexia.

I remember looking at this painfully thin, awkward 14-year-old in his ill-fitting school skirt and thinking: 'You're not a girl.'

Was it not more likely he was just a camp, insecure boy in a rough state school who somehow found it easier to dress as a girl rather than simply admit he was gay?

The truth is that it struck a chord with me. I could sympathise because I had been where he was โ€” a gay boy attending a single-sex school โ€” back in the late 1990s. I know the pain, misery and isolation that came with it.

This was the moment I realised how troubling the trans mania sweeping our schools is. My present scepticism is worlds away from the optimism I felt when I had started teaching history at the 1,000-pupil school in rural England two years earlier.

I was a new teacher who had changed career after deciding to leave my former job in current affairs.

All I wanted was to bring the love of my subject to the children I would be teaching. I had no idea I was about to find myself on the front line of the gender identity revolution playing out in our schools.

My rude introduction came when I stumbled into a minefield by deciding to start an LGBT club for pupils.

I'd had no intention of getting involved in anything 'LGBT' when I joined the school. I'd never been to a Pride march or felt the need to shout about being a gay man. To me, my sexuality was just a fact of life.

But in my new role as a teacher I didn't hide the fact I was gay โ€” and some students began confiding in me that they were suffering homophobic bullying. Some were even self-harming because of it.

I believed that an LGBT club could be a way to offer them a 'safe space' to be themselves. And the mother of one of the girls who was self-harming agreed.

Child protection and safeguarding laws required that I contact the school's 'safeguarding office' about my plan, which I did. And I told them whenever I had a conversation in which a child disclosed something personal.

With the consent of the headmaster, the club began meeting in my classroom every Monday after school. From the start, it was well-attended, with 20 to 25 students turning up. I felt positive I could quell their anxieties.

But as the sessions went on, it became apparent just how different schools had become since I had attended one.

The pupils began telling me about 'LGBTQIA' politics, bombarding me with a mind-boggling array of trans terminology that they had picked up online. They knew everything about Pride, the acronym, the ever-changing flags, the terminology.

What on earth was going on? My simple attempt to make gay children feel more included โ€” and to stop bullying โ€” had been hijacked as a hotbed for gender anxiety and trans ideology.

I was completely out of my depth. From the outset, the students aged 11 to 18 were already steeped in 'gender-identity theory!'

This is the idea that feelings about who you are matter more than biological reality. And it is, in my experience, increasingly the overriding school of thought among teenagers.

The young people attending my group acted as though they were shopping around for different gender identities and sexualities, rather than trying to feel more comfortable the way they really were.

Their pronouns and names were changing on an almost weekly basis, while they talked about all this as though they were in an exclusive club together.

I listened, alarmed, as they happily discussed their goal of going to the Tavistock gender identity clinic for hormone therapy.

Many were frustrated that they had to wait until they were old enough to start treatment.

I had teenagers explaining to me the meaning of dozens of identities I had never heard of. In one bizarre incident, a Year 8 girl came along and said very seriously: 'Sir I have something to tell you: I'm demisexual.'

Alarm bells started ringing as I felt the discussion was wholly inappropriate. Later, when I looked up the definition of 'demisexual', I discovered it meant you like to get to know a person before you have sexual intercourse with them.

That, as far as I can tell, is the default position for most people.

Yet my reluctance to validate her declaration was soon picked up on by my students. The older, self-declared 'trans' students at the school became rude and aggressive towards me.

My status as the 'cool gay teacher' came into question because anyone who did not fully support them was regarded as a transphobe.

They attended the group and sat glowering at me, talking conspiratorially among themselves.

When I suggested that their attitude was counterproductive and unnecessary, they scowled even more. Of course, this knowledge was passed on to the younger kids.

I now realise these were all tell-tale signs of them having been integrated into online trans culture, which at the time I had no idea existed.

I have since learned that websites frequented by youngsters who identify as trans call this approach of shutting people out as 'going no-contact'. Throughout this period, I was a committed 'trans ally'. I thought affirming these children in the genders they claimed to be was the right thing to do.

Who cares what pronouns a child uses or what name they choose to call themselves, as long as they're happy. Right?

Wrong. It quickly became apparent that this was not a social trend to be taken lightly โ€” and I deeply regret my initial 'affirming' approach.

Even now, though, I fear that if I had done anything else, there would have been detrimental consequences, and I still do โ€” which is why I feel I can't write under my real name.

I know teachers in other schools who have lost their jobs because they 'misgendered' pupils.

This culture of blind affirmation was laid bare in the instance of one disturbed girl at the school who had been self-harming. She initially said she was a lesbian and started using 'they/them' pronouns.

She then announced that she identified as 'non-binary' and cut her hair off to look more male. A month later, she said she was now a 'boy'.

She changed her name several times, with her identity shifting back and forth.

No one โ€” neither students nor teachers โ€” could keep up. Everyone was constantly 'deadnaming' her by using her previous names, leading to more self-harming.

She continued to cut herself, regularly coming to school with her arms in bandages.

In hindsight, I strongly doubt whether this troubled young woman was ever transgender. I would argue instead that she was a depressed teenager who was struggling with her sexuality and a difficult family life, as many her age are.

As time went on, it became clear there were a number of commonalities among the young people who were identifying as transgender.

First, none of them had shown any indication of being confused about their gender before coming to school. But once there, the idea of changing gender spread through friendship groups like wildfire.

Second, none of them had a clear idea of what they were transitioning to. And their new identities were unstable for the duration of the time I spent with them. Typically, the girls went from being lesbian to 'non-binary' โ€” identifying as neither sex โ€” to saying they were a boy.

In contrast, the boys often started as gay and then went straight to identifying as a girl.

It became noticeable that one of the key influences when they made this transition was the BBC television programme RuPaul's Drag Race, which was hugely popular among the children.

Many of the students appeared to equate the flamboyant drag queens on the show with their idea of being a woman.

My other major concern was how many of the girls and boys who started changing their identities came from broken homes or difficult family situations.

Others exhibited clear signs of being mentally unwell, or were recognised as having neuro- developmental conditions such as autism or ADHD.

However, many were just struggling to live up to the hypersexualised body standards expected of boys and girls โ€” images of which are constantly beamed into their phones via social media.

The children who claimed to be non-binary or trans were usually effeminate boys or boyish girls. They were definitely not at the top of the school's social hierarchy.

Clearly, there have always been neglectful parents; there has always been a hierarchy of kids in schools; and there have always been teenagers who struggle more during adolescence than others.

The difference now is that these ostracised, unhappy youngsters go on social media, where they are given the perfect explanation for their complex problems: they were simply born in the wrong body.

They are then told that it is possible to change their body to match how they 'feel'.

Of course, gender dysphoria is real; some children, when they reach puberty, really do realise they do not fit the sex they were born into. But we need to be careful before rushing any child into becoming a medical patient who requires regular hormone injections with unclear long-term side-effects and even irreversible gender-reassignment surgery.

In my view, these anxieties can be exacerbated by the influence of external LGBT groups such as the transgender charity Mermaids.

Baffled and busy teachers such as me often seek help in dealing with gender issues from these outside organisations without realising that they are populated with trans activists. I had a cautionary experience when I invited a woman from a local LGBT group to speak to my pupils.

She had barely walked through the school gates when she demanded to know where the Pride flags were. Their absence, she said, demonstrated how we were failing to support diversity and inclusion.

She entered the classroom and began asking the children whether the school had been 'affirming them', before asking them whether their desired pronouns were being used and whether they felt their parents were doing a good job at supporting them.

This woman was an activist who had an agenda. She was angry โ€” and riled up the children as well.

Naturally, the students loved this opportunity to say the school was terrible and they were being treated abominably, which I know they were not. Needless to say, we didn't invite her back.

In many cases, parents are just as shut out as teachers. They, too, fear being labelled transphobic if they question their child's wishes.

It's a vicious cycle.

Having spoken to parents and friends, I don't think the public understands the grip gender ideology has on our schoolchildren.

I was just as naive two years ago. But, having seen the scale of the problem, I feel I have a duty to raise the alarm for the sake of all those children who may be making a grave and permanent mistake.

HARRY'S surname has been changed.