The goal of education: the harm transgender ideology is doing to young people and society

This is the sixth in a series of articles, rooted in the teaching of Divini Illius Magistri, which seeks to assist parents in preparing their children to live as mature Christians in dangerous times. This series began on 18 January 2023 with The goal of education: A timeless message for parents from the Lion of Münster.

Leaving aside the question of little children imbibing false teachings and morals through “children’s” books promoting gender ideology, what are the dangers of this kind of “spiritual propaganda” to young people?

In a useful booklet, Gender Ideology and our Children, published by the Family Education Trust, Piers Shepherd writes:

“Schools have become a central battleground over gender ideology with some schools effectively promoting the idea of self-identification of gender and allowing gender questioning young people to undergo a process of ‘social transition’ whereby they adopt the name, clothing and other attributes of a person of the opposite sex.”

“In recent years, there has been an extraordinary rise in young people feeling discomfort with the sex in which they were born. Teenage girls have been particularly affected. In 2018, the UK reported a 4,400 percent rise over the previous decade in teenage girls seeking gender treatments.1 These treatments often include puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones that can do permanent damage to the girl’s body.”

Piers Shepherd goes on to provide an overview of some of the current concerns of medical professionals as to the harm of gender transitioning: 

“Dr Hilary Cass OBE, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health from 2012 to 2015, is conducting an independent review of gender identity services for children and young people.2

Amongst the findings of her interim report, published in February 2022, Dr Cass says:

“Clinicians feel under pressure to adopt an unquestioning affirmative approach to the young person’s gender identification which is at odds with the standard process of clinical assessment and diagnosis.”

“Social [gender] transition is an active intervention and may have significant effects on a young person’s psychological functioning.”

Piers Shepherd urges readers to consider the evidence of the experience of Keira Bell, a “teenage girl who was put on hormone blockers that permanently altered her body”.

“Keira Bell subsequently changed her mind and returned to identifying as her birth sex. But by then permanent damage had been done to her body. She said: ‘I don’t know if I will ever really look like a woman again … I feel I was a guinea pig … and I don’t think anyone knows what will happen to my body in the future.’3

“Social transition usually leads to a persistence in dysphoria which may lead to treatment of the kind given to Keira Bell with similarly destructive results. When these treatments are given to those under 16, they can lead to adverse consequences such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, infertility, increased cancer risk, and thrombosis.4 As a group of child health specialists wrote some years ago: 

‘73–88% of prepubertal GD (gender dysphoria) clinic attenders, who receive no intervention, eventually lose their desire to identify with the non-birth sex … the use of puberty blockers may prevent some young people with GD from finally becoming comfortable with the birth sex.’”5

In an article in the Catholic Herald (25 January 2023), entitled ‘How the gender ideology war is destroying the lives of young people’, Gavin Ashenden, the commentator and author, reports on gender dysphoria as a kind of “social contagion”. He says: 

“Gender dysphoria, the belief that one has been born into the wrong sexual body, is a terrible mental illness. But it has become a factor in the culture wars, and particularly impacted our teenage daughters.

“We have watched as both anorexia and self-harming, almost like psychological destructive waves or fashions, have swept through generations. Both have recently receded and gender dysphoria has taken their place.

“A decade or so ago, the statistical studies told us that about 0.01 per cent of the population suffered from this dreadful conflict of misperception. Suddenly, it has exploded. In England, in 2009, 40 girls were receiving treatment. By 2017, the number had exploded to 1,806.


To answer his own question, Gavin Ashenden cites Dr David Bell, the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst whose report played a part in the closure of the Tavistock Clinic, where children were given puberty blockers, despite the “evidence gap” on how this would influence their long-term “neurocognitive development”. According to Dr Bell:

“Among girls in particular, contemporary sex education policies can be the background to ‘outbreaks’ of gender questioning ripping through social groups. 

“Even in Freud’s day it was known that sometimes one girl had a fit, the next day there were 20 girls with fits. We don’t know why. We do know it’s much more common in girls. Social contagion is very important. People treating them haven’t recognised that. You see epidemics of gender dysphoria.”

Teaching children Catholic doctrine relating to gender ideology protects young people and society from these harms (cf. parts two and five of this series). Equipping children with the truth about God’s purpose for human sexuality, protects both them and society from the kind of serious physiological, psychological and social harms outlined above which are so much at the centre of public concern in the UK and in many other parts of the world today.

As Pope Leo XIII so wisely said:

“If in their early years they find within the walls of their homes the rule of an upright life and the discipline of Christian virtues, the future welfare of society will in great measure be guaranteed.”6

The next article in this series will look more closely at what Pope Pius XI calls “the error about education”, which Catholic institutions fall into when they spread “false teachings and morals” on gender ideology.


  1. Abigail Shrier, Irreversible Damage: Teenage Girls and the Transgender Craze, Swift Press, 2021.
  2. The Independent Review of Gender Identity Services for Children and Young People (The Cass Review) was commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement in Autumn 2020 to make recommendations about the services provided by the NHS to children and young people who are questioning their gender identity or experiencing gender incongruence.
  3. Quoted in Amie Gordon, Campaigners say “common sense has prevailed” as High Court rules children under 16 are unlikely to be able to give ‘informed consent’ to take puberty blockers, Daily Mail, 1 December 2020.
  4. Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital, Policy Change Regarding Hormonal Treatment of Minors with Gender Dysphoria, April 2021.
  5. Christopher Richards, Julie Maxwell, Noel McCune, ‘Use of puberty blockers for gender dysphoria: a momentous step in the dark’, Archives of Disease in Childhood, 17 January 2019.
  6. Leo XIII, Sapientiae Christianae (10 January 1890), 42.