Teacher urges MPs to stop teaching of gender diversity in New Zealand schools

A primary teacher has urged a select committee to stop teaching gender diversity in schools, describing it as the "stuff of nightmares" - but an MP on the committee said he's not convinced. 

Waitakiri Primary School teacher Helen Houghton presented her case against gender diversity education in New Zealand schools to the Education and Workforce Select Committee on Wednesday. 

"I believe our professional integrity comes under threat when we are required to teach ideology that many in our parent communities, as well as personally and professionally, disagree with," she told the committee.  

But by the time she had finished her submission, Labour MP Kieran McAnulty - a member of the committee - told Houghton he was not convinced there is an issue. 

Houghton, who was announced last year as the New Conservative Party's candidate for Christchurch East, was there to argue the points she raised in a petition that was accepted by National MP Jo Hayes early last year.   

The petition urges the Ministry of Education to remove the learning objective for teaching gender diversity in the sexuality education guide and to remove gender diversity from the TKI website, a teaching resource.  

Houghton began her submission by sharing an account by a parent who she said contacted her recently. 

She said the parent's daughter had reached out to support her cousin who came out as transgender and that they attended a support group together at school. 

Houghton quoted the parent as saying: "My daughter decided to help him and went along herself a couple of times to the support group where I can only guess they somehow convinced her that she, too, was transsexual.

Waitakiri Primary School teacher Helen Houghton at the select committee.
Waitakiri Primary School teacher Helen Houghton at the select committee. Photo credit: Facebook

"I'm literally not exaggerating when I say she left the house that day female and returned with her hair shaved off, a chest-binder on, and wearing male clothes.

"Now, my daughter is this boy who believes he is meant to be a girl thanks to the guidance counsellor at school... This literally is the stuff of nightmares."

Houghton then quoted Sydney Wright, a US woman who transitioned but later regretted the decision, and has written about how she regretted becoming an "overweight, pre-diabetic nightmare of a transgender man".  

McAnulty said at the end of the committee hearing that Houghton "failed to convince" him there is an issue, and questioned her decision to use an example from the US. 

"I'm intrigued you came to the select committee to convince us there is an issue and you've used an overseas example presumably from the internet."

Houghton admitted she believes there "are people who suffer with gender dysphoria where they feel they are in the wrong body, a psychological condition not biological, which we must support".

But she said schools are "telling our students what they think and what they should believe... There is no unbiased opportunity in these learning objectives for them to have dialogue around challenging some of the content".

Labour MP Kieran McAnulty responding to Helen Houghton at the select committee.
Labour MP Kieran McAnulty responding to Helen Houghton at the select committee. Photo credit: Facebook

Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues) Jan Logie told Newshub she hopes Houghton will "learn more about the needs of trans students". 

She pointed to a 2018 report on sexuality education in New Zealand schools that found comprehensive teaching inclusive of diverse genders contributes to the overall health, wellbeing and resilience of students.  

"Growing up having gone through sexuality education at my school - which was entirely heterosexual - I know it has an impact to be invisible and we want our kids to be seen and valued for who they are," Logie said. 

During the committee hearing, a comparison was made between teaching religion and gender diversity - with Houghton arguing they are both ideologies. 

The Government has plans to make it compulsory for parents to give explicit written permission for their child to be given religious instruction in state schools.  

The presentation to the select committee argued that if "transgender ideology is to be imposed on all students, then Christian theology should have equal time". 

Logie responded: "It's not a belief system. It's about who they are and it's about inclusion."