Children are growing up in an ever-confusing world.

A new program in schools is teaching them that their gender is fluid and not related to their biological characteristics. “Only you know whether you are a boy or a girl. No one can tell you”, says a story book for four-year-olds called “The Gender Fairy”. The resource is promoted by the so-called Safe Schools Coalition of Australia, which tells teachers to avoid referring to children in gender binary terms like “boys” and “girls”. The taxpayer-funded “Safe Schools” has been in the news these past weeks. More than 500 Australian schools have signed up, with the overwhelming majority of parents in the dark.

A brave mum from Frankston in Victoria, Cella White, went public after Frankston High dismissed her concerns. Her 14-year-old son came home last year saying his class had been told kids could wear the opposite gender uniform if they wished. Also, kids could use the toilet facilities of whatever gender identity they decided to adopt. The thought of an 18-year-old male identifying as a girl sharing the toilets with her vision-impaired daughter made Cella feel like Frankston High would no longer be safe. Excerpts from resources promoted by “Safe Schools” were read out at the Coalition government’s joint party room meeting in Canberra last month. The Parliamentarians were told of instruction in chest-binding for girls to flatten their breasts and penis-tucking for boys.

Enough, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull cried, ordering his education minister Simon Birmingham to conduct a review. Two weeks later the program was pruned of the more extreme elements. However, the contested gender ideology – the idea that gender is fluid – remains the underpinning philosophy of the program. It also seems the encouragement of schools to relax the rules on toilet facilities remains.

So how did it come to this? Safe Schools has been sold to politicians and educators as an anti-bullying program to protect same-sex attracted and gender diverse students. Now no one wants to see any child bullied for any reason. Full stop.

But gender theory is just that – a theory. Leading feminists such as Germaine Greer do not agree with the idea that a man who physically alters his body becomes a woman. Biology doesn’t agree either. It doesn’t matter how many dangerous hormone blockers are ingested or how much binding, tucking or surgery one undertakes, one’s male and female chromosomes and bone structure do not change. An autopsy 100 years after death will quickly identify a male or a female.

This is not to minimise the very real pain some children and adults feel when they struggle with their gender identity. Love, empathy, and the best professional help should always be afforded them. All of us in some way or other are touched by the fallenness and brokenness of this world. We all need help with something.

Children struggling with their identity especially need our help. But inducting entire classrooms into a potentially harmful theory is not the answer.