A placard saying 'Protect trans kids' at a Pride march in Washington DC

LGBTQIA+ Education in Schools: What the new guidance means, and why it’s so dangerous

If you know anyone who identifies as transgender, the chances are you are probably at least somewhat aware of the new guidance for schools in England regarding gender identity. For those unaware, I’ll be breaking down the guidance and explaining just why it is so harmful for young transgender people who are still in school.

Children 11 and under are not allowed to use different pronouns to their sex

This may be one of the more accepted policies in this legislation, which is why it is the perfect place to start. You might be thinking that this is perfectly reasonable: children 11 and under are pretty unlikely to be questioning their gender. This is, however, not the case. I know plenty of queer people who knew they were queer long before puberty. Also, using different pronouns is not something that has to be permanent. Experimenting with pronouns can allow trans people to properly find themselves, and my main issue with this policy is the precedent it sets.

Okay, 11 is a pretty young age, but where does this end? Will the government then say that no one under the age of 18 can use different pronouns? That one can’t use different pronouns until 25, when their frontal lobe finishes developing? This policy sets an incredibly dangerous precedent that seems extremely likely to set back trans rights by at least a decade.

Permits teachers, pupils and parents to not respect someone’s pronouns if it goes against their religious beliefs

As a religious person myself, I think this policy is not only ridiculous, but purposefully there to allow anyone, religious or not, to disrespect trans students’ pronouns. I have seen how easy it is to take advantage of religious beliefs, and as someone who has read the entirety of the Old Testament, I can confirm that nowhere does it say to disrespect trans people. What it does say, however, is “love thy neighbour as thou would love thyself.”

I am sure I speak for so many people in the LGBTQIA+ community when I say I am sick of religion being appropriated to further a bigoted, homophobic and transphobic agenda. If the government truly cared about religious freedom they would understand that the weaponization of religion to perpetuate bigoted views only serves to create a worse public view of religion. 

This policy sets an incredibly dangerous precedent that seems extremely likely to set back trans rights by at least a decade.

Trans children should be held to the same uniform standard as other children of their sex

Ah yes, open transphobia from the government. I attended a school which forced AFAB (assigned female at birth) students to wear knee-length skirts, and the constant question in my mind was: surely it would be more modest to just let us wear trousers? Rather than having teachers yell at students daily for their skirts being too short, would it not have been easier to allow any student to wear trousers? And to further this point, who does it affect if a trans student wears a uniform which aligns with their gender rather than their biological sex?

All this does is make body dysmorphia worse for trans students, and all it will do is put more and more young trans people at serious risk. Student mental health is already a major issue: why must the government worsen it?

Students must use the changing rooms / bathrooms which align with their biological sex

This is a policy which capitalises on fears and debates to worsen the experiences of trans students. I understand that there are real concerns and issues with allowing students to use facilities which do not align with their biological sex: this is part of a wider debate which need not be discussed in this article. But it is blindingly obvious that if you’re going to implement a policy like this, it makes sense to also require schools to have gender-neutral facilities. This is of course not something that the government would consider, and yet it would be so beneficial for the trans students who are going to be affected by this legislation: clearly a group that the government does not give a damn about. 

Schools do not have to accept a student’s request to socially transition

“Socially transitioning” means changing one’s name, pronouns or clothing to fit with a trans student’s gender identity. If it were not so tragic, this policy could be funny. I know multiple students who changed their names for preference or ease, either going by their middle name or by a new name. I know so many boys named “Samuel” who go by “Sam” both for ease and because there were multiple people in the class with the same name. I went by “Pollock” for a few years just because my history teacher decided he liked that better than my first name.

Yet when it comes to trans students, it seems suddenly impossible to respect relatively common things like name changes. What is small to others can have a huge impact on young trans people.

Schools must inform parents if a child is questioning their gender

This is, I think, the most abhorrent component of the legislation. It puts young people at such a high risk with absolutely no concern or regard for their welfare. When I came out as queer to my parents, my mum didn’t speak to me for over a week, and that was a best case scenario for me. I know people who’ve been kicked out of their homes by their parents, or worse. 

I am not going to convince transphobic people about the vitality of trans rights. But it is important for people to criticise and scrutinise the government. This is an abhorrent, transphobic piece of legislation, which directly and indirectly threatens the lives of trans students across the country. Sign petitions, write to your MP: we cannot, and should not, stand for this kind of legislation.

Image: Ted Eytan via Wikimedia Commons