* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has said the government thinks parental consent is “important” when it comes to children changing their gender ID at school
Chase (16) and Theresa (48), not their real names, are parent and child from Manchester.
It’s a school’s duty to support their students, especially if they want them to do well – but the new guidance for England and Wales is expected to do the opposite.
The advice, which has been delayed by the government, is expected to involve requiring parental consent before a child changes gender ID, while there have been concerns that teachers will be told they do not have to use a pupil’s chosen pronouns.
In my view, the guidance blatantly panders to transphobes in another attempt to use trans people – particularly young trans people – as a political tool.
As a non-binary pupil at an all girls school, I was always aware that having supportive parents who encouraged me to advocate for myself was a privilege. It made my transition at school a lot smoother than it would have been otherwise.
However it wasn’t until last year, when my school discovered my friend was trans, that I became fully aware of what coming out could have been like.
First my friend was told that our teachers couldn’t use his name and pronouns, which quickly snowballed into the school deciding that they had to tell his parents that he was trans. At no point was he given agency or an opinion.
It is in this way that the new guidance could create a two-tiered system that is not fair to anyone involved. I never thought that school would have been so quick to put students in a potentially unsafe situation at home just to try and save face.
What people fail to realise is that it’s not only trans young people that this will affect. My school only introduced trousers as a part of the uniform two years ago, in response to a pupil petition, when similar schools had been doing it for years.
Under the new government guidance, everyone who switched to wearing trousers would have had to have got their parents’ permission, whether this was because they were trans, they took public transport, they were more comfortable, or because of their religion.
A trans student being blocked from socially transitioning isn’t going to fix anything. It will only make them more isolated among their peer group.
Trans young people are already at risk compared to their cis peers, and this guidance won’t help schools do their job of safeguarding and supporting them.
Instead, it could potentially create a dangerous home situation for them, while they are even more alone in the classroom.
Chase is lucky to have a supportive family, caring friends, and a school that (at least nominally) supports their gender identity.
They are also lucky to be nearing the end of secondary education, because, thanks to our government, things are about to go from bad to worse for gender diverse young people.
Like many trans kids, Chase came out to close friends before coming out at home. And even then, they waited until they felt ready to come out at school.
This means they were one person at home and with friends but another with teachers. They constantly played two roles – the real them and the ‘acceptable’ them. But there was always the risk of being outed.
Imagine how tiring that is and how it would impact your mental health. Now take away the safety net of a supportive family and swap it for a hostile home environment.
We’ve been happy to advocate for Chase and school have generally been supportive. When we advised them that Chase was trans, we were treated with courtesy. When we let them know that Chase had legally changed their name, school records were changed accordingly.
It would be generous to say that the school has supported Chase, but they haven’t actively stood in their way, as they’ve done with unsupported pupils.
The new guidance would mean that if Chase was admitted now (single-sex schools no longer have an obligation to admit trans pupils), the school could deny their transition.
We hope Chase’s remaining two years will be trouble free. But there’s every chance that the school will now misgender Chase, just because they can.
For younger pupils there could be no transitioning, even with supportive parents. And unsupported pupils may have no choice but to conceal themselves or risk being outed.
If there’s no safety in coming out to friends, no supportive teacher to confide in, nowhere to be themselves - what does this new guidance achieve?
It weaponises gender diversity, narrows safeguarding to only protect cis kids and creates a system where vindictive pupils can out anyone they feel is different.
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