The new Department for Education guidance on the teaching of Relationships and Sex Education re-establishes common-sense and evidence-based reality in schools. Although the new guidelines are for the RSE and PSHE curriculum, schools will want to ensure their policies outside this specific curriculum area are not in breach of the new guidance.
In fact, no transgender school guides or resources are compatible with the new Department for Education guidance (with the exception of our own schools pack). None are evidence-based; all promote the non-scientific idea of innate gender identity as fact. Teaching children to understand themselves through the model of ‘gender identity’ encourages children to believe their personalities are ‘wrong’ for their sex and their bodies are ‘wrong’ for not matching their gender identity. The idea of gender identity is inevitably based on gender stereotypes, there is no other way for children to understand it, and it gives children no way to be ‘right’ with themselves if they reject those stereotypes.
In this post we have put together just a few examples of the guidance and resources which schools should look out for as non-compliant with the new Department for Education guidance. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
Department for Education guidance: non-compatible resources
“You should not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear.”
In this story Teddy transforms from boy to girl by changing his bow tie into a hair bow. This book is used in lesson resources by No Outsiders and is on the reading list of Drag Queen Story Time and Barnados.
Stonewall suggests that teachers look out for clothing choices as a sign that a very young child or a child with SEND might be transgender:
“Coming out: Younger pupils may tell you they are LGBT differently. Often, but not always, it will be their parents or carers that raise their child’s identity with you. A trans child may say ‘I feel like a girl’ or ‘I don’t feel like a boy ’rather than using the word ‘trans’. They may come to school wearing clothes not typically associated with their assigned sex.”
“Often a child or young person’s words or actions are automatically attributed to their SEND without considerations of other factors, such as their orientation or gender identity. This might include: preferences for clothing types or hair length being seen as a sensory need; fear of change at puberty; behaviours described as a new special interest, fascination, curiosity or phase.
Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity?
In this book by C J Atkinson, former Head of Communications at Educate and Celebrate, non-conformity to gender stereotypes is specified as the reason a girl is really a boy:
“When I was born, the doctors told my mum and dad that they had a baby girl, and so for the first few years of my life that’s how my parents raised me. This is called being assigned female at birth. I wasn’t ever happy that way. I didn’t like playing with dolls, or wearing dresses, and I hated having long hair.”
Mermaids characterises any child whose behaviour is ‘outside accepted gender norms’ as a child who one day might have gender reassignment:
“With regard to any unpleasant situations or bullying, all agencies have a duty of care towards a child. This is covered in the Equality Act 2010, which has the protected characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’ – this sounds odd when talking about a child of any age, but it actually means anyone who is outside the accepted gender norms, that is someone who acts as though they might one day have gender reassignment, even if they eventually do not, or has had/ will have gender reassignment. This means that the agencies (school, work, police, doctors etc) must take steps to integrate trans* and gender variant children, and to alleviate any discomfort they may feel”.
“Gender issues are often hard for parents to understand, as their child might not have shown any indication of their feelings when they were younger. Their child may have learned at a young age not to behave outside the norms for their birth gender to avoid issues such as gentle chiding, ridicule or other forms of bullying.”
“Resources used in teaching about this topic must always be age-appropriate and evidence based.”
Transgender picture books are available for Early Years and Primary aged children. Some organisations make a big effort to translate gender identity theory into child-friendly language.
Stonewall takes care to explain gender identity ideology in a way the youngest children and those with SEND can understand, including that doctors and midwives may have been wrong when recording a child’s sex, and the concept that some people are neither male or female:
“Definition of trans for younger children: When they are born, babies are labelled as a boy or a girl. When some people get older, they realise that the label they were given was wrong. They might say ‘I’m actually a girl’, ‘I’m actually a boy’ or ‘I’m not a boy or a girl’. Trans is the word used to describe people who feel like this.”
“Definition of non-binary for younger children: Non-binary is a word that people use about themselves if they don’t feel like they are a boy or a girl.”
“These definitions may also be more suitable for some children and young people with SEND, depending on their levels of understanding.”
Allsorts Youth Project teaches children that there are more than two sexes, that human biology has nothing to do with being a boy or a girl and that feelings change a boy into a girl:
“In general, staff should think carefully about the language they use and when possible attempt to use language which does not reinforce a binary approach to gender (i.e. there are just males and females). Using ‘they’ as a pronoun or the term ‘all genders’ are examples of inclusive language.”
“Particular care will need to be taken to ensure that relationships and sex education is inclusive of all genders. For example:
In labelling the genitals make it clear that most rather than all boys have a penis and testicles and most rather than all girls have a vulva and vagina.”
“Remember that a pupil who identifies as a girl but was assigned male at birth is not a ‘boy dressed as a girl’ but is a girl.”
“Materials which suggest that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity should not be used and you should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such material”
Transgender resources suggest that the only way to reject restrictive gender stereotypes is by ‘not identifying with your assigned gender at birth’, which means you are transgender.
The Proud Trust
In a child-friendly graphic, the Proud Trust suggests to children that girls are ‘girly’ and boys are ‘boyish’ and if you do not fit these stereotypes you are ‘non-binary’ – neither a girl or a boy.
Transgender resources typically introduce the concept of ‘gender identity’ under the guise of challenging gender stereotypes. Andrew Moffat’s No Outsiders programme suggests that the only way to reject stereotypes for your sex is by living as “a different gender from the one other people chose for us”:
“Some people say that there are “boy things” and some say there are “girl things” but we say this is not the case and boys and girls can do the same sorts of things if they want. Some of us will live as a different gender from the one other people chose for us; others may like to do things that some people think are “just for boys” or “just for girls”.
Stonewall resources typically begin by presenting a discussion as being about challenging gender stereotypes and then move straight onto ‘gender identity’, suggesting changing gender identity as the only way to reject those stereotypes:
“In class, ask children and young people to discuss stereotypes of boys or girls and talk about how there is no such thing as a ‘typical girl’ or ‘typical boy’.
• Use these discussions as a starting point to explore the different ways we express our gender (for example through our clothes, hair, or the way we walk), what ‘gender identity’ means and that not everyone identifies as a boy or a girl.”
Allsorts suggests that challenging gender stereotypes means exploring different gender identities and that children who are not ‘trans’ are apparently happy to conform to those stereotypes:
“Work in educational settings to challenge gender stereotyping and to explore a range of gender identities makes schools safer and more inclusive for all genders, not just those who are trans. For children who are comfortable in the gender assigned at birth there is no confusion.”
Gendered Intelligence teaches that anyone who challenges gender norms is ‘trans’:
“Trans is an umbrella term that identifies the spectrum of those who feel that their assigned sex at birth does not match or sit easily with their sense of self. It encompasses people who might describe themselves as transsexual, transgender or cross dressers, or anyone who challenges gender norms.”
Issues of Bullying (2008) http://genderedintelligence.co.uk/professionals/resources
Mermaids specifically teaches children that rejecting gender stereotypes is linked to having a ‘gender identity’ which is somewhere on a spectrum:
GIRES reinforces gender stereotypes through teaching children that girls have pink brains and boys have blue brains and this is the only way to tell whether you are a boy or a girl. If you are a girl but you don’t feel you have a girly brain, your brain must be ‘hard-wired slightly differently’ and you are transgender.
“While teachers should not suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing, teachers should always seek to treat individual students with sympathy and support.”
Transgender resources first teach children who don’t conform to stereotypes that their personality is wrong for their sex, and next that their body is wrong for their gender identity.
Stonewall encourages teachers to validate a child’s feeling that their body is wrong and support them to medically change it:
“This means schools are required to tackle transphobic bullying and support any students taking steps to ‘reassign their sex’ (or transition), whether those steps are ‘social’ (e.g. changing their name and pronoun, the way they look or dress) or ‘medical’ (e.g. hormone treatment, surgery).”
“A trans young person may feel unhappy or distressed about living with a body they don’t feel reflects their gender identity. Some young people choose to make changes to their body through hormone treatment, though this can involve waiting a long time. Schools can help by ensuring that young people know how to access support services…”
An Introduction to Supporting LGBT Young People (2015)
Allsorts advises teachers to accept and validate a child’s body discomfort and facilitate a child’s wish for medical alteration of their body:
“Medical transition is the process by which a trans person takes steps to physically alter their body.”
“Some trans children and young people will be hoping to undergo both social and medical aspects of transition while some will choose just the social aspects.”
“Once you have an understanding of the areas in which a child or young person is planning to transition, you can think about how to facilitate these changes at school.”
Educate and Celebrate
Educate and Celebrate takes the child who has learned the ‘correct’ language to communicate their discomfort and advises teachers to simply validate their feelings of being ‘wrong.’
“If you are in a conversation with a student and they tell you they don’t identify with the gender assigned to them at birth – don’t panic! Very simply, believe them, and ask how long they have felt like this.”
“You should work together with parents on any decisions regarding your school’s treatment of their child, in line with the school’s safeguarding policy and the statutory guidance on Working Together to Safeguard Children.”
Transgender resources all advise that a school may facilitate a child’s social transition without informing parents, even deliberately deceiving parents and facilitating a child’s referral to clinical services:
In their schools guides, Stonewall emphasises again and again the need to keep a child’s transition from parents or carers if the child wishes it:
“Make sure all parents and carers know that LGBT issues are covered in school, but only discuss a child or young person’s identity with their parents or carers with the child or young person’s permission.”
“Regardless of their age, a person’s status as trans is private. Schools and colleges should not disclose information – such as details about a transition – that could reveal somebody’s trans status to others, including parents or carers, staff, and anyone outside the school, college or setting.”
“Respecting a trans child or young person’s confidentiality may require staff to use their legal name and their sex assigned at birth when contacting parents, carers or others. It is important to discuss this with the learner so that they understand why this is the case.”
“A trans young person will transition so as to be understood by others in their self-identified gender and to look and feel the way that makes them comfortable. Most trans young people will want to take social steps to transition. A young person wanting to access hormone treatment as part of their transition will need to be referred to the gender identity development service.”
An Introduction to Supporting LGBT Young People (2015)
Allsorts also advises schools to keep from parents the fact their child is identifying as transgender, even while they advise facilitating the child’s transition in every way:
“Staff should not disclose information that may reveal a pupil or student’s trans status to others, including parents, carers and other members of the school community unless legally required to do so or because the child or young person has agreed for the information to be shared.”
Gendered Intelligence also advises secrecy from parents if the child wishes it:
“Pay particular attention to (physical) privacy and confidentiality – telling others (including their parents/carers) should, in most situations, only be done with the young person’s consent.”
Good Practice When Working with Young Trans People (2020) http://genderedintelligence.co.uk/professionals/resources
Educate and Celebrate
Educate and Celebrate elaborates on exactly how far a school can go without involving parents:
“If the student is in agreement, you can then refer them to your school learning mentors or counsellor, who will gather further information and work with the inclusion manager to make a decision as where best to access further support if needed. Usually this is a referral to CAMHS or a recommendation to see their GP. This is with a view to obtaining a diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’ for ongoing support (this can be rather pathologizing – see the Glossary of Key Terms below for a discussion on this term). Both of these can be done without parental consent. It is always best wherever possible to involve the parents, but unfortunately there are times when parents or carers do not support their child’s explorations about their gender identity. Some CAMHS are able to accept self-referrals and 13-16-year-olds have the same rights to confidentiality as adults when going to their GP.”
The new Department for Education guidelines also specify that resources from external agencies must comply with the Education Act 1996, which means that schools must ensure that they are not teaching only one side of a political issue. Transgender organisations all promote a system of ‘self-ID’, a highly-contested political position the government has rejected.
Resources must also be compliant with the Equality Act 2010. Here are a few examples of organisations that misrepresent the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010:
Educate and Celebrate
Educate and Celebrate erases the protected characteristic ‘Sex’ and replaces it with ‘Gender’, and replaces ‘Gender Reassignment’ with ‘Gender Identity’ which is not a protected characteristic:
The No Outsiders poster for Parkfield Community School does the same:
The new No Outsiders poster gets ‘Gender Reassignment’ right but still erases ‘Sex’:
Stonewall replaces the protected characteristic ‘Gender Reassignment’ with ‘Gender Identity’ which is not a protected characteristic:
“THE EQUALITY ACT 2010 requires schools to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
“Your policy should define bullying and outline the grounds on which it can take place, including on the grounds of the protected characteristics (sexual orientation, gender identity) under the Equality Act 2010”
Stonewall also redefines the meaning of the protected characteristic ‘sexual orientation’, changing ‘same-sex’ orientation to ‘same gender’:
“Homosexual: this might be considered a more medical term used to describe someone who has an emotional romantic and/or sexual attraction towards someone of the same gender.”
This blog post would be far too long if we went into all the ways transgender schools resources misrepresent the Equality Act, particularly in regard to single-sex facilities, but you can find more details on Stonewall guidance here, and on Relationship and Sex Education resources here. Download our simple guide to Equality law here.
All our schools resources and guides are available on our Schools Resources page.
The new Department for Education full guidance is here.