The new official Scottish schools guidance published recently by LGBT Youth Scotland with the support of the Scottish government has gained a lot of attention throughout the press and broadcast media over the past week.
There has been quite a discussion. These are the points in the guidance which caused the most concern:
- Children ‘should be supported to explore and express their gender identity regardless of their age’ and ‘it is important not to deny their identity, or overly question their understanding of their gender identity’
- Teachers are advised not to ‘disclose information to parents or carers without the young person’s permission’
- Transgender pupils should be allowed to choose which toilets / changing rooms they use. Children who feel uncomfortable about sharing facilities with someone of the opposite sex can wait until after the transgender child has finished or use alternative facilities such as an accessible toilet. Parents with concerns about their child sharing toilets and / or changing rooms with a pupil of the opposite sex should be reminded of the school’s ethos of inclusion, equality and respect
- Transgender pupils should be able to compete in the sports category they feel most comfortable with, male or female
- Parents should not be informed if their child is sharing rooms with pupils of the opposite sex on school trips
- If a parent is ‘struggling to come to terms with their child’s identity’ teachers are advised that it ‘may be useful to approach the local authority’
But none of this is new; the points above are reflected in all transgender/LGBT schools resources throughout the UK which have been around for a while now. Taking the points one by one, this is what other schools guidance says:
1. Transition in primary school
“A young person may tell you or others that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans at primary school. They may express this differently and may not use the words lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. The most important things are to listen and reassure them, encourage them to talk about how they feel and what they need to feel welcome and included at school, ask if they’ve talked to their parents or carers and let them know you are there to support” – Stonewall
“..the number of gender variant people of all ages who are willing to reveal their ‘core’ gender identities is growing rapidly..” – GIRES
“It is important to acknowledge that children in primary school may socially transition. The right time to transition will be when the child or young person feels they are ready”
“Allow individuals to self-identify”
“If a child or young person transitions whilst in the school community, it is important that all staff are led by the language that the child or young person is using about themselves and that all staff are advised of the name and pronoun change if applicable”- Allsorts Youth Project
“It is vital that the young person’s gender identity is respected. Let them express how they identify or need to express their gender. Supporting a young person’s identity when they are going through transition is very important. Correct pronouns and new names must always be used out of respect, support and safety”
“Changing schools or transitioning when moving from primary to secondary or from secondary to further education can also be a popular choice” – Association of Teachers & Lecturers (ATL)
2. Not telling parents
“Explicitly state that disclosing someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, whether they are staff or pupils, without their consent is a breach of confidentiality. This includes disclosures to a pupil’s parents or carers” – Stonewall
“Trans and gender questioning pupils have the right to discuss and express their gender identity openly and to decide when, with whom, and how much information to share. Confidential information must not be shared even with the parents and carers without the child or young person’s permission unless there are safeguarding reasons for doing so” – Allsorts Youth Project
“If you have a trans+ student who is comfortable talking to you, it’s important not to reveal their trans+ status to anybody without their express permission” – Educate and Celebrate
“The first thing to do is have a conversation with the young person and – with their permission – their family in order to assess their needs. Support must be based on the needs of the young person and their family and where those differ the needs of the young person must take priority” – ATL
“It must be recognised that people have their own prejudices. A parent or guardian may not always be the most supportive or appropriate person to assist the young person through transitioning. It may not be necessary for a parent or guardian to provide permission for a Trans pupil or student to take steps to transition as there may be issues raised of Fraser competence if parents will not consent” – LGBTQ Youth Cornwall
“As far as possible, care should be taken to ensure the wishes of the individual pupil or student are taken into account, with a view to supporting them during potential transition”
“Confidential information must not be shared even with the parents and carers without the child or young person’s permission, unless there are safeguarding reasons for doing so. School staff should not disclose information that may reveal a pupil or student’s transgender status or gender- nonconforming presentation 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 asked them to do so” – East Sussex County Council
3. Toilets and changing facilities
“These must be immediately available in line with the young person’s affirmed gender and their wishes; the school may include unisex facilities, not for the child who transitions, but for others who don’t want to share or who are non-binary and prefer these” – GIRES
“Pupils and students have the right to access the toilet that corresponds to their gender identity. Single gender toilets can cause issues for pupils and students who do not identify with a gender binary such as boy / girl”
“Educational settings may be concerned about the responses of some parents and carers to trans pupils using the toilets or changing rooms that correspond to their gender identity and schools can reassure themselves and the wider community that this is supported by the Equality Act and not in any way a safeguarding issue. When a parent or carer raises a concern about the safety of their child when spending time in the company of a trans identified pupil or staff member, support work should be aimed at answering the question ‘how can we make your child feel more safe?’ rather than compromising the rights of the trans person”
“In all cases, trans pupils or students should have access to the changing room that corresponds to their gender identity. Any pupil or student who has a need or desire for increased privacy, regardless of the underlying reason, should be provided with a reasonable alternative changing area such as the use of a private area or with a separate time to change”
“Scenario 2 Parent to school: ‘My daughter doesn’t want a boy changing next to her, what if he looks at her body?’
Underpinning this scenario is the idea that a trans girl is not a ‘real girl’ and this would be something that a whole setting approach would challenge through training and awareness raising. A Human Rights response would be to state that the child is a girl and as such has the right under the Equality Act to change with the girls and to be treated fairly as such. In response to this parental concern, it would not be appropriate to remove the trans pupil from the changing rooms. Instead, it would be far more appropriate to look at offering an alternative changing arrangement for the child who feels uncomfortable around the trans pupil” – Allsorts Youth Project
Pupils must be supported in “using the toilets / changing rooms for their gender identity” – Educate and Celebrate
“The young person should not be told that they must use the changing rooms that correspond with the gender they were assigned at birth. There is nothing within law or safeguarding practice that should prevent a trans child from using the facilities associated with their gender identity”
“Ask the young person what would make them most comfortable. If what they want is realistic and possible, then go with it”- ATL
“Pupils and students have the right to access the toilet that corresponds to their gender identity. Ideally schools would provide single stall toilets that can be used by all. Some schools have already begun to use this system with success. If need be, a member of staff or designated pupils or students can be allocated as ‘toilet monitor’ during break times to ensure that pupils and students feel safe while using the facilities. Some cisgendered females, however, have expressed concerns about these toilets and the fact others might know they have their periods because of time spent in the toilet – there may be a case for also exploring how this range of needs can be met.
In most cases, trans* pupils or students should have access to the changing room that corresponds to their gender identity. This approach is underpinned by the Equality Act 2010, whereby refusing a child or young person access to the changing room of their true gender identity would constitute an act of discrimination” – East Sussex County Council
“Schools and educational settings should aim to reduce as far as possible segregating pupils and students by gender. Trans pupils and students should be supported to equally access PE and where lessons are segregated by gender should be enabled to participate in the activity which corresponds to their gender identity if this is what they request”
“Scenario 3 Parent to school: ‘It’s not fair that he enters the 100 metres race for girls when he is a boy’ or ‘Won’t she get injured playing rugby with boys?’
Underpinning this scenario is the idea that all boys or all girls share the same physical attributes and fails to acknowledge that there is a range of differences in physical strength and ability within single gender groups. Trans boys are boys, not girls, and therefore entitled to play rugby with boys and in consultation with relevant sporting bodies. Teachers already differentiate according to ability. Trans pupils and students are entitled to access sporting opportunities equally to cisgender pupils and students” – Allsorts Youth Project
“With regard to young Trans people at school or college PE lessons, there should be reasonably few, if any issues regarding participation within the sports of their true gender”
“There may be sports where, as puberty develops, MtoF Trans participants may have a physical advantage over other girls but this should not present a problem within a carefully and sensitively managed lesson context”
“The issue of physical risk within certain sports should also be managed properly within the lesson context rather than by preventing young Trans people from participating (which would be discriminatory)” – LGBTQ Youth Cornwall
“Schools should aim to reduce as far as possible segregating pupils and students by gender. Trans* pupils and students should be supported to enable equal access to PE and where lessons are segregated by gender should be enabled to participate in the activity which corresponds to their gender identity if this is what they request.
Concerns have been raised that some trans* pupils and students may be at a competitive advantage, particularly young trans* women, whose bodies may well have developed slightly stronger than their genetic female class mates. This however should not be a problem if lessons are carefully structured and managed and learning appropriately differentiated” – East Sussex County Council
5. School trips
“As far as possible, trans pupils and students should be able to sleep in dorms appropriate to their gender identity. Some trans children and young people may not feel comfortable doing this and in such cases alternative sleeping and living arrangements should be made” – Allsorts Youth Project
6. Warning to parents
“If a setting has a significant concerns about the child’s wellbeing and / or safety in relation to how the parents or carers are managing the exploration of the child’s gender identity it may be necessary and advisable to follow safeguarding procedures” – Allsorts Youth Project
The material here doesn’t even include the most extreme transgender organisations such as Gendered Intelligence, who have been going into schools since 2008, or Mermaids who have just been given a grant from the Department of Education to deliver training to 35 schools over the next two and a half years.
The most striking aspect of this guidance is the blithe normalisation of childhood ‘transition’ which puts children at risk of invasive and untested medical procedures which will keep them medical patients for life. Children are taught from the earliest age to re-conceptualise their defiance of sex-role stereotypes as ‘questioning their gender identity’ and the medicalisation of non-conformity is supported and reinforced to all children.
These transgender schools resources will not help and support ‘gender questioning children’ but create them.
There is no acknowledgment anywhere in these materials that girls also have rights under the protected characteristic ‘sex’ and that schools have a legal duty to uphold the rights of girls too. The denial of biological sex and the redefinition of the words ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ as ‘gender identities’ effectively obscures the fact that girls have rights and protections as a sex.
All children have the right to be taught facts based on reality, not ideology masquerading as truth.
The teaching union ATL, as well as promoting transgender activist organisations Gendered Intelligence, Mermaids and GIRES, chooses to endorse the most practically and ideologically extreme of all the schools guidance examples we have listed here.
“The Trans Inclusion Schools Toolkit from Brighton and Hove City Council and the Allsorts Youth Project, a charity that works with young LGBT people, is one of the best and most comprehensive guidance documents available in the UK.”