Two schools stories were published last week on consecutive days, one from a gay teacher in, presumably, a state secondary school and the other reporting on new guidelines for the treatment of transgender pupils at boarding schools. On July 16 the Guardian Teacher Network, as part of their Secret Teacher series, published a piece entitled “My School Tried To Stop Me Being Openly Gay.” The following day Telegraph Education published this piece entitled “Boarding School Teachers Told To Address Transgender Pupils As ‘Zie’ In Guidance On Gender Neutral Terminology.”
Although the first story represents only one school’s policies, both the article and the comments below it illustrate the fact that, in 2016 in the UK, a school can still get away with homophobic attitudes and discrimination. The teacher’s NQT mentor suggests that the revelation that he is gay could put him in a “vulnerable position” with pupils, as if homophobia within the student body is to be expected, rather than challenged. Senior management feels free to issue a warning to him, after interrogation, not to reveal his sexual orientation to pupils, and he is further “strongly urged” not to discuss his sexuality with pupils by a more senior manager a week later. The teacher says:
“…realising that it’s not always OK to be gay was a big disappointment. It pains me that some school leaders are sending the wrong message to staff and students.”
Contrast this with the message teachers are being urged to send to transgender pupils in order to “avoid offence” even to the extent of learning a “new language” towards students who “demand” not to be addressed as “he” or “she.”
In official guidance, issued by the Boarding Schools Association, teachers are taught a whole “new vocabulary to address new gender identities including ‘genderqueer,’a term used by individuals who identify as neither male nor entirely female” – even though these pupils will still be either male or female, and “he” and “she” are simply pronouns relating to those categories; the function of pronouns is not to describe personality.
The author of the new guidelines, Elly Barnes, founder of charity Educate and Celebrate, said that as more trans pupils ‘come out’ in boarding schools, it becomes an imperative to ‘break the binary,’ citing figures that show that roughly 10 per cent of the population in the UK identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual – groups which are not in fact “identities” but sexual orientations.
The fact that gays and lesbians are co-opted to support trans policies, as if they can all be lumped in together, is very revealing of the lack of concern about pupils who are same-sex attracted and an ignorance about how these trans-centric policies may further harm them. Some pupils caught up in this trend will be gay and lesbian young people who are being convinced that they are really “trans,” a category which is currently so much cooler amongst the young. Transgender organisations can influence primary school pupils with ‘trapped in the wrong body’ doctrine years before the subject of sexual orientation is introduced, giving children an interpretation of their own behaviour and interests which precludes being gay or lesbian, a far more likely outcome. Schools increasingly collude in the social transition of young children, denying them the right to grow up and discover their sexual orientation first.
Alex Thompson, deputy chief executive of the Boarding Schools’ Association, said:
“It’s amazing how complicated the whole thing is in a community where the norms are the ones we have accepted for years. It’s tricky for individuals that are having difficulty accepting there is something beyond the binary system of gender we take for granted. Adults for the first time are meeting a pupil who says ‘My name is Bill but I wear a dress. One day I could be male, or female or right in the middle.’”
It really is amazing how complicated things are if we decide that the ‘norm’ of biological sex no longer exists, after being around “for years”. And it’s magical how pupils now seemingly have the ability to be male one day, female the next, and then “right in the middle.”
The fact that teaching associations are issuing new guidelines which don’t make any sense makes them look both gullible and eager to please in a way we haven’t seen before in support of gay and lesbian students. Transgender activist organisations are invited into primary schools; ‘gender’ surveys are sponsored by the Department of Education, primary schools give lessons to parents and children on ‘gender identity’, city councils invite parents to register 3 year-olds as the ‘gender they identify with,’ School Associations debate how to help transgender pupils ‘come out’ and are advised not to call girls ‘girls.’
The casual homophobia revealed in the first story perhaps explains why there is neither the will to unpick the claims of transgenderism in order to assess the impact on gay and lesbian pupils, nor any critical examination of how celebrating and supporting trans identities above all others may conflict with the rights of other vulnerable student groups.