June 19th, 2023: This article has been updated with reports in The Sun
TL;DR: The government is set to release long-awaited guidance on how schools should treat transgender people in a matter of weeks. According to reports, it will advise schools to ban trans students from using the bathrooms of their choice and to out trans children to their parents, except where there are safeguarding issues.
Long-awaited guidance on how schools can support trans children is set to be released by the end of the summer school term.
According to reports in The Times and The Sun, newspapers with a long history of anti-trans editorial rhetoric, government advice will tell schools "to bar children who want to change their gender from using lavatories or changing facilities of the opposite sex".
But that's not the only striking piece of advice. Various reports suggest it will also advise teachers to 'out' transgender children to parents on the basis that "allowing children to change their names and pronouns can have a marked psychological impact."
What will the guidance say?
This explainer is based on two reports, on by The Times and one by The Sun - we don’t yet have confirmed details of the actual government guidance.
However, the government often leaks or drip feeds information on new policies and guidance to newspapers to 'test the water' and understand the backlash it could create. Equally, The Sun is a largely trustworthy source on these kinds of leaks due to their proximity to the Government sources.
If the guidance is released in this form, as now widely expected by the LGBTQIA+ third sector, it will set out several stark changes to schools. It could mean:
- Schools will be banned from letting kids change their gender if their parents say no
- Trans students will be banned from single-sex spaces, like bathrooms and changing facilities, based on what the government is increasingly calling "biological sex".
- Trans pupils could be outed to their parents if teachers discover they are trans
- Schools will prevent children who want to use pronouns different to those based on sex assigned at birth will be banned from competitive sport
- Even where parents are supportive, headteachers will have to "consider the mental effects on other children" before approving the gender change, following a long period of consideration.
- The government will tell teachers that affirming someone's gender identity could cause a "marked psychological impact".
Of course, that last point isn't contested. But what it means is.
Those with anti-trans views argue that affirming people's gender identity causes harm. Meanwhile, multiple studies show doing this actually positively impacts their psychological well-being.
One study by The Trevor Project found that when transgender people live with people who use their correct pronouns, it halves the chance they’ll try to take their life.
To put this in perspective, numerous studies have shown that half of all transgender people will attempt suicide at some point in their life. Trevor Project’s research shows that affirming someone’s gender identity can save their life.
What's the bigger picture?
This news comes after the Prime Minister wrote an article for The Daily Express to tell the nation 'what a woman was'. In it, he set out how he believes "biological sex", the anti-trans dog whistle that can barely be defined by those who use it, trumps all else.
Though the government hasn't indicated it will take up EHRC advice to create a legal route to ban transgender people from some spaces, it's no surprise this guidance echoes those calls.
It comes despite evidence that so-called ‘bathroom bills’ do not work and even make bathrooms less safe for women.
If the guidance is released as expected, it could pave the way for the government to ban transgender people from single-sex spaces in broader society.
Analysis: Latest government rhetoric relying on anti-trans dog-whistles
A clip of TV pundit Marianna Purkiss on GB News with Jacob Rees-Mogg recently went viral. In it, she argued the government was picking 'culture war' fights to distract people from the real problems the UK faces - many caused by the government.
This issue is no different. There is no proven issue with transgender pupils using bathrooms at schools.
While schools have been crying out for compassionate guidance on how to support trans children for years, this guidance will do something altogether different.
Instead of supporting vulnerable, trans children, it will create a legal framework - and, perhaps more worryingly, an imperative - for schools to discriminate against transgender children - even when they don't want to. Meanwhile, the act of ‘outing’ has been shown repeatedly, in whatever context, to be harmful, never helpful.
If released, it will be this generation's Section 28, which prevented schools and local services from 'promoting' materials about LGBTQIA+ people to young people. Except, arguably, it's reach and impact will be far worse.
The Government, run by the Conservative party, are again set to impose inherently prejudiced values on a generation of young people. This time, the government will mandate schools to send the message that being transgender is not ok - it's yet another frightening prospect.
This latest revelation is little surprise. But it is striking, frightening and stark.
If the government moves forward with this guidance, it will tell young people, at the most formative stage in their life, that it’s ok for their identity to be discriminated against.
Just like Section 28, it will create a generation of young people scared to be transgender, for fear of what the government will do next.
It's a 'culture war' issue, generated to distract and divide - not guidance or legislation based on what people want, feel or need.
It's able to do this in a media ecosphere hooked on transphobia, ‘culture wars’ and clickbait. Instead of questioning what government guidance will mean for one of the smallest and most vulnerable groups in society - it’s cashing in on hate clicks.
It's time for a different kind of media. One that asks critical questions of the government and opposition instead of simply echoing prejudice. That hires represents and understands LGBTQIA+ people.
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