Press photo of Gillian Keegan who works at the DfE and signed the document regarding trans youth in schools. Photo via Wikimedia commons.
Press photo of Gillian Keegan who works at the DfE and signed the document regarding trans youth in schools. Photo via Wikimedia commons.

The Department for Education, working closely with the Government Equalities Hub, has released its non-statutory guidance for trans youth in schools. It is not legally binding, obviously bigoted and unlikely to be wholly lawful.

It’s completely pathetic that I have to report on the fact that some of the most powerful people in the country have decided to attempt to bully some of the most vulnerable people in the country. Trans youth in schools deserve better than this garbage which amounts to nothing more than purposeful cruelty for the sake of the cruelty itself.

The title of the document could be somewhat forgiven – “Gender Questioning Children” – if it weren’t for the contents. The document makes it patently clear that this government does not believe in the legitimacy of trans youth via dogwhistle terminology such as “gender identity ideology” which appears in the foreword.

The foreword continues making a handful of bigoted points before repeating the same line trans people have heard a thousand times over since it was said once in the Interim Cass Review: “social transition is not a neutral act”.

Nobody said it was and by extension of this neither is disallowing, preventing or otherwise putting up barriers between trans youth in schools and social transition. Of the choices we have, none are neutral but, allowing and supporting social transition is the act which causes the least harm and disruption while protecting everyone’s human rights.

There is no two ways about this; all proposals made by those opposing trans youth in schools or out fail to respect trans youth’s human rights. Every single one, this one included!

The document frames this as “there is no general duty to allow a child to ‘social transition'” but in actual fact trans youth in schools have all the rights they need to engage in social transition. Schools have absolutely zero authority to prevent or otherwise obstruct this, doing so could seem the fall foul of the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act.

Actions such as those suggested in bullet point 4 of the foreward ie “Parents should not be excluded from decisions taken by a school or college relating to requests for a child to ‘socially transition'” threaten the human right to privacy that trans youth in schools deserve to have respected as much as anyone else.

A child has a right to privacy even from their parents which must be respected unless there is a clear and evident safeguarding risk through non-disclosure. The right to privacy itself acts as a safeguarding measure by making it harder for children to be outed to potentially abusive parents.

The document in fact recognises this asserting that trans people’s existence is a “contested belief” and that “many people believe this concept is one that reinforces setereotypes and social norms relating to sex”. It seems this is the group of people the document is designed to appeal to, as opposed to supporting trans youth in schools.

The document opens its language section with a rather bizarre justification for refusing to refer to trans youth in schools as “transgender” throughout. Currently in the UK you cannot obtain a gender recognition certificate until you are 18. Yes that is really their justification for this.

However the Equality Act 2010 makes it very clear that one is protected from anti-trans discrimination from the moment they “propose to undergo” a process of gender reassignment. It does not protect people of a specific age range nor does it solely protect binary transgender people from discriminatory behaviour.

This would, obviously, include trans youth in schools.

The document continues after this outlining its proposals for how schools are to “support” trans youth in schools but its ultimately unactionable. School teachers aren’t therapists, counsellors, or trained in any kind of field that would give them the expertise to handle the job DfE are attempting to saddle them with.

The first point this document makes is that schools should “allow for watchful waiting” should a child approach them with a request for social transition. What does that mean? How do you “watchfully wait” over one specific kid in a school of a thousand or more? What happens after the arbitrary wait period? How do you – an underpaid overworked teacher – know the kid is truly serious?

You don’t. You can’t. Teachers are not in any way trained to handle this and even if they were they almost certainly wouldn’t have the time to handle this. The only workable solution that doesn’t fall foul of any equality or human rights law is to accept the child for who they say they are.

This is why the document is careful to point out that it uses two different terms for when something is a legal obligation of a school vs when its simply guidance from DfE you can ignore for being obviously bigoted. “Must” for legal obligations, “should” for guidance.

They know that they cannot legally obligate teachers into bigoted behaviours and that what they are asking is probably unlawful so they are just suggesting it and then its your fault if you do it, not theirs. Numerous teachers have already been fired for transphobic behaviours in schools.

The guidance is to be consulted on by experts in the sector, pupils, parents etc. I absolutely expect that there will be massive re-writes to this as it in no way works to support trans youth in schools, nor does it help teachers deal with any conflicts that may arise due to transphobia.

It is a plan that is completely unworkable, repeatedly unlawful and which right from the get go inserts anti-trans dogwhistles about “contested beliefs” as if you can simply believe trans kids don’t exist hard enough and they’ll all fucking vanish.

They won’t. They will just get angry – and angry trans folk get shit done.