Kids must be protected from gender ideology
The UK government’s new trans guidance for schools marks a welcome return to sanity.
UK equalities minister Kemi Badenoch may not be Santa, and education minister Gillian Keegan makes for a piss-poor Rudolph. Nevertheless, between them, this pair have delivered a Christmas gift to every schoolchild in England. Yesterday, the government finally published its draft guidance for schools on how to accommodate gender-questioning pupils, five years after it was promised. If the guidelines are followed – and that remains a big if – they could protect the most vulnerable youngsters from the dangerous myths peddled by trans activists.
The government’s new advice to schools is fundamentally sound. The key messages of the guidance are that single-sex facilities should be maintained and that, as a general rule, parents should be fully informed if their children express a desire to change gender. It also advises that staff and students should not be pressured to adopt a child’s chosen pronouns, nor be punished if they get them wrong. However, it does allow teachers to keep a child’s trans identity from parents in ‘exceptionally rare’ circumstances – namely, when they believe telling the parents could put the child at ‘significant’ risk of harm.
The guidance is by no means perfect. Indeed, that last point has angered many on the gender-critical side of the debate. Some fear that activist teachers will use this ‘loophole’ to justify keeping parents in the dark in many more cases.
Criticism has also come from within the Conservative Party. Former prime minister Liz Truss has argued that ‘non-statutory guidance will provide insufficient protection and clarity’. Only a change in the law will do, she says. To this end, Truss introduced a Private Members’ Bill earlier this month that would clarify the meaning of sex in law and ban children from accessing cross-sex hormones. Theoretically, this would neuter a great deal of the trans lobby’s agenda. But without the support of the government, her bill seems fated to fail.
Meanwhile, some on the Labour benches have frothed that the guidance represents a return to Section 28 of the Local Government Act – the late-Eighties law that tried to ban teachers from ‘promoting’ homosexuality. Kate Osborne MP has made the disingenuous claim that, 20 years after Section 28 was finally repealed, the Tories are now ‘trying to effectively ban trans kids from existing’.
Predictably, trans lobby groups – many of whom make money from delivering trans training to teachers – are also furious. Beleaguered trans charity Mermaids wrongly claims that the guidance would ‘automatically’ exclude ‘trans pupils from facilities’ and ban them from sport. In truth, students will simply be expected to use the facilities and play in the sports teams that correspond with their sex. If followed, this recommendation would protect girls who, in some schools, have been expected to share changing rooms, dormitories and toilets with boys. Excluding boys from girls’ sports will also reduce girls’ risk of injury.
Mermaids has made one reasonable prediction, however. In a statement yesterday, it claimed that the ‘overwhelming majority of teachers and parents’ will ‘disregard these discriminatory guidelines’. Indeed, some trans activists have explicitly called on teachers to do so. This could render the guidance toothless.
Could the government have tightened up the loopholes in the guidance? Perhaps. Earlier in the year, Badenoch sought legal advice on instituting a total ban on social transitioning in schools. But this more hardline approach was blocked by attorney general Victoria Prentis, who argued it was potentially unlawful. Without new legislation, it seems unlikely that the guidance could have gone much further than it has.
Still, for all the shortcomings of the government’s approach, the advice itself is based resolutely on common sense. Ultimately, if the guidance holds, this will benefit everyone studying and working in a school. If it spares just one family the horror of finding out that teachers have ‘affirmed’ their child in the delusion that they are the opposite sex, it will be worthwhile. If it prevents one teenage girl from binding her breasts and injecting hormones bought online, then Badenoch and Keegan’s plan will have been a success.
This guidance may not be perfect, but it is a welcome start. Sanity is returning.
Jo Bartosch is a journalist campaigning for the rights of women and girls.
Picture by: Getty.
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