Marching on trans pride in July 2023 (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The Tories want to push through school guidance on trans+ children in 2024 that could have “a chilling effect akin to” the homophobic Section 28 law. But it doesn’t go far enough for many top Tories. 

The Tory non-statutory guidance, published in December, openly denies the existence of trans+ children, declaring, “We have not used the term transgender to describe children.” A consultation runs for 12 weeks.

The LGBT+ charity Stonewall warned, “If implemented, it would inevitably lead to real harm being caused to trans children and young people across England. 

“While non-statutory, it has the potential to have a chilling effect akin to Section 28, leaving children and young people who are trans or questioning their gender exposed to bullying and harassment.”

The Tory guidance does not want schools to respect trans+ children’s names, pronouns and needs. It outlines how, if a child asks a teacher to use a new name and pronouns as a part of their social transition, the school and teachers “should not automatically agree”. 

It says there should “be very few occasions in which a school or college will be able to agree to a change of pronouns”. And even on “these rare occasions, no teacher or pupil should be compelled to use these preferred pronouns”.

The Tories want to continue to import the “bathroom wars” from the US. The guidance says that “responding to a request to support any degree of social transition must not include allowing access” to single sex spaces. 

It advises schools to provide alternative spaces for transgender people to change and wash, but openly states that this should not be a priority. 

The guidance comes in the face of countless LGBT+ charities’ advice. Stonewall, the largest LGBT+ charity, found that 45 percent of young trans and non-binary people had attempted suicide at some point in their lives. 

In 2017 Stonewall advised the Department for Education to tackle transphobia in schools, instead of encouraging it.

Affirming transgender children’s identities is proven to improve their overall well-being and life chances. 

NEU education union general secretary Daniel Kebede said, “We need to remember that what is under discussion is a piece of non-statutory guidance, which is still in draft and out for consultation for 12 weeks. It is also important to underline that schools do not need to change their current policies at this stage.” 

This guidance is an attack on transgender children. It comes on top of a slew of Tory attacks such as blocking the Scottish parliament’s gender recognition reforms last year.

No sooner was the guidance published, Liz Truss and Suella Braverman attacked it for not being harsh enough. They hope to turn the consolation over the guidance, which runs until March, into a bigoted battleground in the run-up to a general election.

We need more protests and militancy.

Unions should defy the guidance and fight for schools to affirm and protect trans and non-binary students. Instead of implementing it, they should continue developing already existing policies on transgender students and staff in schools. 

We have to win a position in the labour movement and society that trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary people exist and should be respected. That means supporting protests and prides and encouraging a bigger fightback against the Tories as they try to use transphobia to divide us.

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