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LGBTQIA+ kids have enough on their plate without this proposed change in school policy

Queer parents in Sheffield are being asked to take action in response to a government consultation about trans young people.

A heart in rainbow colours made out of chalk dust on a dark background.
Alexander Grey

Queer kids are having a rough time at the moment. With many still reeling from the calculated brutality of Brianna Ghey’s killers, as well as facing homophobia and transphobia at school or at home, the last thing they need is for academic provision that is currently helpful to be replaced by something altogether more dangerous.

The government has begun a consultation on draft guidance on how schools should work with children who are questioning their gender, including that parents should almost always be informed if a child asks to socially transition (e.g. if they change their name, pronouns or clothing to feel more comfortable).

While it would be nice to think that all parents would react well to this disclosure from a school, the fact remains that if a child has not told their parents themselves, there is likely a reason for this and their privacy should be respected.

A piece of wood with a heart painted on it and the words Trans Rights in the centre.
Sierra Houk

akt, a charity for young LGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness, has found in its research that 24% of homeless young people are LGBT+, with three quarters believing that the main factor in this was coming out to their parents.

Research from the American organisation the Trevor Project has found that young LGBTQ+ people who have just one accepting adult in their life “were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year”. If that one accepting adult is a teacher, and a child no longer feels able to talk to them because they know their parents will be informed, this could considerably increase the risk to the young person’s mental health.

A different report from the same organisation says that “policies that require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun, or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, make 67% of transgender and nonbinary youth feel angry, 54% feel stressed, 51% feel scared, 46% feel nervous and 43% feel sad”.

In the midst of a mental health crisis among young people, and unbearably long waiting lists for young people who need mental health support, this feels reckless and dangerous.

The government’s draft guidance also vows to remove provision for trans young people to use the toilets and changing rooms that accord with their gender. This means trans girls will have to change with cis boys and cis girls will have to change with trans boys. It also insists that teachers and those around trans kids should not be made to use a young person’s chosen pronouns, despite this being an effortless way to help them to feel more at ease.

Sheffield Queer Parents, “an informal group run by queer parents, for queer parents, carers, and their kids, in and around Sheffield”, is asking queer parents across the city to contact their children’s schools, as well as to respond to the consultation. They have a draft letter available for anyone to use or adapt to contact their kid’s school’s head or governors.

A representative of Sheffield Queer Parents told Now Then:

As queer parents, most of who grew up under Section 28, we feel a huge concern about the potential harm the new guidance could do. As many of us have children in schools we decided the most useful approach for us would be to contact local schools in the hope that we can give them another perspective and signpost them to better resources that actually support trans kids.

We're asking that others join us and share our letter - it feels like it'll be more powerful coming from parents, teachers and others who already have links with schools.

LGBTQIA+ young people deserve support and solidarity, not punitive measures from a government determined to force them back into the closet. If they feel more able to be themselves at school than at home, removing that safety and security could be disastrous.

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