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LGBTQ charity warns schools against UK government trans guidance

"We encourage teachers to stand for inclusion, not exclusion"

By Alastair James

Just Like Us has criticised the government's trans guidance
Just Like Us has criticised the government's trans guidance (Image: Pexels)

A charity has encouraged schools to reject recent guidance set out by the UK government on dealing with trans pupils.

Just Like Us, which supports young LGBTQ+ people, issued its advice on Monday (22 January), over a month after the guidance was issued.

The guidance, which at this stage is only a draft and non-statutory, has been lambasted by Just Like Us as “deeply disappointing,” and “alienating” for trans pupils. They also say the guidance is “unclear” and “impractical,” and also raises legal issues. After the guidance was published in December, it was revealed that the government was warned of legal challenges.

“We encourage school leaders and teachers to continue supporting all LGBT+ young people,” Just Like Us said in a statement. Then, without any room for doubt, the charity wrote: “We recommend schools do not implement this draft, non-statutory guidance. We encourage teachers to stand for inclusion, not exclusion.”

The charity also called for trans and gender-diverse children “to be respected, valued and have the right to learn in a safe school environment.” Pointing to its own research Just Like Us highlighted how inclusive education benefits everyone.

One young trans person Just Like Us works with, Rain, warned following the advice from the government could be “catastrophic.” They also called on everyone to support trans people. Another young trans person, Elliot Kwabena, said that the government’s guidance would “exacerbate an environment of intolerance in schools at a time when transphobic bullying is rife at all key stages”

Just Like Us will submit a detailed consultation explaining how the government’s guidance fails to support LGBT+ young people. The charity also stated its hope that the UK government revises its guidance.

“Cruel & unworkable”

Broadly, the UK government’s guidance advises schools to take a “cautious approach” to allowing children to social transition. This means children changing their names and pronouns. The government has also advised schools that they don’t have to grant requests from pupils to socially transition. Parents could also be informed if children do come forward about transitioning, effectively outing a child.

The guidance effectively suggests allowing a child to socially transition should be the last resort of schools. The government advised: “Schools and colleges should exhaust all other options, such as using first names, to avoid requiring other individuals having to use preferred pronouns.” After the publication in December, the advice was blasted as “cruel & unworkable.”

Contrary to what the government suggests, those who are allowed to transition, socially or otherwise, document the benefits they feel. Reports in the last few years have painted a worrying picture of young LGBTQ people’s mental health.

Just Like Us reported in June that young LGBTQ people were more than twice as likely to have had suicidal thoughts and feelings than their cisgender peers.