Statement on government draft guidance for trans children in schools in England

At FFLAG we have spent the last 30 years supporting the parents of LGBTQ+ children and young adults. Our lived experiences as parents have consistently shown that schools are often a hostile place for LGBTQ+ students. We need our schools to be safe and inclusive spaces but this draft guidance, if implemented, would undoubtedly make schools less safe for trans, intersex, non-binary and gender questioning children.  

The draft guidance is so fundamentally flawed we request it be withdrawn in its current form and a new consultation process is started, building on the good practices already in place to support gender questioning children in many schools. This draft guidance fails children, fails teachers and fails parents and families. 

The draft guidance barely mentions the ‘best interest’ principle enshrined in the Children Act 1989 and it is hard to see how the guidance can ever operate in a way that acts in the best interests of a gender questioning child. Instead, the draft guidance seems to prioritise the feelings of everyone else – other pupils, parents, teachers – at the expense of the gender questioning child and on the false assumption that those other people will somehow be scared or upset or inconvenienced by the gender questioning child. The draft guidance is virtually silent on how schools should positively support the gender questioning child.

The draft guidance appears to be based on the implicit assumption that gender questioning students are a risk to others and not individuals worthy of support and care in their own right. We reject that assumption categorically – it has no basis in evidence and is actually contradicted by paragraph 203 of the government’s own safeguarding statutory guidance, ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education 2023’ (‘KCSIE23’).  

The proposal that schools should “out” children to their parents against the child’s wishes is bad guidance and will undoubtedly increase harm for children and parents. The presumption that all parents of gender questioning children will be supportive is sadly wrong. As parents we want schools to be a safe space for our children but this draft guidance would remove the ability for schools to be that safe space for gender questioning children, something that also directly contradicts paragraph 204 of the existing statutory guidance ‘KCSIE23’.  

We believe this draft guidance comes from a place of hostility to gender questioning children, not support. The draft barely mentions the word transgender, says almost nothing about non binary identities and makes no mention at all of intersex children. The use of phrases like ‘gender confusion’ and ‘contested belief’ seem designed to belittle and undermine. 

As parents of LGBTQ+ children we can speak to the truth that our children know who they are, know who they are attracted to, and understand their gender.  The attempt to dismiss this reality as a ‘contested belief’ speaks to how harmful this guidance really is. It should be withdrawn and a fresh draft created, promoting inclusion and responding to the needs of teachers, trans children and their families.

Consultation on the draft guidance runs until 12th March 2024. We encourage everyone to respond to the consultation  and to write to your MP to voice your concerns.

September 2023 Newsletter

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FFLAG’s new Patron – Bobbi Pickard

The Trustees of FFLAG are proud and delighted to announce that Bobbi Pickard has agreed to become a patron of our charity.

Bobbi is the Founder of Trans in the City, a trans-national partnership of corporations and organisations working together to further inclusion of transgender, non-binary and gender diverse people in business.

Bobbi commented, “I have so much love and respect for FFLAG and its amazing members. I know few organisations with such inspirational, lovely and dedicated people so I am absolutely delighted. I am really looking forward to working with the trustees and volunteers on our shared aim of legal and social equality for all and providing support for families with LGBT+ family members.”

Sarah Furley, Vice Chair of FFLAG, said, “Family understanding, acceptance and support are crucial for LGBT+ children if they are to fulfil their potential and live authentic and happy lives. Bobbi’s involvement will help FFLAG extend the reach of our support for families with LGBT+ members across the UK and beyond, particularly to parents seeking to support trans children. Her name alone will help us to reach families who need our support and, indeed, to recruit parent volunteers willing to share their experiences with other parents setting out on the road to understanding and acceptance.”

Ban Conversion ‘Therapy’ – Please Take Action

The UK Government has finally announced a ban on conversion practices – but under the proposed legislation trans people will not be protected

Over 145,000 people signed the petition ‘Ensure Trans people are fully protected under any conversion therapy ban.’ Parliament must therefore debate the proposition, and this debate will take place on Monday 13 June at 4.30 p.m. This date is a week earlier than originally announced.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/613556

This means there is still time to write to your MP and urge them to speak up for trans people in this debate. You might draw their attention to the statements from the British Medical Association (BMA) BMA Statement

and the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)  BACP statement

and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU ) signed by over 25 health, counselling and psychotherapy organisations which calls for an end to the practice of conversion therapy in the UK.

These professionals do not see a conflict between their professional practice and a trans inclusive ban. Rather they call for an end for everyone to what the government themselves described as ‘the coercive and abhorrent practice of conversion therapy.’ When introducing their consultation on Banning Conversion Therapy in December 2021, the government also stated ‘we want every individual to have the freedom to be themselves.’ But now we find they have let our loved ones down.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/banning-conversion-therapy/banning-conversion-therapy

Please  Contact your MP   and ask them to speak up for our families in the debate and support a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy.

Please add your personal experiences to this professional evidence and urge your MP to ensure that the government makes good on their promise to protect everyone. Our trans children deserve the same rights, respect and protection from coercive and abhorrent practices as their cisgender siblings.

Ban Conversion “Therapy”

The UK Government has made a commitment to ban conversion therapy for LGBT+ people and has published detailed proposals for implementing a ban.  However, rather than proceeding with legislation as other countries have done, the UK Government has opened a consultation, open to all, seeking views. 

There are a number of loopholes in the government’s proposals which would still allow conversion therapy procedures to take place in some circumstances. 

It is vitally important that as many LGBT+ people, allies and organisations make their views known.  FFLAG supports a complete ban on all forms of conversion “therapy” and will be submitting a response that makes this clear. 

The consultation closes on 4th February 2022. 

The Government proposals can be found here: 

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/banning-conversion-therapy/banning-conversion-therapy

Please join us in making your views known by submitting your responses here:

Banning conversion therapy – Equality Hub – Citizen Space

https://equalityhub.citizenspace.com/government-equalities-office/banning-conversion-therapy/

Excellent guidance on submitting your response can be found here:

https://www.banconversiontherapy.com/

How Do I Tell my Children? – I’m Transgender

Celebrating Trans Awareness Week 2021, FFLAG is delighted to be publishing the latest booklet in our support series ‘How Do I Tell my Children?  – I’m Transgender.’ The creation of this booklet was prompted by an increasing number of requests for support from trans parents who wanted to break the news of their transition to their children. It joins the family of FFLAG booklets, ‘How Do I Tell My Parents?’ and ‘A Guide for Family and Friends’ which are available in LGB and T versions.

All FFLAG’s booklets are written from personal experience so for ‘How Do I Tell my Children?’ we’ve collaborated with trans parents who’ve generously shared their experiences. The booklet is packed with quotes describing how contributors explained their transition to their children.

Bobbi Pickard from Trans in the City said:

‘Luckily, as we can see from many of the wonderful quotes in this booklet there can be – and usually is with time – acceptance and in many cases that acceptance is gloriously absolute. Personally, I think that’s because exactly the thing that makes us so anxious about telling our children – love – is the thing that carries us across so many seemingly stormy waters.’

The booklet will be launched on FFLAG’s stall at Trans Pride South West’s Community Day in Bristol on 20 November 2021 and is available to download from FFLAG’s website.

Excellence in Relationships Education

Relationships education has become compulsory in schools.

FFLAG has just launched a set of principles with FASTN (www.fastn.org) to help schools, teachers, governors and educational leaders equip young people with the relationship skills they need to thrive. This initiative’s inclusive approach will help all of our children to understand and empathise with each other and form positive friendships throughout their lives.

Read more here: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/principles-of-excellence-in-relationships-education-12414238

Rainbow Lottery

Gender-specific toilets – FFLAG’s view

FFLAG considers the UK Government’s proposal to require gender-specific toilets for men and women in building standards guidance to be wrong and illogical. This is the text of our response to the consultation:

Toilet provision for men and women

FFLAG is the UK’s charity for families with LGBT+ children (of all ages) and their friends. On this occasion, however, we write with concern for all our children regardless of their sexuality, gender identity or gender expression.

The government’s stated position is that “there needs to be proper provision of gender-specific toilets for both men and women, with a clear steer in building standards guidance”. We do not comprehend the logic of the government’s conclusion for the following reasons.

We agree that toilets, both in municipal and private sector locations, are an important facility for members of the public. As a parent-led charity, we are concerned that the sole reference to children in the consultation document describes the need for changing facilities, which we take to mean baby-changing facilities, yet this need is completely consistent with, and can be better met, within gender-neutral toilets.

We invite you to consider how gender-neutral toilets solve the problem that a parent with a child of the opposite sex has in accompanying that child into single-sex toilets. It is safer and more appropriate for a mother to accompany her young son into a gender-neutral toilet facility than for her to take him into a female-only facility. The same is just as true for a father with a young daughter, or for a parent of two children of different sexes. This is a very common difficulty to which no weight seems to have been given in the consultation.

The consultation states that gender-neutral toilets place women at a significant disadvantage because “men can … use both cubicles and urinals, [whereas] women can only use the former”. This flies in the face of our experience of existing gender-specific facilities, where queues regularly form outside the female toilets at busy times. Furthermore, if the building regulations were amended to mandate gender-neutral toilets, combining the hand-washing areas in gender-specific toilets into a single shared handwashing space in a gender-neutral toilet facility would release space to provide more cubicles. A separate area within a gender-neutral toilet facility providing urinals could be offered, if desired, to speed throughput of male users, thus keeping the cubicles free. The combined traffic through the shared space in gender-neutral toilets has the added advantage of increasing security for all users and makes using the facilities much easier for families. You can see how successfully this works in swimming pools and leisure centres, where the trend has moved to provision of mixed changing areas which are entirely cubicles.

The consultation states that “signage should be clear and should not seek to avoid the use of gender-specific language unnecessarily as this causes public confusion”. We invite you to consider the simple fact that all confusion can be avoided by using signage that simply states “Toilets”. It is only when you impose a requirement for gender-specific toilets that signage becomes problematical.

We are pleased that the government appears well-disposed towards gender-neutral Changing Places toilets for disabled people, to facilitate carers/partners of a different sex providing assistance. As noted above, the same consideration should apply in regard to assistance and oversight of minor children.

Gender-neutral toilets are currently the norm on aeroplanes, trains and coaches and are commonplace in many other countries. If the government believes it necessary to mandate gender-specific toilets in the building regulations, surely aircraft, train and coach builders would need to be required to follow suit? This would be an extraordinary outcome and very difficult to achieve, practically and financially.

Requiring the provision of gender specific toilets will also mean that separate unisex toilets will be required for non binary people. This will place an additional burden of costs and practical difficulty on public buildings, which will have to find space to provide male, female, gender neutral, Changing Places and accessible toilets. We know how difficult it is for our trans and non binary children who are frequently challenged when they simply wish to use a public toilet[i]. The insistence on separating and policing toilet use on the basis of two sexes creates problems for parents, children and for anybody whose physical appearance is judged not to meet stereotypical norms. This is an unnecessary stress for people who simply want to use a toilet.

We conclude that this consultation is based upon a flawed understanding of the merits of gender-neutral toilet provision and we call upon the government to reassess its stated position.

[i] Here’s just one example of an incident which happened recently to a 14-year-old from one of our support groups. This young person was challenged coming out of the toilets in a major supermarket. They were assigned female at birth and present in a neutral kind of way. They had been buoyed up that day because they’d been to the hairdresser and, without asking, had been given a ‘male’ style of cut, with sideburns. Although they identify as non binary, they were thrilled that the hairdresser hadn’t read them as a girl. But having gone into the supermarket, they needed the toilet and, after worrying about it, decided they had better use the ladies’ toilet because they didn’t want to be challenged and they knew that people who object to trans people using the ‘wrong’ toilet argue that you should use the toilet matching your birth certificate. So they used the female toilet – and when they exited found that two women had called the security guard who challenged them when they came out, which was very distressing, and totally unnecessary. Insisting on male and female toilets makes it impossible for these young people to make the right choice, yet there is a very simple solution which can benefit all families.

 

FFLAG’s reaction to High Court GIDS ruling

FFLAG is disappointed and deeply concerned by the Judgment handed down on 1 December in the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) Judicial Review. We know that this is causing immense anxiety and distress to trans children and their families. This judgment places a barrier on essential healthcare to trans children, which our other children do not face.

GIDS is a specialist service which offers a safe and supportive environment to families with children exploring their gender identity. We trust the expert clinicians and know that discussion and psychological support are the main elements of treatment. These important decisions for our children’s safety and wellbeing are not rushed; the approach is cautious and considered and only a minority of those referred access puberty blockers. The waiting lists for a first appointment are currently around two years. Further delays and obstacles to treatment will harm our children.

We welcome the Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust’s stated intention to appeal this ruling. We will not stand by whilst those who most need care and support are discriminated against and we continue to offer support to families with a trans member.