Teachers told to hold ‘celebratory’ events to welcome trans students’ transitions
Schools have been told to celebrate trans students who are transitioning with cake and an “upbeat” message.
Attendees at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference this week were also urged to familiarise students with the facilities matching their gender identity before they transitioned.
Trans activist Terry Reed, who set up the Gender Identity Research and Education Society with her husband Bernard after their daughter transitioned in the 90s, added that acceptance was key.
But the reaction of teachers should be more positive than basic tolerance, she said.
“It doesn’t have to be cake,” she said. “It’s just making it an upbeat, ‘we’re absolutely behind you and with you’ message immediately, so that it doesn’t get downbeat.”
Terry and Bernard Reed were both given Orders of the British Empire in the 2010 Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
In her speech to those at the three-day conference in Liverpool – which had 500 delegates sign up to attend – Reed also called on teachers and lecturers to prepare for having a trans student in their class.
“Five years ago, hardly anyone in school or in university would come across a young trans person, but it’s changed substantially.”
She said the “huge” recent rise in the number of people coming out as trans and or non-binary was down to changing attitudes which had led to a more accepting atmosphere across the country.
And she encouraged those at the conference to get on board with this movement, which included introducing trans students to toilets of their gender identity before they use them.
“If there are still boys’ and girls’ toilets and she’s going to be using the girls’ toilets, it’s quite helpful just to familiarise her before that actually happens,” Reed said.
“Take her in when there’s nobody else there and let her look around so that she feels familiar with the surroundings.”
Reed warned the teachers and lecturers that parents, rather than children, were the ones likelier to cause problems for trans pupils.
“If other parents are going to be told, this is a much trickier issue – parents are always the worry aren’t they? The kids are okay,” she said.
“If they’re going to be told, again it needs to be done in a positive, well-informed way.”
Teachers should tell “parents that ‘this is not catching,’” she remarked.
“It is true that sometimes the children will copy the other (trans) children for fun, just to experiment a bit, but if they’re not trans it’s not going to stick,” she said.
Reed also called on schools to avoid separating boys and girls where possible to achieve what she called “gender blurring”.
In sport, “no distinctions are necessary” before puberty, she said, adding that schools should take a “commonsense” approach after this, based on “fairness and risk”.
She emphasised that there must be “zero tolerance for transphobic behaviour”.
The activist also said schools and teachers should think about how to include trans issues in their curriculum.
Attendees at the conference also passed a motion on Tuesday to “lobby the Government to produce updated guidance that includes discussion of hate crime”.
Last month, students at Hull University were told to use gender-neutral terms in their essays, or face being marked down.
Meanwhile in the US, fights over trans youths’ access to locker rooms and toilets are going on all over the country, exacerbated by Trump’s decision to reverse Obama’s transgender bathroom protections.
In Wisconsin, teenager Ash Whitaker is set to take on his school district in a federal appeals court.
He alleged he was discriminated against by the district’s bathroom policy, which he said required trans students to use the wrong bathroom and to identify themselves with green bracelets.