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The Church of England wants to stop transphobic bullying and people are angry

Jess Glass November 13, 2017
Anglican church LGBT+

The Archbishop of Canterbury previously said that the divide on LGBT+ issues in the Anglican church was “irreconcilable." (JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty)

New guidance from the Church of England has caused controversy for its inclusive stance on transgender and non-binary children.

The guidance entitled “Valuing all God’s children” is an update to the Church of England’s earlier work on tackling homophobic bullying.

The guidelines were given to the 4,700 schools overseen by the Church.

The update includes advice on combatting transphobic bullying and advice to teachers on allowing children to express themselves, particularly through dress-up and play.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said in the update: “All bullying, including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying causes profound damage.

“We must avoid, at all costs, diminishing the dignity of any individual to a stereotype or a problem.”

The Archbishop recently admitted that the split within the Church on LGBT+ issues is “irreconcilable,” with several accusations of discrimination in recent years.

The guidelines are positive and inclusive, saying: “Pupils need to be able to play with the many cloaks of identity (sometimes quite literally with the dressing up box).

“Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision.

“For example, a child may choose the tutu, princess’s tiara and heels and/or the fireman’s helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak without expectation or comment.”

The guidance has said anyone can dress up as a superhero regardless of gender (Photo: Creative Commons)

The Church guidance continued: “They are in a ‘trying on’ stage of life, and not yet adult and so no labels need to be fixed.

“It may be best to avoid labels and assumptions which deem children’s behaviour irregular, abnormal or problematic just because it does not conform to gender stereotypes or today’s play preferences.”

This advice comes days after a maths teacher and part-time pastor was suspended from a school in Oxfordshire after allegedly misgendering a trans pupil several times.

School uniforms are also discussed in the 48-page document, pointing out that inflexible uniform policies can affect transgender children.

Earlier this year, a school in the south of England (reword) caused controversy after banning skirts in an effort to provide a gender neutral uniform.

The advice also offers advice on tackling biphobic bullying in the schools.

The new guidance attracted significant media attention, with many British newspapers reporting on it prominently.

Good Morning Britain host and frequent critic of transgender rights Piers Morgan lashed out at the inclusive document, once again asking whether this meant he could identify as an animal.

The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Express and The Metro have all reported on the story with varying degrees of accuracy.

Many of the stories focused on the idea of letting boys wear tiaras, showing exactly why guidance like this is needed.

(Photo: Express.co.uk)
(Photo: The Daily Mail)
(Photo: Metro.co.uk)

The new guidance has also been criticised by members of the Church.

Andrea Williams, a member of the Church of England’s parliament told the MailOnline: “We are getting to the point where if you are not careful the slightest slip from the correct agenda in a Church of England school will get you punished.

“The anti-bullying agenda is aimed against people who step out of line – the anti-bullies are becoming the bullies.”

Whilst the Church of England’s official teaching is often critical of LGBT rights, this guidance is a positive step.

A spokesperson for LGBT+ rights charity Stonewall told The Guardian that the guidelines were a “clear signal that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying must never be tolerated”.

More: Children, Church, Church of England, gender fluid, piers morgan, Trans, trans children, trans rights

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