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Teacher sparks explosive debate over trans kids being cruelly outed to their parents

Vic Parsons July 8, 2021
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Mumsnet users split on outing transgender pupils to parents

Stock image of a non-binary student getting a book out of their locker. (Zackary Drucker/The Gender Spectrum Collection)

Mumsnet users are encouraging teachers to out trans pupils to their parents, saying that children are being “harmed” by school staff who protect their privacy.

The Mumsnet discussion began with a 3 July post by “Libby55”, who says they work in a school: “Advice: schools socially transitioning children without parental knowledge or consent.” It’s had more than 400 responses.

In the post, Libby55 says pupils at the school they work in have changed their names and pronouns without telling their parents. Libby55 claims that teachers not telling parents this information is a “safeguarding issue” that is “harming children”.

“I’m looking for an organisation that specifically campaigns against schools harming children in this way,” Libby55 says. “I have to do something: I can see children being harmed.”

They then ask: “If any of you know of a teacher’s group that is lobbying against the practice of socially transitioning children without parents’ knowledge or consent, please let me know. I would like to get involved.”

In the hundreds of responses that follow, Mumsnet users says it is “outrageous” and “sinister” that schools would protect pupil’s privacy, and suggest “leaking” the information about trans pupils on social media.

Several suggested that Libby55 contact anti-trans groups Safe Schools Alliance (SSA) or Transgender Trend, while others commended them for “protecting children from the falsehood that they are the opposite sex”.

Confirming they would contact SSA, Libby55 thanked Mumsnet users for their help and claimed that “for the majority of children” using their chosen name and pronouns “brings about a steep downhill decline in their mental health”.

Consistently using the correct name and pronouns for trans people can reduce their rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts to almost the same levels as their cisgender counterparts.

One study of young trans people found that a trans person who is regularly called their chosen name has “a 29 per cent decrease in suicidal ideation, and a 56 per cent decrease in suicidal behaviour”.

Some Mumsnet users disagreed with Libby55, and pointed out that outing trans pupils to their parents would be harmful and could put them at risk.

“Um, what does the child have to say about you doing this?” one Mumsnet user wrote. “You can’t just be giving this kind of information to their parents without their knowledge. That is the whole point of safe-guarding. You are putting this child in danger right now.”

Sabah Choudrey, joint head of youth work at national trans charity Gendered Intelligence, told PinkNews that sometimes “school is the safest place for a young person to explore who they are”.

“‘Outing’ trans youth to their parents against their will may put them at risk of harm and isolation from a supported environment and trusted people,” Choudrey said.

“There are many reasons why families wouldn’t understand in the first instance, but there is support available for families too. But not all families are supportive or understanding of young people having space to explore their identity, and a small minority will unfortunately never come to be supportive or understanding of their child’s identity or exploration.

“Schools have a duty to safeguard all youth, because every young person deserves the right to choose who they are and the right to safely express themselves.”

What is outing?

Outing is the act of disclosing an LGBT+ person’s gender identity or sexual orientation without their consent, which can breach their privacy and put them at risk of violence or abuse.

Young trans people in the UK are particularly at risk, with research from LGBT+ charity Stonewall finding that more than four in five young trans people have been called names or verbally abused, while three in five have experienced threats or intimidation and more than a third have been physically assaulted.

A person’s trans status is private, regardless of their age. According to Stonewall, schools should not share information that could reveal a pupil’s trans status to others, including their parents, except when there is a safeguarding risk or when the young person has given their permission for information to be shared.

Trans students’ right to privacy

In the US, it’s illegal for a teacher to share a student’s LGBT+ identity with their parents or other school staff, because it’s a violation of the student’s privacy and “can open an LGBT+ child to hostility, rejection, and even violence from their parents”, according to civil rights group ACLU.

Trans adults with legal recognition of their gender have similar protection in the UK, where officials who disclose someone’s trans status without consent would be breaking the law in most circumstances.

While trans under 18’s do not have access to legal gender recognition, they are still protected from discrimination based on their social transition under the Equality Act 2010. This means teachers and school staff should use a pupils chosen name and pronouns – not to do so because they have changed gender could constitute direct gender reassignment discrimination, according to guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

And young trans people have a right to privacy under the Human Rights Act, just like all young people.

Justine Roberts, Mumsnet founder, told PinkNewst: “We’ve had a careful look at the discussion. It’s clear that the person who started it is mindful of their confidentiality obligations and does not intend to ‘out’ any children. They clearly state, ‘I wouldn’t recommend telling the parents. Even if we believe that the school isn’t following safeguarding procedures, we still need to go through the proper channels.’

“This is a discussion in which a teacher is asking for signposts to further information, and does not in any way advocate breaching the confidence of children under their care.”

Gendered Intelligence runs support groups for young trans people and their families. You can find more information here.

Related topics: Mumsnet, outing, trans kids

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