16 Year Olds Are Old Enough To Decide Gender Change, Education Secretary Says

“I was making decisions for myself at 16," Gillian Keegan said.
Gillian Keegan, Education Secretary.
Gillian Keegan, Education Secretary.
Victoria Jones - PA Images via Getty Images

The Education Secretary has suggested that 16 year olds are old enough to decide to change their gender.

Gillian Keegan knocked back suggestions that 16 was too young, saying: “I was making decisions for myself at 16.”

It comes after Rishi Sunak moved to block Scottish reforms of the gender recognition process passed by Holyrood.

The new law would make it easier for trans people to change gender by reducing the time the process takes and lowering the age at which it can happen to 16.

Asked if she would be content for children in schools at 16 to say whether they want to change their gender, Keegan told Sky News: “We have to be very sensitive to children. We are actually going to publish some guidance and consult because it is a very tricky area to get right.

“It has to be age-appropriate, but children have to be supported as well.”

Pressed on her personal view, the minister was asked if 16 was too young.

“No I don’t actually. “I was working at 16, I was paying tax at 16, I was making decisions for myself at 16,” she replied.

“But it’s not really about what I think, it’s how we make sure we get that right balance of supporting children, but also making sure that what they’re getting taught in schools is age-appropriate.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer said he has “concerns” over Scotland’s gender recognition law because he considers 16 to be too young to decide to change gender.

Yesterday, the UK government took the unprecedented step of blocking Scotland’s gender reforms from becoming law.

It is the first time Westminster has used the power since devolution came into being nearly 25 years ago.

Scottish secretary Alister Jack wrote to Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon to inform her that he was making a so-called “section 35 order” vetoing the bill which was passed at Holyrood before Christmas.

It followed advice from government lawyers that the bill would cut across the UK-wide Equality Act.

In a statement, Jack said: “Transgender people who are going through the process to change their legal sex deserve our respect, support and understanding. My decision today is about the legislation’s consequences for the operation of GB-wide equalities protections and other reserved matters.”

Responding to the news, Sturgeon accused the UK government of “a full-frontal attack” on the Scottish parliament.


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