'It Breaks My Heart': Parents Of Trans Kids React To Reports Single-Sex Schools Could Reject Their Children

"Trans children don’t pose a risk to others, they are the ones at risk."
SolStock via Getty Images

Alarm bells are ringing for parents of transgender children with reports circulating that the government might soon issue guidance allowing all-girls’ and all-boys’ schools to reject trans pupils.

The advice is apparently being drawn up by education secretary Gillian Keegan and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch, and would mean single-sex schools could legally choose not to admit trans children.

Understandably, parents of trans children are extremely worried about what the future might now hold for their kids – and generations to come.

Janet Montague, whose trans daughter is 14 years old, tells HuffPost UK: “I just want my daughter to be able to attend school and be respected at school, the same way her peers are.

“I want her to be safe at school and accepted for the person she is.”

She said if schools are going to be able to reject a young person based on the sex assigned at birth, “the government are, I feel, sending a clear message that they do not see trans women as women and trans men as men and that they are willing to put our children in danger and take away their rights.”

The UK government has already this year blocked the Gender Recognition Reform – which would make it easier for people to transition – after it was passed in Scottish Parliament.

It also made headlines for considering changing the Equality Act which would make it legal to ban trans people from single-sex spaces and events.

What does the latest guidance say?

It’s expected to say, according to The Telegraph, that schools won’t be breaching the Equality Act if they don’t admit trans pupils.

So an all-boys’ school could reject someone who identified as male, but whose assigned gender was female at birth – and vice versa with an all-girls’ school.

School leaders would also reportedly be able to refuse to use a pupil’s preferred pronoun – even if requested by the pupil and parent.

There’s no suggestion a child who’s questioning their gender would be forced to leave the school if already enrolled.

Last month, prime minister Rishi Sunak said the government would soon share guidance for schools on issues around gender identity.

It came after a thinktank said safeguarding principles were being “disregarded in many secondary schools” when it came to gender identity – and schools said they were caught in the “crossfire”.

What do parents of trans children think?

They are understandably unhappy about the move.

Theresa Hill, whose teenager is 16 years old and identifies as non-binary, says she feels “shame that we’ve become such a hard-hearted country”.

Her child was offered a place at a single-sex school before they socially transitioned – and this school has “provided a safe place for them to come out and to express their identity among supportive friends”.

“The last thing they wanted was to be treated differently to their peers or to be singled out,” said Hill.

“Trans children don’t pose a risk to others, they are the ones at risk.”

The mum acknowledged the murder of trans teen Brianna Ghey earlier in the year and added: “Do we really want to breed more hatred?”

Being a teenager is hard, but trans teens face even more hurdles. They experience higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicide, and are more likely to be victims of bullying and violence.

If a talented trans child finds they’re barred from a single-sex grammar school, “we stop social mobility in its tracks,” continued Hill.

“For children from disadvantaged backgrounds, educational opportunities can be life-changing and provide safety and support where it’s most needed, which is critical for trans kids living in hostile environments,” she added.

The prospect of schools choosing not to use a young person’s chosen pronouns “is very hard to think of,” added Montague. “Schools are meant to be places of safety, where respect, inclusion and kindness are taught.”

She added that respecting someone’s chosen name and pronouns is “basic” – and said suggesting schools can ignore the wishes and feelings of a young person “is irresponsible”.

“Being a teenager is hard enough, being a trans teenager is even harder,” she continued.

“My daughter just wants to attend school, learn, have fun with her peers and come home again, without fear that someone is going to be transphobic to her, question her going to the toilet, misgender her or debate her existence.

“I’m so worried about how much more difficult things are going to become for my daughter at school, it breaks my heart.”

Professor Jessica Ringrose, of University College London (UCL), has researched the trauma that misgendering causes young people and suggested the new reported guidelines “are a dangerous development” and “a total breach of child safeguarding”.

“The policy is about protecting parents’ rights over young people’s rights,” she said in a tweet.

The charity Mermaids, which supports families with trans children, said respecting a young person’s chosen gender expression, including their pronouns, in a safe and supportive environment “brings transformational benefits to their lives”.

A spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “Schools need guidance that supports them to provide an inclusive and trusting space for all children, especially trans young people who are experiencing transphobic bullying, disproportionately low self esteem, and rising hate crime.”