Parents in revolt as councils issue schools with transgender toolkits The Sunday Times 07.07.19

The original article is here.

As a self-proclaimed “leftie liberal”, Tracy Shaw, 44, a mother of three, had not taken much notice of the rise of transgender activism — but that all changed in the space of a few weeks last summer.

Her nine-year-old daughter brought home a notice from her gymnastics club in south Oxfordshire informing her that she would have to share changing rooms with trans children. Then a friend, who had to attend a rape crisis centre, was told that she had to be prepared to share details of her assault with self-indentifying women.

The final straw came when another friend’s teenage daughter, who has short hair and wears trousers, was approached by a teacher who asked if she wanted to join a support group for gender-questioning children.

Shaw set up a parents’ group called the Safe Schools Alliance. She and the group’s co-founder, Melissa Andrews, worked out that the county’s schools were following guidelines created by trans support groups and activists and given official approval by local authorities.

Oxfordshire county council had issued a 50-page Trans Toolkit for Schools, subtitled “Gender is not just pink and blue”. The booklet had the support of 12 county, borough and metropolitan councils and was created with the involvement of a trans support group, Gendered Intelligence, and Allsorts Youth Project.

Andrews was particularly concerned by a section on breast binding, a controversial technique used by transgender men to create a flatter chest. The document urges teachers to be sensitive to the hygiene needs of pupils wearing binders on school trips. “It may be that pupils wash their binders every night at home and this will need to be considered on a residential trip,” it states.

Within six months 97 parents, including some lesbian couples, had joined the Safe Schools Alliance. It lobbied Oxfordshire county council to withdraw the toolkit, saying it conflates sex and gender, undermines parents, promotes the stereotyping of girls and boys and “asks teachers to put aside biological reality”.

Last month the council wrote to the group promising to review its use of the guidance. Other groups of parents have been lobbying their local councils, which have also begun to make changes. Warwickshire county council has formally suspended use of the toolkit, and Sefton council, on Merseyside, which uses similar guidance, is reviewing its rules.

Parents spoke to The Sunday Times to share their stories, all insisting on anonymity. A mother in London said a teacher had concluded that her seven-year-old daughter was gender dysphoric as she was getting teased for having short hair and wearing boys’ clothes.

The teacher suggested the class read a book called 10,000 Dresses, in which the central character is a boy whose dreams of magical dresses help establish his true identity as a transgender girl.

The girl’s mother was dismayed: “The message to my daughter was that you’re not a girl because you’re not wearing a dress. Yet she’s been like this since the age of three. I relate to it completely. She’s like me when I was young.”

Gendered Intelligence said the Trans Toolkit explicitly challenges gender sterotyping: “Young trans and non-binary people continue to face horrendous levels of bullying and discrimination in schools. We need to help teachers to promote gender diversity in their schools and create a safe and welcoming environment where young people are free to be themselves.”


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