The Tories have doubled down on their attacks on trans rights, with two Cabinet ministers effectively declaring war on trans and gender non-conforming children over the last week.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi stated that education workers are required to inform parents or carers if a child comes out as trans, regardless of whether the child wants them to. This directly contradicts current guidance from the NSPCC and Stonewall, among others. In fact, the National Education Union’s guidance goes further, stating “it would be a criminal offence for someone who has been told that someone is trans in the course of their professional role to disclose this information without the consent of the student.” Zahawi appears to be instructing education workers to break the law. Disclosing a child’s LGBTQ+ identity clearly presents a direct safeguarding risk in cases where a child’s parents or carers are not supportive, and is a breach of the trust between the child and staff member in any instance.
This is another attempt by the Tories to muddy the waters of what education workers are “allowed” to do and say. Recent non-statutory guidance recommended that materials from anti-capitalist organisations should not be used, as well as repeating transphobic myths about charities such as Stonewall and Mermaids. Similar guidance has also been used to make thinly-veiled, racist attacks on Black Lives Matter. While the guidance is not legally enforceable, it is clearly designed to create a climate of fear in the classroom – in a similar way to Section 28, under which no-one was ever prosecuted but which dictated what materials were considered acceptable in schools.
Unions must reject Tory diktats
Education unions should issue clear statements rejecting Zahawi’s comments and reiterating the existing guidance, particularly guidance from the unions themselves, that staff should not disclose a child’s LGBTQ+ identity without consent. Socialist Alternative members in the NEU have raised the need for a statement to be issued. Unfortunately, while the original NEU guidance explicitly stated that a student’s family should only be told about their trans or gender-questioning status with the student’s permission, this section of the guidance was edited out at a later date. This is unacceptable: we cannot afford to equivocate on this issue. Barring a significant child protection concern which would require a child’s LGBTQ+ status to be disclosed, the decision about how, when and if they come out should be their decision alone.
Education workers should not be allowed to be intimidated by Whitehall diktats – trade unions should unequivocally reject the racist, transphobic guidance from the Tories, and publicly commit to defending members accused of breaching these “rules”.
As if this attack wasn’t enough, Health Secretary Sajid Javid is reportedly planning to launch an inquiry into the treatment given to trans and gender non-conforming children.
The interim report of the Cass Review of gender identity services (GIDS) for children and young people raised serious concerns about the waiting lists for treatment faced by trans and gender non-conforming children, and urgently recommended that the system is improved to ensure high-quality, gender-affirming care is accessible. Rather than address this, and despite the Court of Appeal recently affirming the right of the NHS to prescribe “puberty blockers” to under 18s, Javid has seized on transphobic talking points in order to attack vulnerable trans kids. Anything to distract people from his weak, crisis-ridden Government!
Anyone who has used NHS GIDS, particularly the one service for children and young people, knows first-hand the battle it can be to access treatment. Only around 10% of those children referred to the GIDS ever access “puberty blockers” – approximately 200 a year. There is currently a judicial review being brought against NHS England regarding GIDS – clearly the system needs to change, but we can’t trust the Tories to do it.
Sadly we can’t trust the Labour Party to stand up for trans rights either. While Jeremy Corbyn has had the Labour whip removed, openly transphobic MPs have not – and recent remarks from Keir Starmer show clear concessions to transphobia in the media.
United struggle needed
Only a united movement of working class people to defend and win trans and LGBTQ+ rights can successfully do so. NEU members at John Fisher School have pointed a way forward by successfully balloting for strike action after the school’s Archdiocese banned a gay author from attending an event – further action should be on the cards when workers are faced with such discrimination. Mass protests and action against transphobic discrimination can stop the toxic Tories in their tracks!
- Don’t make education workers out kids – let children decide how, when and if they come out!
- Scrap transphobic, racist guidance for schools – trust education workers, not Government ministers!
- Radically reform and properly fund gender identity services – no more gatekeeping, no more waiting lists!
- Hands off trans kids – puberty blockers are medical care!
- Trans or cis, straight or queer, unite and fight for a socialist world – don’t let the Tories divide us!