It has been determined that an outright ban on social transitioning in schools would be unlawful under the Equalities Act

BY NIC CROSARA, PHOTOGRAPH VIA DREAMSTIME

On Wednesday 19 July, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan confirmed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s proposed trans policy that, if implemented in schools, would effectively force teachers to out trans youth to their parents. Since the announcement, the government have faced major backlash for its “blanket ban” on socially transition students at school.

Labour MPs Kate Osborne and Nadia Whittome both spoke out on the policy. “Sunak should accept the legal advice, that he commissioned, that any attempts to effectively end the protected characteristic of being trans would breach the Equality Act,” Kate said.

“For many young trans people, their ability to socially transition is essential to their mental health and wellbeing,” said Nadia. “Any attempt by government to prevent them from cutting their hair or using a different name and pronouns is authoritarian and discriminatory in the extreme.”

When it comes to the Conservative party, we’re used to seeing them back-pedalling on plans to improve LGBTQIA rights, as we saw when former Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to exclude trans people from the conversion “therapy” ban. But it appears that Rishi is set to drop his plans following an examination of the draft guidance by Victoria Prentis, attorney-general for England and Wales. The Times reports that it was determined that an outright ban on social transitioning in schools would be unlawful under the Equalities Act.

For those who grew up during Section 28 – Margaret Thatcher’s 1988 ban on “the promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities that was repealed in 2003 – the proposed trans policy eerily echoes this horrible part of queer history. Queer director Georgia Oakley’s 2022 film, Blue Jean, poignantly portrays what it was like for LGBTQIA teachers and students in education during this era. We must learn from and not repeat this history.

Government are still ironing out the finer details of the guidance and there’s much debate when it comes to the rights of both teachers and students. Some ministers are said to have raised concerns that easing up guidance on socially transitioning students could enable schools to discipline teachers who do not respect a child’s gender identity. With others arguing that it would be “unreasonable” to stop children from socially transitioning, so long as they have parental consent.

In her findings, Victoria stated that gender reassignment is a “protected characteristic” regardless of a person’s age and ruled that, under the Equalities Act, it would be unlawful to issue a “blanket ban” on socially transitioning in schools.

A government source told the publication that, in response to the ruling “we’re looking at all options to ensure we have clear and strong guidance that protects children and empowers parents and teachers. No decisions have been taken.”

Socially transitioning saves lives. When it comes to trans activism, we must do all that we can to ensure that trans kids become trans adults. As we wait to find out more details about how government will respond to the guidance, we can only hope that they do not forget this.

@niccrosara

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