Where is the real danger to children?

History repeats itself as fears surrounding trans rights spark the same objections as they did against homosexual people, that led to Section 28.


The gender spectrum

Gender has become an increasingly relevant but divisive topic this century. Since the first wave of feminism, women have fought to be seen as equal to men, appealing for equal treatment before the law and the same opportunities without the limitations of prejudice. With the world now a more progressive place in many ways, the topic of transgender people has become a more open conversation. Although transgender people have always existed, they were marginalised to the extent that they weren’t recognised in the eyes of society. Fortunately, things have changed. We are now increasingly looking at gender as more of a spectrum than a binary state. However, for some, the idea of being transgender brings up questions about gender stereotypes and what it means to identify as a woman.

The issue under contention is this: Does accepting people who experience gender dysphoria somehow negatively impacts society’s perception of women with typically masculine traits and interests? Or simply, are tomboyish women forced to identify as male?

Absolutely not.

Transgender challenges

All those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community have faced some form of adversity in relation to being accepted. Transgender people in particular have faced extreme challenges in being allowed to live and identify as their preferred gender. The suggestion that recognising transgender people somehow forces this label on women who are boyish, is simply fearmongering by those who object to the increasing acceptance of the transgender type.

The idea that we must be careful and not go too far in allowing recognition to become encouragement, echoes troubling parallels with Margaret Thatcher’s Section 28 law. This sought to stop councils and schools from promoting ‘the teaching of the acceptability […] of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’. The law did much damage to the community, particularly children and teenagers coming of age during the 1988-2003 period when it was in force. To this day there are people that remain opposed to educating others on issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community, choosing instead to uphold an outdated view that education must indoctrinate.

When Shout Out UK proudly shared their LGBTQ+ awareness workshops in schools online, the feedback confirmed just how widespread this prejudice-fuelled view remains. Some of the comments included; ‘this is children indoctrinating children’, and claimed that this was an issue of ‘child safeguarding’. The inflammatory language reveals that issues of gender identity are tied to complex emotions, ideas of safety and moral arguments. Although these comments come from a place of misinformation and homophobia, some may have genuine (albeit misplaced) worries about the protection of children. An open and non-judgemental conversation that looks at both sides of the issue is needed to even begin to unpack these entrenched opinions.

Self-identifying is not dangerous

A dangerous although common misconception is that by allowing people to identify with whichever gender they feel suits them best, reinforces ideas of gender norms. This position however just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. People don’t identify as male, for example, because they watch football or study science. They identify as male when they feel they were assigned an incorrect gender at birth and when they meet the medical criteria for gender dysphoria. Therefore, a young girl who labels herself a ‘tomboy’ based on certain superficial traits is never going to be told that she is in fact a male. No doctor would ever approve this without serious justification and consent from the person in question — provided they are of an appropriate decision-making age. Again, a   more open conversation about gender is a must.

Trans facts

Transgender children go through unique challenges leading to elevated levels of depression and suicide. ‘More than one in four […] trans young people have attempted to commit suicide and nine in ten […] have thought about it. 72 per cent have self-harmed at least once’.

For those worrying about how their child’s trans classmate or school’s LGBTQ+ workshop is negatively affecting them, consider the possibility of how that child might fit into this unhappy statistic if, hypothetically, they happen to identify as transgender. Educating them on a community which is a valuable part of our society, and one they might already identify with, is a more pressing issue than safeguarding concerns. The disturbing statistics merely reflect the consequences of a world in which people remain intolerant. An open mind towards education is the best means of rectifying this.

Allowing children to express themselves and identify with who they feel they are is a vital part of their development. Whether they unconsciously confirm or reject gender stereotypes shouldn’t and doesn’t matter in this particular case. Discovering who you are and how you identify is a part of life. Many children just as frequently unconsciously reject gender stereotypes.

Letting transgender children choose their gender identity in no way prevents others from accepting or rejecting gendered labels. Our aim should be to ensure that all children are equally allowed to express themselves in a safe and kind environment; one that safeguards them during a crucial stage of development from an often intolerant world.