Debbie Hayton Debbie Hayton

Let’s kick ‘gender identity’ out of school

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If Liz Truss made waves in the transgender debate when she said no to ‘self-ID’, then guidance emerging from the Department for Education (DfE) is likely to cause even bigger ructions. An explosive paragraph buried towards the end of the document shows why:

‘We are aware that topics involving gender and biological sex can be complex and sensitive matters to navigate. You should not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear. Resources used in teaching about this topic must always be age-appropriate and evidence based. Materials which suggest that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity should not be used and you should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such material (my emphasis). While teachers should not suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing, teachers should always seek to treat individual students with sympathy and support.

This guidance, which is aimed at teachers and comes into force shortly, spells an end for certain organisations being allowed to work with school staff. This can only be good news. As a transgender person, I know better than most the febrile nature of the debate over gender and biological sex. But as a science teacher, I know that the advice taken on board by some schools has been woeful.

Like all other mammals, humans are either male or female. We might be able to change our legal sex (and that was the issue Liz Truss was grappling with) but we cannot change our biological sex. In that respect, at least, transwomen are male and transmen are female. These definitions have stood the test of time, until relatively recently when the notion of gender identity emerged.

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