Trans Kids in School – The Good and the Bad

On Tuesday (just in time of the course that Berkeley and I were giving at Plymouth University) Stonewall published the latest in the 5-yearly surveys of British schools. For the first time trans issues were included in the report, and the results were pretty shocking.

On the good side, homophobic bullying has decreased significantly, at least in part to the greater number of teachers who are comfortable being out. Transphobic bullying, however, is still commonplace. This comment from a student from Yorkshire really hit home for me:

No one I’ve spoken to at school has ever knowingly met a trans person before or been taught anything about trans people and what we might need.

This is why I did that Stonewall role model course.

The headline statistic that appeared in many newspapers is that 45% of trans school children have tried to take their own lives. That’s horrifying, but journalists rarely try to understand that statistic.

When trans kids do take their own lives, newspapers and other media often run articles by professional concern trolls who go on about how this is all the fault of the horrible “trans agenda”, and if only the parents had been more supported in their attempts to “cure” the child this would not have happened.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Studies in the USA show not only similar suicide rates to the UK, but also that those rates drop like a stone if the parents are supportive of the young person. A 2012 survey of trans youth quoted here has a 57% suicide attempt rate for kids without supportive parents, but only 4% if the parents are supportive.

Fortunately many parents, and many schools, do understand and do their best to support trans kids. Yesterday Stonewall announced the results of their annual Education Equality Index. The winning local authority was Bath & North-East Somerset. They have always done well in the past (and indeed narrowly lost out to Brighton last year), but I’m pretty sure that their triumph this time is a result of their leading the way on trans issues.

Obviously I’m not involved in the day-to-day running of schools and youth services, but I have done a fair amount with the folks who do that work over the last year. I’m very proud of them, and grateful that they listened to me banging on about trans rights.

Bristol Council, in contrast, doesn’t bother to submit an entry for the Stonewall Index, and has recently dismantled its Equalities team.

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