Opinion

Trans kids just want to live and be happy. The government has no reason to make their lives harder

Rather than support trans youths, the new government guidance on youth transition risks causing untold damage

Illustration: Shutterstock

The recent publication of the UK government’s guidance for schools on youth transition, guidance built on nothing but hostility toward the trans population, gave me an opportunity to reminisce about my own experience being a trans student.  

I’m 21 now, which means I’ve been ‘officially’ out as trans for four years now. I say ‘officially’, because four years only marks the time from when my teachers knew. I’ve been out to some friends since I was around 14. This delay between friends and teachers is not uncommon with young people. Many wait years after coming out to their closest friends, before coming out in a more official capacity. Coming out is terrifying and rushing a coming out journey can be even more scary. 

I was very fortunate in that I went to a school that had encountered trans pupils before.  

I wasn’t even the first in my year group. This meant my school was well-equipped for when things turned for the worse at home. At the time, I was studying for my A Levels, and one of my religious studies teachers, a teacher I owe everything to, understood how to handle a situation like this.

From the moment I came out at school, she was immensely supportive, which allowed me to confide in her regarding my home situation. We formulated a plan, one that would allow me to stay out at school, while putting me ‘back in the closet’ with all communications that may touch home. I was also offered weekly check-ins with her, which admittedly did turn into endless rambling from my part on the philosophy I was reading for my UCAS application but, nevertheless, it was immensely helpful in supporting my mental health.  

My A-Levels ended up going well and I secured a place at university, on a course I love. This may not sound too out of the ordinary, but if it wasn’t for the trans-affirming support I received from my teachers, none of this would’ve happened. If it wasn’t for my school’s progressive policies, I am certain that my mental health would’ve collapsed.  

I think one of the biggest things that we ought to remember amidst the government’s proposed guidance and the increasing levels of transphobia in the UK, is that trans people, especially trans youth, just want to live, and be kids!  

The 15-year-old trans girl who just came out and needs support from her teachers is also just a girl revising for her GCSEs. The 12-year-old non-binary person who has transphobic parents and fears coming out, is also just a kid stuck in a boring maths lesson, waiting for lunch to start. The 10-year-old trans boy who has been talking to the pastoral team about how he feels is also just a boy excited to get home and play Minecraft.  

Seventeen-year-old me, who needed to hide my identity from home, was also just a guy talking about Kantian metaphysics to his religious studies teacher. I see no reason to make their lives harder.  

In defending regressive policies, like the government’s proposed guidance, people will often claim that we should just “let kids be kids!”, implying that transness is something only to be ‘dealt with’ after the age of majority. I want to reclaim this slogan, reshaping it to affirm trans youth. Letting kids be kids, should be as simple as that. We should stop designing and allowing policy that does nothing but hurt them, and let them live and develop, as trans and happy. Letting kids be kids should mean allowing them to grow up and come to terms with their gender and sense of identity in their own time, rather than forcing them to stay closeted, or forcing them to come out to potentially transphobic parents. 

While it’s important to remember that the guidance is not legally binding, the fact still remains that schools less equipped than mine, will inevitably rely on this resource when one of their pupils comes out in the future. This will hurt trans youth. There’s no other way to put it.  

There is still time to take action. Trans youth charity Mermaids, along with other queer organisations have put together a guide to help you fill in the consultation to the gender questioning guidance which ends on 12 March. Write to your MP expressing your concerns or support the sectors #SupportiveSchools campaign to raise awareness of the harm this guidance will bring. Ultimately this will hurt trans youth. There’s no other way to put it. 

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