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"None of this is acceptable"

When government minister Penny Mordaunt states, “None of this is acceptable” in relation to the findings of the government’s published LGBT survey report (July 2018) you sense that as a society we are not as equal as we like to think we are.

None of this is acceptable

Mordaunt recognises “progress has been made” (think marriage equality) but that we should not be “blind to the fact that LGBT people continue to face barriers to full participation in public life” and if we are “to build a country that works for everyone...that means tackling these burning injustices.” These are strong words from a government minister and they are not just directed at the few but the many. Here at the Carnegie School of Education we acknowledge we have a significant role to play in helping government address the issues highlighted in the LGBT survey report, which is why Professor Jonathan Glazzard founded the Centre for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Education.

The purpose of the Centre is to draw upon the expertise of educators and researchers from across the globe and share knowledge so that, as a collective, we can address social injustice and shape inclusive learning environments. Due to the results of the LGBT survey report we have initiated the Centre’s inaugural conference “Supporting Transgender and Gender Diverse Children in Education” (25th January 2019, Cloth Court Hall, Leeds) for a number of reasons. First, the growing evidence, if asked, between 0.6% to 1.2% of the population would not classify themselves as cisgender (a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex). Second, the increasing number of children referred to the Gender Identity Development Service. Third, the evidence from the LGBT survey which highlights the discrimination and prejudice that many trans people face. Forth, the seemingly hostile discourse framed around ‘trans rights’ that appears to have permeated into the national consciousness at all levels.

As an outward facing Centre we are all too aware that many educators are unsure as to how best support children that don’t fit into the nice neat stereotyped binary boxes that we mistakenly assume that all children belong to. We are also acutely aware that some children are protected with the characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’ (Equality Act 2010) and as such schools have legal duties to fulfil. With this in mind we wanted to reimagine an authentic conference that was underpinned by academic research and personal or organisational expertise in the support and inclusion of transgender and diverse people from a lived experience; in essence - from theory to practice.

In terms of academic research we identified Dr. Ilan Meyer’s (UCLA) work in the field of LGBT inclusion notably his conceptualised ‘Minority Stress Model (2003)’ framework because it not only helps to explain the results of the LGBT survey but also gives insight as to how we might address minority stress. This is of extreme importance given the worldwide evidence of the poor mental health experienced by many transgender and gender diverse children due to the prejudice, discrimination and hostility they face. Clearly, this can only be tackled if we work together. In order to do this we needed to see the life of a transgender and gender diverse child as a whole. We took into account the fact a child’s life is transient in nature due to their continual journey across space and time. Therefore, the conference contributors reflect the multiple dimensions that are needed to intersect in order to create a web of support and just as importantly a sense of hope for children, families, educators and communities.

As such, there is representation from both the primary and secondary education sector including a trainee teacher and a safeguarding perspective. The home front includes a parent of a trans child and organisations that support transgender and gender diverse children and families.  Children exist in other community spaces too that’s why British Gymnastics and Oasis Global will be there. Government Equalities Office and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission will add a wider national strategic voice and equality guidance. Health will be there to offer insight that inclusion not exclusion; care and affirmation play a significant part in the wellbeing of transgender and gender diverse children. Finally, Lloyds Banking Group and global legal firm Pinsent Masons – two companies that have embraced trans inclusion, represent employment in the future.

The format of this roundtable ‘knowledge exchange’ is simple in nature. Storytelling. Contributors will share their personal journey of support and inclusion of transgender and gender diverse people from either a personal or organisation perspective. We believe this approach of humanising transgender and gender diverse children will lead to the authentic and lasting inclusion of a population of people that is, up until now, significantly marginalised. Indeed, if the litmus test for any society is how far it protects its most marginalised groups then surely this conference is a step in the right direction and a must for all educators. If not, we will continue to perpetuate social injustice and that is something I am not prepared to do. See you there on 25th January, 2019.

About the Author

Claire Birkenshaw

Claire is a Lecturer in Childhood and Education at the Carnegie School of Education.

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