Supporting transgender students
Will this be a ‘Happy LGBT History Month’?
Is your space somewhere students and staff can freely be their whole selves in?
Traditionally, the UK has only recognised 2 gender categories – male and female but increasingly more people are beginning to recognise that they may not fit neatly into a binary gender category.
The number of students identifying as trans, non-binary or gender fluid in FE has increased but FE isn’t supporting them and the paucity of LGBT teaching resources and training is frightening. Not so much pride of place but token-gestured or non-existent.
There is a clear and urgent need for training on gender identity awareness and all colleges should be taking proactive steps to promote trans equality.
Interested in arranging LGBT+ training for your school?
Contact Educate & Celebrate.
Despite some progress over the years there is woefully low level of awareness amongst staff and students around trans and gender diverse identities and experiences. Trans people are entitled to respect and equal treatment in their personal geographies.
The Forum report ‘Pride and Prejudice in Education: An exploration of experiences and perceptions of sexual orientation and gender identity among post school education learners and staff’ is required reading.
It found 52% of those sampled had no sexual orientation or gender identity equality training for staff or learners and reported that colleges weren’t keeping pace with social change and, “every day somewhere in the sector we are failing LGBTQ+ learners and staff.”
Staff and students need help, something that Learning and Work Institute Head of Inclusion, Catina Barrett recognises. She comments that we all have a joint responsibility to “to end LGBTQ+ bullying and discrimination” but it is leaders and governors who have to drive this action. Most lecturers want to be supportive but don’t know how.
75% of non-binary identifying learners did not state that their place of learning provided good support and worryingly, the report found some evidence that staff are responsible for biphobic, homophobic or transphobic behaviour towards colleagues and learners; little wonder that many trans people live in stealth.
It would be nice to think that in our colleges there is an atmosphere of respect in which diversity is celebrated where there is a healthy, safe, inclusive environment for everyone. Sadly, this isn’t the case everywhere as transgender students regularly suffer hostility, discrimination and unacceptable bullying.
On January 14th 2016 the House of Commons Women and Equalities committee published the Transgender Equality report and its overall message for post-school education was grim saying that FE is considered more hostile than HE and that learners face bullying or harassment including threats, intimidation and physical assault on campus.
It noted a range of issues such as a lack of gender-neutral toilets, a lack of policies to update names and genders in the student register, being mis-named or mis-gendered, ill-informed careers advisers, and support whilst needing time-out for reasons such as transitioning, mental health.
Last year, ATL Wales said that a lack of gender diversity training was “embarrassing” further education lecturers and warned it could lead to legal issues. Staff are muddled over preferred gender pronouns and compulsory training was a must.
A recent report by the TransEdu Scotland project, designed at informing trans and gender diverse policy, surveyed 158 individuals on their experiences within Scotland’s Higher Education Institutions and colleges.
86% of respondents reported experiencing barriers in relation to their gender identity especially in relation to peer relationships as well as several issues around the provision of gender-neutral facilities and navigating administrative processes. From college, “nearly half of the respondents had withdrawn with the most common reason given by both groups being mental health issues.”
Stonewall Cymru reports that two in five trans young people have attempted to kill themselves.
FE sectors are uniquely positioned to drive change and champion the rights of trans and gender diverse people.
The Learning and Skills Improvement Service guide Promoting Transgender equality in further education, recommended that colleges should “appoint a trans champion” , someone who could work closely with Teachers’ and/or Students’ Union and take the lead on organising meetings, celebrations and liaise with trans support groups.
Does your college have a trans champion that celebrates and promotes diversity?
University and College Union have produced an excellent Guide to Gender Identity and it recommends 11 ways an organisation can be inclusive of LGBT+ people and what may be campaigned for. These include developing more LGBTQ+ networks, establishing a clear first point of contact to report any incidents and to reach out to all gender identity groups in consultations.
A modern, forward-thinking approach for LGBTQ+ people is a priority and equality has to be “more than just words on paper”.
As the TransEdu Scotland project note,
“The sector must engage in sustained and committed programmes of trans awareness education, dialogue and celebration.”
This approach has to be driven by professional and empathic staff within a Trans positive environment. Some colleges are making giant strides though and providers can learn from each other and the proactive steps they are taking such as Bradford College and Brighton & Hove City Council.
There is considerable help and advice available on transgender issues:
– Educate & Celebrate provide CPD, INSET and training resources for schools and are an eTeach Partner
– The Proud Trust – theproudtrust.org. See their LGBT History Month 2018 Resource Pack that you can access free here.
– Gender Identity Research & Education Society(GIRES) – gires.org.uk GIRES is a member of the Anti-Bullying Alliance.
– All About Trans – allabouttrans.org.uk
– Stonewall – stonewall.org.uk
– Gendered Intelligence – http://genderedintelligence.co.uk
– Forum for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Equality in Post School Education – https://sgforum.org.uk/. The Forum wallchart is available here to download.
– Safe T – safetuk.org
– Gender Trust – gendertrust.org.uk
– LGBT Consortium – lgbtconsortium.org.uk
– Schools Out UK – schools-out.org.uk
About the author
John is an ex-primary school teacher and Ofsted inspector who has spent the last 20 years working in the education industry as a teacher, writer and editor. John’s specialist area is primary maths but he also loves teaching science and English. John has written a number of educational and children’s books, and contributed over 1,000 articles and features to various educational bodies. John is eTeach’s school leadership and Ofsted advice guru, sharing insights on best practice for motivating and enriching a school team, as well as sharing savvy career steps for headteachers and SLT.