Maya Forstater is co-founder of Sex Matters.
Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, in charge of finalizing “transgender orientation” for schools in England, a hot potato that has been passed between the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Department for Education for the last five years.
It was due to launch this week but appears to have been delayed again due to unrest among Conservative MPs.
According to a recent interview in Home magazine, Keegan had relied on “parental consent” as the answer to what schools should do in response to the wave of kids demanding to “socially transition” and be recognized as transgender and nonbinary in classrooms. the whole country.
This is a mistake. It is certainly true that schools should not “socially transition” children to treat them as the opposite sex without parental consent.
But the bigger question is whether schools should be children in transition.
Schools are rule-based institutions. The rules must be clear and fair. They must allow schools to keep students safe, respect the rights of all students, and not discriminate, while continuing the business of education.
Most of the rules (such as who can take care of the carpentry and who can take care of the housekeeping) treat boys and girls equally. Where schools have rules that treat boys and girls differently (such as requiring them to use separate changing rooms), this is for good reason; Parents can’t demand that schools drop their rules or develop special new rules just for their child.
The 2010 Equality Act prohibits discrimination based on the protected characteristic of “gender reassignment” (being transgender). This is widely misconstrued to mean that people with this self-reported characteristic have the right to be treated as the opposite sex.
The law cannot create such a right. Other people are entitled to acknowledge the material reality of sex and to use common words to describe it (and employers who forget this may face significant liability, as the £106k payout in my case last week should remind you).
What the Equality Act requires is that schools ensure that children who identify as transgender (or gay, straight, Muslim or atheist, or any other protected characteristic) get the same access to education as other children. Those children need not be treated any differently.
The indications in the press are that Keegan understands this when it comes to keeping clear rules about who gets to use which bathrooms and locker rooms, or play on which sports teams. It seems likely that the guidance was put in place to tell schools to say “no” to requests to treat children as the opposite sex for these purposes.
This no-nonsense recipe would have been enough to elicit howls of “genocide” and “transphobia” from Stonewall and the rest of the gender lobby. They think schools should ease the transition of childhood: treat a boy who claims to be a girl as if he is a girl, and vice versa (and put them on a path to taking puberty blockers and hormones to try to maintain the illusion when the puberty is inevitable). break the spell).
While Keegan seems to understand that schools can’t do this, the interview suggests that he’s trying to bargain with extremists by offering a watered-down version of “social transition” for kids whose parents want it (and for those 16 and older). regardless of your situation). parents want). These children will be allowed to “change their pronouns,” she says.
But what can this mean? Any child can say to her friends “call me zie” (or them, or him or her). Those friends may or may not cooperate with that wish. It would be impossible for schools to stop this, or to ask for parental consent for the language teens use with each other.
But Keegan’s apparent suggestion is that schools should do something else. She seems to envision each school having rules about which pronouns each child should refer to, which is contingent on parental consent.
Such a rule must then be enforceable; You must discipline other kids (and teachers) who use the “wrong” pronouns.
Already, this scenario is a nightmare. But the children and her parents who demand that other people “respect her pronouns” are not simply concerned with the words “she” and “he.” They also want the words “girl” and “boy,” “woman” and “man,” and “daughter” and “son” to be by personal choice.
Therefore, anyone who uses common words that relate to a child’s sex will be considered to have committed the sin of “gender misconception” by a parent who wants everyone to pretend their child is his or her daughter. your son. In legal terms, giving in to the demand to engage in such semantic gymnastics fails the test of being a “means proportionate to a legitimate end.”
The only fair, safe, and reasonable policy is that, when it comes to school students, “sex” means what it always has: girl and boy, man and woman, and the pronouns that accompany these ordinary words. This should not be the subject of negotiation.