Most young people who adopt transgender identities are now doing so in adolescence. For some, this may turn out to be a normal experimentation or ‘trying on’ of a new tribal identity, fulfilling a developmentally healthy role. But most parents in our group have children with complex problems that complicate the process of adolescent separation and identity formation. This can be autism, significant anxiety or depression, ADHD, adverse experiences such as bullying, abuse or the loss of a close relation, attachment problems, or most often, more than one of these. They can often be struggling with self-harm and even suicidality.
For these children, adopting a new gender identity can appear to be a way to solve these other life problems. The risk is that medical transition will leave the underlying problems unaddressed. Detransitioners tell us that this happens.
All too often, when a child announces a trans-identity, parents find that their children are removed from normal safeguarding procedures and put at unnecessary risk for fear of violating their equality rights. Many groups who provide training and guidance to schools reinforce this minority rights perspective. Whilst we uphold the rights of all to live their lives free from discrimination and bullying, a safeguarding framework allows schools to develop a robust approach which keeps all children, adolescents and young people safe – a central role and statutory requirement for schools.
Teachers have already expressed their concerns about providing the right support for both trans-identified children and their peers. We have produced the following document to help parents and schools to navigate their approach in what can often be a difficult time. It has been written with input from experienced safeguarding and medical professionals.
We highlight key safeguarding risks when a child announces a trans-identity:
- Overlooking and failing to address other issues: e.g. ASD, ADHD, mental health issues, eating disorders, sexual abuse/other trauma, severe bullying, confusion over sexual orientation (e.g. internalised homophobia).
- Likelihood that a student may take harmful physical steps to change their body in line with their attested gender identity, e.g. binding, tucking, hormonal interventions, including circumventing NHS protocols by procuring medications online.
- Exposure to inappropriate/inaccurate online information and/or adult influence (including explicit sexual content).
- Parental alienation due to a culture where children are encouraged to keep secrets from anyone they suspect may ask questions about their desire to socially/medically transition.
We hope that policymakers at the national level, as well as senior leadership teams at the school and council levels, will use this as a guide to reprioritise safeguarding in the best interests of all children.
Download version 1.0 below. Further updates to this document will be made in line with the release of further guidance from the Department for Education, NHSE or the Independent Cass Review.