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New Core Skills module: Trans Awareness

Home screen of Modern Governor's Trans Awareness module

New Core Skills module: Trans Awareness

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In January this year, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee issued its report on Transgender Equality (PDF). The inquiry which led to this report was partially in response to the facts that:

“the high levels of transphobia … can undermine careers, incomes, living standards, access to services, quality of life, and physical and mental health. It is a sobering and distressing fact that disproportionately high numbers of trans people have reported attempting suicide.”
House of Commons Women & Equalities Committee Transgender Equality inquiry

Depending on our experience as governors, our knowledge and understanding of transgender issues may be limited to headlines seen online or the occasional controversy (frequently in the United States) raised around toilets in schools – and we may feel that this is a topic far from the doors of our institutions. However, recent reports have indicated that the number of young people affected by those issues associated with transgender equality is on the rise:

“According to the UK’s only NHS specialist service provider of gender identity support for under-18s, the number of British children who want to change their gender has doubled in six months. The Tavistock and Portman NHS trust gender identity development service in London is under huge pressure, with many of the referrals – 151 from 2012-13 to 2014-15 – involving children under the age of 10, including one three-year-old and 12 four-year-olds.”
Rise in trans children puts British schools to the test, The Guardian, 12th July 2016.

Governing bodies subscribing to Modern Governor now have access to a module on Trans Awareness as part of the extensive Core Skills collection of modules. Like all Core Skills modules, this is not directly applicable to governance as such, but is intended to raise awareness and understanding of an issue which many governors might feel ill-equipped to understand.

Still from Transgender girl's nightmares of growing up a man from the BBC Two Victoria Derbyshire Show

Still from Transgender girl’s nightmares of growing up a man from the BBC Two Victoria Derbyshire Show.

Of course, this isn’t just limited to the experiences of children – but can also affect adults from across our schools’ communities. The case of Lucy Meadows, which became a lightning rod for all sides of the public discussion of transgender issues, illustrates how schools’ efforts to communicate issues faced by staff could be brought into the spotlight on both local and national levels:

“‘I’d now ask for my privacy to be respected so that I can continue with my job,’ said Lucy Meadows, whose face has been in every national newspaper over the past week. Why? She transitioned from male to female and was a teacher – and was persecuted by the press after her local newspaper ran a “story” on those two facts. Her emails show she was stalked by journalists: “I’m just glad they didn’t realise I also have a back door. I was usually in school before the press arrived and stayed until late so I could avoid them going home.” Parents were offered money for photos of her. It’s a wonder she even got out of bed in the morning – I doubt I could, in her situation. Last week, she died.”
Lucy Meadows: why her death will not be in vain, The Guardian, 26 March 2013.

Parents, carers and other members of a school’s extended community could also be dealing with transgender issues. The purpose of the module is not to determine which (if any) policies schools should set or positions they should take, but instead to ensure that an understanding of the issues informs our decision making and responses to those among our communities who might face discrimination and misunderstanding.

Trans Awareness – module structure

This module is broken down into six sections:

  • An introduction to trans awareness – recognising what trans awareness is and why it matters
  • The question of gender – describe the definitions of gender and sexuality
  • Stereotypes and misinformation – recognising some of the common stereotypes and ignorance around trans issues
  • Growing up trans – exploring the reality of being trans at key stages in a trans person’s life
  • Practical matters – understand the range of treatment and types of medical processes relevant to trans people
  • Summary and resources – key points from the module and links to further information

As with all Core Skills modules the content in this module is intended to be useful in other contexts – so it could easily be used in aiding understanding and addressing issues of equality in other organisations and settings.

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