Scotland's school transgender guidance 'may have negative impact' on other children

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A women's campaign group has raised concerns about the Scottish Government's latest guidance on transgenderism in schools.

'Supporting Transgender Young People: Guidance for Schools in Scotland' drew criticism after being issued late last year in partnership with LGBT Youth Scotland and the Scottish Trans Alliance. 

Controversially, the document says that school staff do not need to inform parents about their child's transgenderism unless the child has consented.

Transgender students should also be allowed to use the bathroom and changing facilities of the gender they identify as, as well as compete in sports as their chosen gender. They should also be permitted to stay in overnight accommodation with the opposite sex without parents being informed.

If parents or students object, they are to 'be reminded of the school's ethos of inclusion, equality and respect', the guidance states.

In a new report, the feminist group Women and Girls in Scotland said that although it was right that transgender young people receive 'appropriate support', some aspects of the guidance 'may have a negative impact on other groups of children and young people who are not transgender'.

In particular, the campaign group said that although the negative consequences were likely to affect both boys and girls, it was girls who stood to be 'most adversely impacted'.

In some areas, the report warned that the comfort of transgender students 'seems to take precedence' over that of girls and that the rights of female students were being ignored.

'It is imperative that schools consider how to best meet the needs of all young people in their care, and to balance sometimes competing needs without prejudice to any group of young people,' the group said. 

Specifically, the group said that allowing male-bodied young people to share intimate spaces like bathrooms and changing facilities with girls would be 'potentially compromising their right to privacy and dignity'.

Although the guidance says transgender students should be allowed to compete as their preferred gender, the group objected that it 'makes no mention of the need to evaluate their inclusion on the basis of fairness and safety for the benefit of all young people taking part'.

'The guidance does not acknowledge any objections that young people or their parent(s)/carer(s) may have to sharing facilities with a transgender young person, other than suggesting their objections may be a result of 'misconceptions' and framing them as antithetical to inclusion, equality and respect,' they wrote.

'The use of the word "respect" is particularly concerning, as it implies that the healthy boundaries girls may have around who sees them undressed could be considered "disrespectful".'

Although transgender students may feel comfortable, the group further warned that 'discomfort' was 'likely to be an outcome' for other learners.

'The framing of the right of girls to privacy, dignity and to boundaries around their own bodies as a set of fundamentally unreasonable requirements that are in conflict with inclusion, equality and respect is particularly concerning,' it said.

'Not only does this ignore the existence of these rights and the needs that give rise to them, but it ignores that these rights are crucial to female inclusion. Failure to recognise and respect these rights for girls could be discriminatory.

'Furthermore, placing girls in the position where they have to single themselves out if they are distressed at being expected to forgo their rights and their boundaries, at the same time as issuing a directive to remind anyone objecting to these guidelines about the school's ethos of "inclusion, equality and respect", is unlikely to foster a safe and friendly environment in which girls are supported to make their needs known.'

The report also warned that religious children could be negatively impacted as their beliefs may conflict with some aspects of the guidance, such as sharing facilities with members of the opposite sex.

'If this prevents them from participating then this may also be discriminatory,' it said.

The group continued: 'The guidance undoubtedly has the best interests of transgender young people as its primary consideration, however it is not at all clear that the interests of other young people who are not trans have also been given due consideration.'

The Times reported last year that the guidance had been challenged by the Haddington SNP branch, based in East Lothian. 

It said in a letter to party members that 'transgender ideology' was sweeping across Scottish schools and that the guidance was being implemented 'apparently without any consultation, evaluation or risk assessment'.

Free Church minister, the Rev David Robertson, welcomed the response of Haddington SNP, telling The Times: 'The advice in the guidance is harmful and totalitarian, and the adoption of the radical transgender agenda is an attack on women. It's about time that others spoke up.'