Schools must support young trans people

We are extremely saddened to hear of the death of 15 year-old trans boy Leo Etherington from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. Leo took his own life in May 2017 and an inquest into his death has recently taken place.

Media reports of the inquest suggest that Leo was supported by his family and friends.

The media also reported that Leo’s school said he could not change his name there until he was 16 (Wycombe High School has since refuted these claims).

There continues to be misinformation around making a name change, especially of young people aged under 16. This misinformation can create a huge amount of damage for young people who are unnecessarily blocked from their gender being recognised and validated. Many young people are unaware of their rights, even when they are supported by friends and family.

It is possible to change your name if you are aged under 16, with parental consent. In fact, as gov.uk says, you do not have to follow a legal process in order to start using a new name. The act of using a new name is the change of name itself.

However, in some circumstances you may need a deed poll (or a statutory declaration) in order to prove that a change has taken place.  You can “enroll” your Deed Poll with the courts from 18, but in most cases this is not necessary.

If someone is a young person, getting formal evidence of a name change requires the consent of those with parental responsibility.  Those over 16 can apply for a Deed Poll or Statutory Declaration themselves.

It is not necessary to have undergone any part of gender reassignment or medical transition in order to change your name and title.

Sometimes schools work on the false assumption that young people cannot change their name until some condition or other is met – for example, the child reaches a certain age, or until they attend the gender identity services for adolescents (NHS GIDS). This kind of assumption can be based on prejudices around the “correct age” at which a young person can self identify as transgender and make decisions about their transition. Young trans people continue to grow up in a society where they receive negative messages about not conforming to the gender expectations placed on them at birth. Many face bullying, discrimination and even violence. They experience high levels of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

It is vital that schools create a safe and inclusive environment for trans and gender variant young people. If you are a school and are concerned about the well-being of your trans students and/ or are keen to ensure that your school is inclusive of trans people, do reach out to us or other organisations that can support you.

You can contact us at: education@genderedintelligence.co.uk

Young trans people who do not have support and validation at home desperately need to feel safe enough to be themselves at school or college. If they cannot find support at home or at school, they find themselves in an incredibly isolated position.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please reach out for help. Talk to a parent, a teacher, your GP, a member of your faith community or a youth group leader. If you feel unable to do that, you can contact one of the UK helplines below:

Samaritans (08457 90 90 90)
Childline (0800 1111)

HOPELineUK (PAPYRUS)

Call: 0800 068 41 41

Email: pat@papyrus-uk.org

SMS: 07786 209697

HOPELineUK is a specialist telephone service staffed by trained professionals who give non-judgemental support, practical advice and information to:

  • Children, teenagers and young people up to the age of 35 who are worried about how they are feeling
  • Anyone who is concerned about a young person

Opening hours:  Mon-Fri: 10am-10pm, weekends: 2pm-10pm & bank holidays: 2pm-5pm

In an emergency, phone 999 as soon as possible.

Prevention of young suicide: http://www.papyrus-uk.org/
Myths about suicide: http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-he…/myths-about-suicide

 

 

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Student placement at GI tells us about the trans youth network conference

Hi, my name is Phoebe and I am on the BA Drama and Applied theatre in Education course at Central School of Speech & Drama. I am currently in my third year and so have been lucky enough to be on my placement with Gendered Intelligence.

I attended the National Trans* Youth Conference in Manchester, based at the Manchester Metropolitan University. This was a day full of incredible people who identify as trans, non-binary or questioning their gender as well as some working professionals from services such as CAMHS or LGBT youth groups and there was a turnout of around 200 people.

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As well as it being a day to increase connections and socialise with other people who may be having the same experiences as you, it was full of sessions providing people with important information which can help to empower young trans people by giving them the knowledge they need as well as inform professionals with information and facts on how best to help the people they work with.

The conference started with an introduction to the day, explaining what some of the sessions would be about as well as how the day would pan out. In the morning some of the sessions consisted of confidence building, how to create a petition, information about trans people’s rights within schools, as well as many other sessions.

After lunch, full of sandwiches, crisps, pasta, vegan and vegetarian friendly food, as well as gluten free food which was so kindly provided, there were some more sessions for the young trans people to attend. These sessions were more creative sessions and consisted of Film making, music, drama, creative writing and others.

I attended the drama workshop, as it is one of my main interest. We had lots of fun making sock puppet scenes, in which our trans sock even dated a crocodile, which I found quite entertaining. I believe that using drama as well as other creative fields is a perfect way to build confidence. Seeing people, previously looking slightly unhappy with a big smile and laughing was probably the best part of my day.

After this session there was a panel discussion in the format of question and answer, allowing the questions of the young people, mainly related to healthcare to be answered directly by working professionals.  This was highly interesting and gave not only me but I believe many people answers to queries that had not been answered previously.

This day was an excellent way to meet other people who identify as trans, non-binary and questioning their gender. It allowed people to share stories and experiences as well as being given advice on how they may go about difficult situations in schools.
I felt lucky to be able to talk to many people and learn so much that I did not already know around the topic of trans identities in medicine and in other aspects of their lives.

I am personally cis-gender, however I love to wear shirts and baggy jeans and I have myself experienced hate because of the way I dress. I believe that with these conferences in place, more people can become educated, which I believe is the start to end hate.

If you ever hear of another trans conference, I would highly recommend going, bringing friends and family to the event. Getting everyone involved will start breaking down the barriers between us.

Thank you for reading,
Phoebe

5 Things You Will Learn from Being Out as Trans at University

By Jesse Ashman

Having come out in my first year of studying an undergraduate degree in English Literature, I am about to start a new university for the second time – this time as postgraduate student, below are some things I learnt from the first time at university.

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  1. You are not alone

While it seems statistically unlikely, there are other trans people at university. I might have been extremely lucky, but I had a small support-cluster of trans friends on campus. There is, of course, no way to find out if you have a potential trans comrade without being very rude (asking if someone is trans is rude, and does not help with making friends). This extends into professional academia as well. I’ve found, especially when dealing with queer theory, you will start using more and more texts by trans academics; it isn’t just my generation of trans people in higher education, others have walked this path before. This also isn’t just confined to the arts; I particularly recommend Evolution’s Rainbow, by Joan Roughgarden, who is a biologist and a trans woman. For me, it’s comforting to know that if you do get to the higher circles of academia there will be others there who too have had to go through explaining things like ‘my pronouns are actually…’ and ‘the gender is wrong on my passport because…’ which brings me on to…

  1. People will surprise you

It’s nice to have other trans people to talk to, but it’s also good to bear in mind that people outside of the community will surprise you. If you do choose to disclose your trans status, I’ve found that you can never assume who will be understanding and who won’t. Some of the most supportive people of my experience as a trans student have been people who I would never have guessed before coming to university would be. I especially remember one member of staff was extremely passionate about the injustice of me not feeling comfortable taking part in a conference because it would mean being put in single-sex accommodation. The overwhelming majority of people, especially proper-adult people who have had more years or more life experience or both in order to become educated on trans issues, were understanding and used the correct pronouns after having been corrected a minimum of once. That being said, doesn’t just apply to people already informed on trans issues. During my time at university I found myself explaining my trans status to a hall full of boisterous high-school students – after having clumsily explained in what I thought were the simplest terms possible, the reply came back from one of the particularly loud members of the pre-pubescent audience; ‘fair enough.’

  1. You will study texts that completely ignore your existenceSONY DSC

You can explain the existence of trans people to an IRL (IRL = In Real Life, for any non-digital natives reading) person, no amount of careful explaining to a hardbound copy of Freud’s essays on sexuality will change its mind about the development of gender. As soon as you go into any reading about gender a trans person will find many texts that ignore or misunderstand their existence; erasing it or using it as an ‘extreme example’ of gender variance or worse, by implying that the existence of trans people infringes upon women’s rights. There is no easy solution for this, the only partial remedy I can offer is to write your own opinions, challenge tutors who portray outdated theories in a positive light and try to use any salvageable elements of texts like this. It is unfortunate that it’s almost impossible not to encounter academic articles and books that have no understanding, consideration or a negative view of the trans community and it’s important to bear in mind that this does not represent the view of most people. Especially now, and especially after someone has undergone a little education on trans issues – most people have prejudices based on misunderstanding and not on hate.

  1. It is Okay to challenge the institutionSONY DSC

Bearing this in mind, this goes not just for trans issues, and is definitely something that all students should be made aware of ; it’s okay to challenge the institution (the institution being academia, the university system and established knowledge). Being at university means you’re part of the academic community now – and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise, to imply that your opinion is less valued based on your age or position as an undergraduate, is a self-aggrandising moron. It’s perfectly okay to point out when a text ignores or contradicts your existence or when you disagree for any other reason. And it’s certainly perfectly okay to point out when a staff member makes a mistake when talking about gender, either as a general concept and especially when they’re talking about your own gender. One of the problems I regularly encountered on a course made almost entirely of women was seminar leaders jovially pointing out ‘there’s only X amount of boys in the class!’ – the tally was always one short and a lot of apologies were made. Just because someone is an authority figure does not mean they won’t concede when they are wrong, and any member of staff who doesn’t should not be involved in teaching, or in academia. University is about broadening horizons and collective knowledge, not an established knowledge being passed down from on high by the doctors and professors of the university. (Although one piece of information I would like them to pass down is what actually is the difference between a professor and a doctor except that one makes me think of the bird from Bagpuss). It is often difficult to be assertive when you know or suspect authority figures to be wrong, but you should challenge them whenever you are able.

  1. There will be bad days

And lastly this one almost goes without saying – there will be bad days. There will be days when you feel entirely alone, when you feel like there is no one in the institution who would even scrape the tip of the iceberg of understanding trans experience and as if every piece of study was designed without you in mind. The best thing to remember is that this is natural, and this is okay. I haven’t met a single student, trans or otherwise, who hasn’t had bad days. It doesn’t mean you’re not strong enough to get through a degree, and it doesn’t mean there aren’t good days to come – and this is the most valuable piece of information I learnt as an undergraduate and if I was to choose one thing to pass down to my first-year self it would be that bad days are okay. So okay in fact that despite the bad days I chose to start it all over again within few months of graduating.

Jesse is an English literature graduate and aquatic snail enthusiast from Essex. He graduated from Queen Mary, University of London and is currently studying for an MA in Sexual Dissidence at the University of Sussex. 

Follow him on Twitter: @JesseAshman