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Transgender bullying is on the rise in schools

Transphobic bullying is common throughout Britain’s schools and colleges.

The findings of a recent study by LGBT rights charity Stonewall suggest that 64% of trans pupils are bullied at school and continue to face intolerably high levels of poor mental health.

The majority of people are “gender binary”—divided up into boys and girls, men and women. For many people, trans identities are difficult to understand as trans people generally feel they are not classified into these two main groups. Gender recognition varies from country to country, as well as laws that affect people who identify as trans.

According to the transgender pressure group Press for Change: “Transgender bullying in schools in Britain is a serious problem. Many children are often bullied, but trans children suffer the most from this epidemic. Trans children face victimisation in schools on a regular basis. This can be very distressing for them both in terms of being accepted in society and performing well in studies.”

“Being transgender is not something I was open with when I was younger,” says Melanie Stoner, “I have been out for the last 15 or 20 years. It’s more acceptable now. When I was little, it wasn’t acceptable at all. Hence, I suffered constant bullying at school.”

On the other hand, Crissie Ashman from London says: “I was really fortunate that I did not experience discrimination and bullying in school even though I cross-dressed as transgender. My teachers and pupils were fine with it and accepted me the way I was.”

However, transgender children always complain about discrimination and bullying in school. Discrimination and bullying research indicates that more than 66% of trans girls and 91% of trans boys experience harassment and bullying in school, which can lead them into depression, loneliness and can cause children to lose interest in their education.

The Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) who work with over 150 organisations and individuals to promote children’s rights stress that transgender children should have the right to be protected from discrimination and should be safeguarded against all kinds of violence. They should have access to the best possible healthcare and should be taught the curriculum which helps improve their life skills and teaches them how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

The UN committee following its recent analysis of the UK raised concern that transgender children continue to experience prejudicial treatment. It made a number of proposals, including:

“Efforts should be made to tackle discrimination and stigma;

Harassment and violence against transgender children in schools should be stopped;

All trans children must be provided with sexual health education;

In order for the trans children to get the best possible healthcare, the skills and education of healthcare professionals should be improved.”

The UN committee gives special importance to rights education to minimise bullying and unfairness. Despite that, transgender children who partook in their examination had on many occasions received no such education.

Jay Stewart, co-founder of Gendered Intelligence, a group that supports young trans people in the UK, wrote on his website: “We have been working with young people since 2006 and the demand for our services is growing. Bullying behaviour in schools is endemic and we often find schools sweeping such things under the carpet.”

The Children’s Rights Alliance for England stated in their briefing paper produced in 2016 on transgender children states that, “Transgender children who had experienced discrimination in school, which includes personal remarks about their looks and bullying from peers and gender specification from teachers, said that they always accepted it because they were unaware they had a right to be treated in a different way: 

Support groups like Mermaids, Transfigurations provide family and individual support for teenagers and children with gender identity issues and offer emotional support to all trans people accept their gender identity and provide a secure meeting place for them.

Transfigurations is open to trans men and women, even for transvestites or crossdressers—all are welcome to attend. People who associate themselves as being supporters of transgender people or intersex are also allowed to attend meetings organised by them.

They have a special group for transgender children and young people and online support forums for trans men and women to talk about the problems that they might be experiencing.

The Department for Education needs to ensure that a practical, statutory guidance on supporting trans pupils is developed at primary and secondary schools. They must continue to ensure that a school’s constructiveness in tackling transphobic bullying and producing a safe learning environment for all young people is included in the inspection framework and that this is clearly conveyed to all schools.

Childline is a free, confidential 24-hour helpline provided with counsellors especially for children and young people to talk about any issue that is upsetting them. Trans children can talk to a counsellor online as well as other young people through the message boards.

The Childline website also contains lots of information and advice on issues such as bullying, abuse, exam stress and domestic violence.

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