As trans activists and allies celebrated the findings of the Women and Equalities Trans Inquiry earlier this year, which raised awareness in the media, it’s still back to work on education for those of us at the chalk face. It may have been big news to many, but it left trans teachers, lecturers, support staff and young people trying to answer myriad questions from colleagues, friends and parents. And gender identity is a complex issue, it’s difficult for some people to begin to ask questions, which is why we are so often asked about trans issues and why we are proactive about opportunities to raise awareness, feed into conferences and get the word out.
Trans activists have fought long and hard for equality, which is still a long way off, but their actions and dedication have paved the way for the progress we can all contribute to. What has become plain, though, is that LGBT issues and concerns are being aired and sometimes addressed at increasingly higher levels and the powers that be are being held accountable.
There are many schools and colleges that are getting it right and providing excellent advice and guidance and signposting young people to excellent organisations. However, it’s clearly the case that many trans young people are not getting the help, support and guidance they need. As an education union, we can be the bridge between the many organisations supporting trans young people and teachers and lecturers who want to know more. Of course, it’s not all about the classroom, and ATL is also supporting trans education staff and the reps who support them with new guidance produced this year.
In our campaign for statutory sex and relationships education, we are very clear that such lessons must be fully inclusive and that’s a message ATL promotes as part of the Sex Education Forum Advisory Group, fed into the Labour Party Stakeholder Group on HBT bullying and continues to promote in schools. We are also proud to have sponsored the second Trans Youth Conference last year and to visit schools and colleges to speak about gender and gender identity to staff. Through our work on LGBT History Month, we have been supporting a wide range of activities to raise awareness, and as Schools OUT UK say “educate out prejudice” in schools and colleges across the country.
Our flagship website for ATL’s Safer Schools Network www.saferschools.org.uk continues to be a great resource for teachers, lecturers and support staff alike. Through Safer Schools we are enabling education staff to find out more about a variety of issues they might face in the classroom, and, it should be added, in the staffroom. We are working with a variety of partners who can support education staff and other frontline staff working with young people, such as the Anti-Bullying Alliance, LGBT History Month, Stonewall, the Diana Anti-Bullying Award and GIRES (Gender Identity Research Education Society).
The current focus on trans issues doesn’t detract from the work we still need to do on lesbian, gay and bisexual rights and on tackling homophobic and biphobic bullying, harassment and discrimination. We cannot take our eye off the prize of true equality and respect for all. We know that prejudice-based bullying is still a major problem in schools and colleges, and we know that prejudice-based bullying is also a huge problem in workplaces. Whatever you think of the coverage of the issues, they are being talked about and this is raising awareness and making our jobs easier, whether we are in the classroom or the staffroom.
For a variety of resources on LGBT issues see www.saferschools.org.uk