Sophie Cook

Not today : How I chose life

Education and awareness is needed to save trans youth from suicide

Posted on Mar 19, 2016

Education and awareness is needed to save trans youth from suicide

You’ve got to admire the way some people cling to their beliefs and bigotry even when it could potentially harm the one’s they love.

Some parents at a primary school in Sussex removed their children from school because an anti-bullying lesson was telling the kids that transgender people exist and that you shouldn’t be mean to them.

I mean that’s some kind of subversive message there, some people are different and it’s not ok to be bigoted.

The school, St Mary the Virgin, was using a toolkit designed by anti-bullying charity Allsorts Youth Project that was designed to “empower lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans young people to take a lead in raising awareness and challenge prejudice and discrimination”.

Rather than see this as a way of broadening their children’s horizons some parents turned to that defender of oppressed minorities the Daily Mail, complaining that the issue was “nonsense” and that their children were “under threat”.

According to the Mail one ‘concerned mother’ said: “I don’t want my daughter being exposed to all this nonsense.

“Kids need to be left alone when it comes to things like this, they just want to run around the playground not be told they need to “think differently” about gender issues. The whole thing is ridiculous and I hope the head gets the message and scraps it.”

The head Miss Emma Maltby said: “As part of the national curriculum, we spend time talking to the children about British values of tolerance, respect and celebrating differences. One of the areas we will be discussing shortly is gender identity.

“We have had a very positive response to the event and the opportunity to learn more about this relevant topic, although three families have chosen to withdraw their children from school.

“St Mary’s is an extremely inclusive school which embraces and celebrates difference and encourages children to be themselves. While some parents may have felt uneasy discussing a topic such as gender identity, our priority is to give pupils a well-rounded education and help them become responsible, independent people able to respect others.”

Educating young people involves helping them to come to terms with themselves and the world around them, they’re taught about the changes that they go through in puberty, but what if a child is trans, all of the ‘wondrous’ changes of puberty suddenly become torture and they’ve never been told that this might have been a possibility.

I first knew that I was transgender around the age of 7. This was the mid-70s so I had no idea what was happening to me, we had no internet and we certainly weren’t shown any positive role models in the media.

Because of this lack of knowledge the first time I attempted suicide was when I was 12.

My youngest daughter is now 12 and the thought of her being in that much pain breaks my heart.

As we grow up every single one of us makes a decision about our gender identity and our sexuality, although this decision goes totally unnoticed unless the person decides that they’re LGBT. If people decide that they are cisgender (identify with their birth gender) and straight then society is happy and no one notices.

It’s vitally important that young people are told about the possibilities before they reach the point of attempting suicide.

Schools, society and, dare I say it, families need to create an atmosphere where young people that may be questioning their identity feel safe to talk about it without fear of persecution.

This means preemptive education and awareness and a zero tolerance to any kind of bigoted bullying.

I recently spoke at Brighton College after they changed their school uniforms to make them gender non-specific and I told them the same thing I’ve told Miss Maltby, what they are doing is vitally important for the future health and wellbeing of some of their pupils.

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