As part of a Children’s Commissioner survey sent to all Brighton and Hove students age 13–18, the youngsters were invited to select their gender with terms including “demi-boy,” “non-binary,” “gender fluid” and the traditional “girl” and “boy.”
Anne Longfield OBE, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said, “We want to know how gender matters to young people: What does gender mean to them; how does it affect their lives; what do they want to change?”
The move has been welcomed by trans campaigners, who believe that giving kids struggling with gender identity the chance to put a name to their feelings could help overcome some of the issues.
“The teenage years are terrible for all of us, but if you are battling gender dysphoria as well, you can feel so isolated and alone and confused,” photographer and activist Sophie Cook, who knew from the age of seven she was transgender, told The Argus. “I really think it could help young people who are going through this to be given a list of terms that they may find relate to what they are going through.”
However, the survey wasn’t welcomed by some parents at Blatchington Mill School, who complained they weren’t asked permission — even though this was one of the conditions for pupils under the age of 16 taking the questionnaire — and raised concerns that the survey could be confusing for youngsters.
Naturally, some parents may feel that it’s their responsibility — not the school’s — to tackle issues such as gender identity with their children, but in all honesty, how many of them instigate those conversations? Having to answer questions about a survey like this may be difficult or uncomfortable, but that’s no excuse. This could provide teens who are confused about their gender identity the perfect opportunity to kickstart that conversation at home.
Blatchington Mill School headteacher Ashley Harrold defended her decision to give pupils the survey.
“We’re incredibly passionate about ensuring that every student feels safe and welcome at our school,” she said. “When it comes to gender identity, it is a real and valid concern for a number of students. For us, anything that prevents students feeling happy, from feeling confident in themselves and from feeling accepted by their peers is something we feel the curriculum should address. Raising students’ awareness of the wider spectrum of gender identity is important in building an inclusive and tolerant society.”