Last Friday, 31 March, marked another international Trans Day of Visibility. However, as the Canary tweeted, trans people aren’t struggling for visibility right now. What they *are* struggling for is a non-hostile mainstream press and politicians that aren’t happy to throw them under the bus. Kier Starmer – we’re looking at you.
With the above in mind, lets take a quick look at what everybody’s favourite opposition leader has been up to.
Starmer in the Times
Well, as a true man of the people, Starmer is once again speaking to his public from behind a Times paywall. The Times ran with the headline “Keir Starmer: Trans rights can’t override women’s rights”. But to give the man his due, he doesn’t control the headline – let’s have a look at what he actually says.
Most of the article isn’t about trans people or women. It’s a hollow puff piece about moving on from Jeremy Corbyn and reforming the party. However, in the relevant portion, on the definition of ‘woman’ Starmer did manage to squeak out:
For 99.9 per cent of women, it is completely biological . . . and of course they haven’t got a penis.
So, first up, his maths is a bit faulty there. The 2022 census told us that there are 30,420,202 women in England and Wales. About 48,000 of those are trans women. So that’s closer to 99.84% of women being cis. But that’s not the worst of it.
The truly bloody stupid bit comes later. It was in reference to a recent piece of ‘research’ from right-wing think tank Policy Exchange which criticised the fact that some schools don’t routinely inform a child’s parents if they choose to socially transition at school. Here, ‘social transition’ means using a different name, pronoun, or presentation.
When asked about the topic, Starmer replied:
Look, of course I’d want to know. I say that as a parent. I would want to know and I think the vast majority of parents would want to know. That’s why we have to have national guidance on it and they should try to make it cross-party, because it’s not helpful to parents or schools to have this as just a toxic divide when what’s needed is practical, common sense advice.
I fear that ‘common sense’ is sadly lacking here. Although Starmer got the ‘cross-party’ bit correct – his answer is remarkably similar to Rishi Sunak’s:
we will make sure that we publish guidance for schools so that they know how to respond when children are asking about their gender.
These are really sensitive areas, it’s important that we treat them sensitively, and that parents know what’s going on, and we’ll make sure that that happens.
So, that’s the PM and the leader of the opposition in agreement, isn’t it? Except there are two problems here. Firstly, we already have guidance on this issue. It’s just being ignored because bullying trans kids is the mainstream media’s flavour of the day.
And second – and I can’t believe I need to say this – outing queer kids to their parents is potentially incredibly dangerous.
Only last year, in September 2022, the Department of Education (DoE) issued the last update of its guidance on pupil safeguarding. As a general guideline, the DoE stated that:
Where there is a safeguarding concern, governing bodies, proprietors and school or college leaders should ensure the child’s wishes and feelings are taken into account when determining what action to take and what services to provide.
Further than this, the document included more specific guidelines for queer children. It recognised that the danger for them is often magnified:
Risks can be compounded where children who are LGBT lack a trusted adult with whom they can be open. It is therefore vital that staff endeavour to reduce the additional barriers faced and provide a safe space for them to speak out or share their concerns with members of staff
So, far from Policy Exchange’s framing, schools are not failing in their so-called duty to inform parents of their child being trans. Instead, if a child has chosen – for whatever reason – not to come out to their parents, then that wish must be respected. If a child knows that speaking to staff members automatically means that their parents will be informed, then they lose a vital point of trust and contact. The enforced outing of children would therefore breed more secrecy, not less.
This brings us to the second issue. If a child is choosing not to come out to their parents, they probably have good reason for that. In a best-case scenario, this might be because they are simply unready to do so. This, in itself, should be enough.
But it could also be the case that the child believes they would be unsafe if they came out to their parents. This belief is borne out in statistics. Research from the Albert Kenny Trust suggests that:
- LGBT young people are disproportionately represented in the young homeless population. As many as 24% of young homeless people are LGBT
- 69% of homeless LGBT young people had experienced violence, abuse or rejection from the family home
- 77% state that their LGBT identity was a causal factor in them becoming homeless
So, work with me for a second here. A trans child thinks that they will be beaten or thrown out of their home for coming out. However, they think their school will be more accepting. They choose to use a different name at school. Then, their school is compelled to out the child to their parents – that is if Policy Exchange, Starmer, and Sunak get their way.
This is a clear safeguarding risk. What’s more, it should be obvious to anyone with an ounce of care for the children they’re speaking of. But apparently this goes out the window where trans kids are concerned.
To provide the benefit of the doubt, it could be the case that people imagine a set of loving parents who simply want to know what is happening to their child. But, as many queer adults know to their detriment, this is far, far from a guarantee. Schools cannot, and should not, make this assumption.
Starmer, I’m at least vaguely sure, is not a fool. I struggle to think that it has not occurred to him that the forced outing of vulnerable children will put them in danger. The man was a lawyer, for Christ’s sake. Yet this doesn’t seem to matter one jot.
Our leader of the ‘opposition’ is a man who will happily parrot conservative talking points like Sunak’s. He will accept – without criticism – the framing used by right-wing thinktanks like Policy Exchange. He’ll join in monstering the mainstream media’s demon of the day and dress it up as concern.
I genuinely can’t tell what Starmer believes in, if anything. He’s not a leader of the opposition. He’s barely even a Labour politician. That right there is just a Tory with a ten second delay.
Featured image via Youtube/Sky News