Saturday, 28 November 2009

"Political Correctness Gone Mad"

One of the groups of children most bullied, most traumatised and most socially excluded in our schools is transgender children. Theses are children whose gender identity does not easily fit the gender identity they were assigned at birth. Some may be transsexuals, literally boys trapped in girls’ bodies or vice-versa. Some may feel that they cannot fit into either gender category. Others may be unsure of their gender identity and need time and space to work things out.

The mean average age at which a transgender person comes to the realisation that his or her gender identity is different from the majority of children around them, is 7 years old. The modal average age is just 5, with around 80% of all transgender people aware they are trans before they leave primary school, and only around 3% becoming aware after their 18th birthday. It is estimated that between 1 and 2% of the population is in some way transgendered.

However the figures do not tell the whole story. Almost every one of these children has a tale of immense suffering as a result of physical bullying, emotional stress and extreme social exclusion. A quarter of these children attempt suicide, and trans children leave school on average earlier than any other group, because of the bullying they encounter there. These kids are bullied because they are different; they are singled by other children and isolated, excluded from playground games, abused, threatened and physically assaulted. In fact as a whole, Britain is the worst country in the EU for physical violence against transgender people.

The effects of this bullying by other children (and sadly sometimes by school staff and other kids’ parents) is traumatic. These children suffer from the effects of trauma well into adulthood, often suppressing their gender identities into their 30s or beyond with all the consequences for self-esteem and reduced life chances. One 10-year-old transgender child killed himself two years ago. The coroner at the inquest into his death said that 10-year-olds committing suicide is an extremely rare occurrence.

But where does this bullying come from? Young children do not come to school with naturally transphobic attitudes. So where do the “sissy”, “poof”, “dyke” insults come from? Most teachers will, of course instantly give the answer; parents. A significant minority of parents are content with effectively bullying other people’s kids by proxy and encourage their own children to use abuse, violence or exclusion bullying against transgender children (and indeed other children in school). It is therefore all the more concerning to hear Margaret Morrissey of Parents Outloud Campaign saying the government “stop interfering with parents bringing up their children”.

Unpicking this, it would seem apparent that she is standing up for parents’ rights to bully and abuse other parents’ children, and to deny them the same access to education that their own kids have. It would also appear that she is suggesting that it is OK for parents to bring up their own children to be bigoted transphobic bullies. The usual voices were also heard with Tory MP Philip Davies saying, “I have heard some ludicrous things in my time but this one tops the lot.”

Perhaps he would like to tell the parents of transgender children that asking schools to protect their kids from bullying is “ludicrous” I recently talked to the mother of a transgender child who had mortgaged her home in order to pay for hormone blocking treatment for her child, to postpone puberty until she is able to decide for herself whether to have any gender reassignment surgery. What she said shook me and should shake Ms Morrissey and Mr Davies; “I would rather have a live daughter than a dead son.”

This represents on of the main problems for the knee-jerk “Political Correctness Gone Mad” individuals whose responses tend to involve thoughtless reaction. In this case Both Margaret Morrissey and Philip Davies have set themselves up as people who would advocate bullying some of the most powerless children in our society. I am sure they are both not that kind of person and would protect any child they saw being bullied for any reason. The logic of their statements would appear to suggest otherwise.

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