Skip to content ↓

Transgender Students

A transgender person feels that their external appearance or the sex they were assigned at birth does not match the way they feel internally about their gender identity. People, who are questioning their gender identity or are gender non-conforming, may or may not be transsexual, as gender variance can be fluid. Gender Dysphoria (or Gender Identity Disorder) can present from two years old and can only be diagnosed by a medical and/or psychiatric expert. A person with Gender Dysphoria may require treatment to ameliorate the symptoms associated with being transgender. A transgender person can live their life without being diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria or receive treatment and may choose to be known by a gender neutral name or to wear different clothes. Most transgender students and families will need support or information as they grow & develop.

Trans people’s experiences:
80% silent harassment, staring, whispering
38% physical intimidation and threats
63% negative interactions in general mental health services
58% knew they were transgender person by 13 years old
28% young transgender people haven’t told anyone
81% felt they gained something from being transgender or expressing their gender identity
35% avoided seeking urgent help because of their transgender history
28% have experienced physical attacks
27% have attempted suicide
17% told their mental health issues were because they were transgender people

The Human Rights Act 1998 supports the right of transgender people to live in their true gender with freedom of expression, respect for their private and family life & prohibiting discrimination.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 makes provision for a person who is 18 years old:

  • to be able to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC)
  • to have a birth certificate created from their registered GRC

Education settings must not discriminate:
Discrimination occurs when a practice that applies to everyone, puts a person with a protected characteristic at a disadvantage e.g. a uniform rule with no “unisex” options. There is no legal requirement to make “reasonable adjustments” for transgender students, but this approach ensures that they are properly supported and the setting fulfils its ‘duty of care’.

The Equality Act 2010 protected characteristics are: age, race, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, religion or belief, marriage/civil partnership, sex and sexual orientation.

The ‘equality duty’: public authorities must eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation & other prohibited conduct. Compliance with the duty may involve treating some people more favourably than others, by:
1. Advancing equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not, by:

  • Removing or minimising disadvantage
  • Meeting the needs of people in protected groups
  • Encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life & other activities

2. Fostering good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not, by, e.g. tackling prejudice and promoting understanding. Public authorities must stop discrimination because of marriage or civil partnership status. Religion or belief does not justify unlawful discrimination.

Information about a person’s transgender status is sensitive (special category data) and must be processed in line with General Data Protection Regulation conditions.

Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999: If a person is involved in any stage of gender
reassignment, they:

  • Are entitled to protection from discrimination at work, school & vocational training
  • Cannot be treated less favourably than others regarding absences or terms & conditions of employment, education or training.

How settings can support a transgender student:

  • Write a confidential, informal & flexible support agreement between the Head, parents/carers & student and review and amend as necessary
  • Respect & support the transgender students choices regarding confidentiality, use of facilities, their name & pronoun, uniform & medical treatment (as outlined later in the policy)
  • Update all documents and re-issue previous awards & certificates with their chosen name
  • Keep all previous documents securely
  • Discuss with parents/carers & student about if, who, how & when changes are communicated within the setting
  • Consider the training needs of staff and governors, e.g. e-learning, face-to-face training
  • Raise pupil awareness through assemblies, PHSE, RSE, equality & human rights discussion in the classroom & the curriculum
  • If they are willing, involve transgender students in raising student awareness, staff training etc.
  • Make resources widely available e.g. leaflets, e-Learning, library books, internet links
  • Display equality literature and policies around the setting
  • Offer individual & confidential discussions for parents/carers, governors, staff if needed
  • Identify individual or group student support from e.g. a trained mentor
  • Encourage transgender students to set up and run their own support group
  • Identify support groups for family members
  • Celebrate diversity - run events such as LGB&T+ History Month (February)

PE, toilets & changing facilities:
Settings must sensitively manage issues relating to physical ability, risk & participation for transgender students.
They may be fine or feel vulnerable because of unwanted attention, bullying or harm.
Support the choices of a transgender student to use the toilets and changing facilities of their chosen gender or individual facilities by providing:

  • Toilets & changing facilities with group and individual cubicles
  • An individual ‘gender neutral’ toilet e.g. by renaming the ‘disabled’ toilet as ‘unisex accessible toilet’ or simply ‘toilet’

Transphobic bullying:
Transphobic bullying is worsened by a lack of understanding, explanation & leadership, student awareness & education and staff training. Review your anti-bullying policy to ensure it includes LGBT+ bullying and mechanisms for students to be supported with their sexual identity. Transphobic incidents must be recorded & dealt with as a hate incident & responses should focus on supporting the victim and managing the bully’s future behaviour.
Many education settings have introduced programmes which address transphobia and some examples are included here: Approaches to preventing and tackling bullying: case studies, DfE 2018.

Terminology and language:
Trans students will use different names and terms to identify themselves & to describe being transgender. Using these terms incorrectly can be uncomfortable & detrimental to their wellbeing. Staff should always use the students chosen:

  • gender (e.g. male, female, neutral, fluid)
  • name & pronouns (e.g. he, she, they, them)

See the "glossary of terms" document for more details.

Uniform:
Settings should:

  • Provide a gender neutral uniform option so students can wear the uniform they identify with
  • Agree alternative sportswear e.g. for water based activities, such as skirted swimsuits, rash vests, ‘baggy’ shorts & wetsuits.

Trips and overnight stays:
A transgender student should choose whether to sleep in a dorm/room of their self-identified gender, a gender neutral room/dorm or a private space & be fully supported by the setting & accommodation provider.
Trips overseas may worry a transgender student due to:

  • their appearance & documentation not corresponding to their self-identified gender
  • Negative legal and cultural issues
  • Possible border searches

Discuss these concerns with the student & the legal protections for transgender people in the country they are visiting.

Sickness and other time off:

  • Record absence sensitively, e.g. time off for a related medical appointment which does not merit being recorded as sick
  • Help to make up lost lessons with extra tuition and support
  • Be aware that medication such as hormone-blockers may lead to lack of energy and other side effects

Changing name, pronoun & gender identity:
This is an important step for many transgender students and should be respected in all communications, personal data systems (including SIM’s), letters home, reports, bus pass information etc. Students can be entered under any name with an exam board, but once a result is accredited it will need to be linked with the Unique Pupil Number
(UPN) or Unique Learner Number (ULN) from the school census in January of the exam year. Exam certificates can be issued in the preferred name. Birth certificate details can only be changed if a Gender Recognition Certificate has been registered.
To change a passport name or other official document you may need to evidence a change of name by deed poll or by statutory declaration. A person under 16 years cannot change their name legally without the consent of a parent this does not change a legal gender identity.

Staff training and student awareness/education should be an open experience to discuss different views and address:

  • Social, moral, spiritual & cultural issues
  • Safeguarding & transphobia
  • Legal and financial issues
  • Consent, confidentiality, privacy & dignity
  • Gender identity
  • Language and terminology

Training should always be provided by someone with an understanding of transgender issues; talk to your transgender students to see if they want to be involved.

Vaccinations:
General vaccinations should be given to both genders in a mixed queue, with screens to promote privacy for each pupil. If the vaccination is gender specific allow the transgender student to choose whether to receive it at school or from their GP.

Moving to a new education setting:
Some transgender students see this as a new start and wish to be known by their chosen gender. This can be empowering if the correct support and preparation is in place. The move will need consideration, planning & good communication and must include the rights, thoughts, concerns and wishes of the transgender student & their parents or carers as appropriate.

  • Identify a staff member in the new setting who will support the transgender student
  • Ensure the new setting has prepared for the needs of the student in line with this policy