Children Should Be Free to Wear Tutus, Tiaras, and Heels at School, Says Church of England
The church released new guidance on homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia.
The Church of England has described school as a time of “creative exploration,” where children should be free to explore their identity “without judgement or derision.”
In new guidance on bullying, with a specific focus on homophobic, transphobic, and biphobic bullying, the church has called on teachers to let pupils explore “who they might be.”
Primary schoolchildren should be able to play with “the many cloaks of identity” without being labelled or bullied, it said — “sometimes quite literally with the dressing up box.”
The guidance — an updated version of the 2014 report “Valuing All God’s Children” — said that any child of any gender should be able to choose a tutu, a princess’ tiara, heels, a fireman’s helmet, tool belt, or superhero cloak “without expectation or comment.”
“We must avoid, at all costs, diminishing the dignity of any individual to a stereotype or a problem,” wrote Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, in a foreword to the advice.
“Children should be afforded freedom from the expectation of permanence. They are in a ‘trying on’ stage of life, and not yet adult and so no labels need to be fixed. This should inform the language teachers use when they comment, praise, or give instructions,” the report adds.
“It may be best to avoid labels and assumptions which deem children’s behaviour irregular, abnormal, or problematic, just because it does not conform to gender stereotypes or today’s play preferences,” it continues.
The report coincides with Anti-Bullying Week, with research from the Anti-Bullying Alliance showing that two in five children “hide aspects of themselves for fear of being bullied.”
Anti-Bullying Alliance survey showed that two in every five children in the UK “hide aspects of themselves” for fear of being bullied.
The alliance surveyed 1,600 children between 8 and 16 years old, and found that almost two-thirds had witnessed people being bullied for being “different.”
Meanwhile, over half of the children feared being seen as different, and almost a quarter said they would change the way they look to conform.
The church’s report also included guidance for secondary school teachers, citing a recent YouGov poll which found that 49% of 18-24 year olds said they regard themselves as “other than 100% heterosexual.”
“[Secondary school] is a time when the school culture needs to offer a compassionate acceptance that again allows young people to ‘try on identities for size,’ and explore who they are and how best to be themselves,” the report read.
It added that it is important “that pupils can explore issues of sexual orientation, gender identity, and other facts that make healthy self-embodiment challenging. Specifically, it is important that pupils understand the issues for those who feel they are trans/transgender and may be in the process of transition, understanding the impact that bullying has on them.”
“It is important to teach pupils to understand the appropriate use of gender labels and names for trans people and to explore why deliberately calling someone the gender other than that which they choose to identify as is a form of bullying,” it said.
Welby said “significant progress” has been made in schools since the guidance was first launched three years ago, but added that the task now is to recommit to the “shared goal of valuing all God’s children.”
He warned in the report that bullying causes “profound damage leading to higher levels of mental health disorders, self-harm, depression, and suicide.”
LGBT charity Stonewall supported the advice from the church — which educates around a million children in its 4,700 schools — saying that it would help prevent bullying.
“Our research shows that nearly half of lesbian, gay, bi, and trans pupils are bullied for being LGBT at school: a situation that desperately needs to change,” a spokesperson told the BBC.
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