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2008 National LGBT Conference
16 November 2008

Conference notes with concern the negative impact that transphobic bullying and restrictive gender stereotypes can have upon children of all ages who:

1.Self-identify as transgender;

2.Self-identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual;

3.Appear to be gender variant in any way (often labelled as ‘tomboy’, sissy’, ‘butch’ or ‘camp’);

4.Have a parent or other family member who is transgender or gender variant;

5.Have a friend who is transgender or gender variant.

Children who do not fully conform to traditional gender stereotypes (whether or not they self-identify as lesbian, bisexual or transgender are frequently emotionally, verbally and physically bullied not only by their peers but even by the adults in their lives. This can lead to children becoming withdrawn, social outcasts and in some cases result in severe depression and suicide. The effect on self-esteem, social interaction, confidence and academic achievement can often continue into adulthood and significantly reduce future employment prospects and workplace confidence.

Institutional transphobia and lack of recognition of gender diversity within families by educational and social service provider’s often results in lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender (LGBT) families receiving discriminatory or inappropriate service provision.

Conference is extremely concerned that the United Kingdom (UK) Government currently fails to recognise the need for protection of children and families from transphobic discrimination and harassment in education service provision.

Conference rejects the UK Government’s argument that the current inability of trans children to access medical gender reassignment processes until adulthood makes it unnecessary to provide any legal protection from transphobic discrimination in primary and secondary school education.

Conference believes all types of gender variant children and families deserve legal protection from transphobic discrimination at all levels of education services and that it is essential for the UK Government to include this within its proposed Equality Bill.

Conference is dismayed that, despite the advances within the Equality Bill, the Government’s response to consultation on the Bill makes the startling claim that it is unnecessary to include school pupils and education in schools in the protections offered to transgender people. In the face of such ignorance and inhumanity, it is essential that we redouble our efforts to lobby through all channels to ensure the extension of protection to school pupils and education in schools.

Conference is further concerned by the current lack of formal training and guidance on supporting LGBT children and families for workers in the school education sector and also the health and social care sector.

Conference believes that UNISON, being an education and public service union, is well placed to create guidance on supporting LGBT children and families in partnership with other education and public service unions. To create safe LGBT inclusive learning environments for all, it is vital to address issues of gender stereotypes, gender variance and gender identity at primary and secondary school levels.

This conference therefore instructs the National LGBT Committee to:

A.Raise these concerns urgently with the National Executive Council, National Women’s Committee, Labour Link and other appropriate sections of UNISON;

B.Seek opportunities to develop, in partnership with other unions, the NHS and transgender equality organisations, guidance and training on gender identity and sexual orientation equality issues for school education workers and health & social care workers;

C.Work with Trades Union Congress, National Union of Students and transgender equality organisations to coordinate lobbying on improving legal protections against transphobic discrimination in education services for gender variant children and families.