Gender education needed in primary schools to prevent identity-based bullying, TENI says

"Trans people in Ireland must be part of that open and welcoming society we all wish to create. They are teachers, children, parents and part of our school communities."

Students facing teacher in classroom with pride flag banner across the ceiling, this article shares TENI statement regarding pupils learning about gender diversity in school.
Image: Twitter @EtssHansfield

In response to the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA) asserting that primary schools in Ireland should not teach students about gender diversity, Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) issued a powerful statement expressing their disappointment and emphasising that trans children deserve to see their identities reflected in Irish curriculums as much as cis children do.

Speaking on behalf of the organisation, Sam Blanckensee, TENI’s Chair of the Board of Directors, said, “TENI regularly gets calls from Principals and teachers in schools of every denomination and every part of Ireland. I myself attended Catholic schools, as did most of the country; the schools I attended put social justice and inclusion at the heart of everything they do.

“Trans people in Ireland must be part of that open and welcoming society we all wish to create. They are teachers, children, parents, and part of our school communities. I know that the views of the CPSMA are not shared by many teachers and principals of schools across the country who I know embrace the trans people in their lives.”

TENI further shared that trans children need to be treated with “respect, consideration, and support” throughout their education.

Within its response, the group debunks the position that learning about diverse gender identities will make cis students change their gender. The statement explains how traditional binary ideas about sex and gender continue to be normalised in education, but learning about trans identities helps prevent identity-based bullying.

TENI also references the 2022 School Climate Survey, which demonstrates that trans children already experience high rates of bullying and social isolation in Irish schools, and warns that excluding trans experiences from the curriculum will further stigmatise and silence queer youth. Being educated about trans identities promotes acceptance and understanding, but without dialogue about different experiences, those students who fall outside of these categories are stigmatised.

TENI affirmed that it will continue to work alongside schools who are reaching out to them for support, and concluded the statement by thanking the Irish President, Taoiseach, Tánaiste, and Minister for Children for their unified support on the issue. The organisation also urged the CPSMA to reconsider its position.

As cited above, leading Irish figures including Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Michael D Higgins have voiced their support for schools providing inclusive and comprehensive teachings on sexuality issues in schools, with the latter saying there needs to be an “…appropriate dissemination of basic information regarding sexuality in the fullest sense, by those responsible for providing education.”

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