Brighton and Hove parents have raised concerns about being asked to support their three and four-year-olds to choose which gender, if any, they identify with when accepting a place for primary schools.
Hundreds of parents found out yesterday which primary school their children will be attending in September, and were asked to fill out a council form to accept the offer.
After the tickbox for male/female, a note explained that the national recording system only gives these two options, and asked parents to “support your child to choose they gender they most identify with or if they have another gender identity please leave this blank and discuss this with your child’s school”.
The wording of the letter is already under review after the council was made aware of concerns about the new policy.
One Brighton mother, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being attacked by transgender activists, said she objected to the question because it reinforces dangerous stereotypes of what makes someone a man or woman rather than challenging them.
The mother also argued that children of this age don’t have a sophisticated enough understanding of gender issues, and asking them to make a distinction so young could have harmful ramifications later in life.
She said: “A boy who does not fit into the ‘masculine’ category should not be encouraged to believe that his body is wrong, rather schools should be encouraging that child to broaden their view of what is masculine.
“It is okay for boys to like pink. It is OK for boys to like playing with dolls. It is OK (later) for boys to be gay. None of these things make that boy a girl.
“Children at school should be free to develop their identity, celebrate their achievements and accept their bodies. The little boy who wants to wear a dress should be allowed to do that without being pathologised, diagnosed, and treated.
“Research has shown that 80% of children who experience gender dysphoria as children DO NOT transition in later life but instead are more likely to be gay. The worrying rise in schools and other agencies accepting the self identification of a four-year-old is likely to cause emotional distress.
“Imagine how confusing and upsetting it would be to be the ‘trans’ child: a boy who self identifies as a girl at four, grows up as trans (is told by school and other agencies that they are no different from other girls), has a new name and pronoun but then grows up to be a gay man.
“As an adult that child might feel let down by the very people he trusted to protect his best interests, he might feel he has been emotionally abused by the collusion in a narrative he had no power to control, he might want redress for the emotional damage caused.
“Children do not have access to an adult view of the world – they don’t fully understand permanence, social structures, what is possible and what is not possible. Four-year-olds do not generally have fixed views and often don’t fully understand that their sex, colour or even species is fixed.
“Treating children as though they are adults is a dangerous approach from a safeguarding point of view. They are not adults – let them enjoy the innocence and creativity of their childhood.”
Brighton and Hove City Council’s lead member for equalities, Councillor Emma Daniel, said the change to the form had been made in response to calls from families and schools to be more inclusive.
She said: “Our pupil registration form asks for a range of information from parents and carers for children and young people of all ages who are entering a new school community.
“Parents and carers are asked to state their child’s gender as male or female. For the vast majority of families this is very straightforward.
“We have inserted the additional text about gender identity in response to calls from families, young people and schools to show an inclusive approach to gender.
“There are increasing numbers of children and young people nationally identifying as trans. Many trans people nationally report having been bullied when they were at school.
“By acknowledging the range of gender identities in our school communities we are helping ensure schools are safe spaces for everyone.
“We are aware of concerns that have been raised about the new wording we have used on our form relating to gender identity.
“We will review this to see whether we can in future make it clearer that we consider discussions around gender identity to be an option for parents if they feel it is appropriate rather than an obligation.”