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InsideOUT’s school resources ignore the needs of girls.

There are ten resource documents for schools’ LGBTQIA+ (rainbow) guidance on InsideOUT’s website, and one document pending. Combined, there are 349 pages, which are downloadable or orderable. All the documents are dated 2021, and the three, from which the below information is derived, state that they are produced with support from the Ministry of Education.

The resource documents are heavily loaded towards transgender students. The words ‘trans’, ‘transgender’, ‘transsexual’, and ‘transition/transitioning’ are written 640 times in total across all ten documents. The word count drops dramatically for the words ‘intersex’, ‘gay’, and ‘bisexual’, with ‘lesbian’ coming in last at just 44 mentions.

In all the documents, the narrative focuses on schools nurturing and supporting rainbow students in multiple ways, as would be expected, and encourages staff and other students to do so as well. However, there are no instances where rainbow students are guided on how to behave with mutual respect, too.

Specifically, schools are told that gender-neutral toilet and changing room facilities should be available, but that “trans, gender diverse, or intersex students will never be made to use a separate facility against their wishes”. So a boy who identifies as a girl should be allowed to use the girls’ facilities if that’s what he wishes, irrespective of how the girls, including lesbians, might feel about having a male-sexed person in intimate spaces with them. The guidelines also state that according to s 127(1) of the Act20, one of the primary objectives of a school board is to ensure that the school “is a physically and emotionally safe place for all students and staff”.

For overnight school trips, InsideOUT point out “It’s important to note that there are no specific requirements in the Education and Training Act determining how schools should approach separating students by gender (NB: normally we separate according to sex, but InsideOUT replaces sex with gender throughout the documents), nor are there any rules that would prevent a student sleeping in the same space as students of their affirmed gender“ - e.g. boys with girls. However, in regards to an overnight school trip to a marae where the sleeping arrangements may be girls on one side and boys on the other in the same room, InsideOUT advise that “Where possible, the school should consult with the marae manager/s or iwi affiliated with the marae before the visit to discuss options for trans and intersex students and reach a solution that upholds the mana of everyone involved”. Presumably, girls are included in this recommendation to uphold everyone’s mana. Is a marae the only place a girl’s mana is upheld?

It’s well recognised that playing sports is good for our physical and mental health. However, InsideOUT recommends that transgender students be allowed to play on any sports team that “aligns with their affirmed gender, regardless of whether they are taking gender-affirming hormones” – e.g. boys on girls’ sports teams. They also claim that “transwomen have successfully played on women’s teams without any disadvantage to other teams or teammates for years”. This claim is highly contestable, as intensive research by World Rugby has recently ascertained. Women and girls are also notoriously bad at speaking out against injustices or abuses, especially where there is a risk of group ostracisation. This gives the impression of consensus, but may well be a false consensus.

Although schools should indeed assist with rainbow students’ full participation in school life, no students’ rights should come at the expense of other students.

These school guidelines for transgender students appear to give no consideration as to how they might clash with girls’ safety and wellbeing. Girls matter, too.

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