Safeguarding? Critiquing Gender-Critical Discourse around Gender Diversity at School


  • Susie Bower-Brown



More and more young people are identifying their gender in different ways, and gender diversity at school has become an increasingly debated topic. Within the United Kingdom (UK), sociopolitical discourse has become progressively fractured, with the UK Government recently releasing controversial draft non-statutory guidance prohibiting social transitioning, or the changing of names, pronouns and/or appearance amongst gender-diverse individuals at school. One term which has been increasingly utilized in this discourse is “safeguarding”, a term which refers to the practice of promoting child welfare and protecting children from harm. Safeguarding is a key consideration when discussing gender inclusion at school. However, harmful and discriminatory policies, such as “outing” gender-questioning children to their parents, are now being mislabelled as safeguarding practices. This article will argue that the concept of safeguarding, and wider discourses around child vulnerability, are being misappropriated in order to justify anti-trans policies. This article will explore the current UK discourse around gender-diverse children at school, demonstrating that gender-diverse youth are perceived as both vulnerable to “gender ideology” and a threat to others at school, a social positioning that serves to restrict their rights and agency. This article will discuss the ways in which the term safeguarding is being weaponized against gender-diverse children, before reviewing the social scientific research on risk and protective factors for gender-diverse youth, to understand what safeguarding gender-diverse children actually means.

Keywords: gender diversity; trans; school; cisgenderism; safeguarding; childhood.


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Special Section: Children's Rights: Contemporary Issues in Law and Society (Part 2)