Suella Braverman is right: schools shouldn’t pander to trans pupils

Children who have identified as trans or non-binary will face specific challenges as a result, but we must accommodate them without sacrificing the rights of other groups.

For saying that teachers shouldn’t pander to trans pupils, Suella Braverman has found herself in hot water. The Attorney General suggested in an interview with the Times that male pupils should not be able to use girls’ toilets, and that single-sex schools can indeed restrict admission to children of just one sex. These are hardly revolutionary ideas, but they appear to have upset the National Education Union.

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, took just a few hours to respond to Braverman: ‘Discrimination against transgender pupils is illegal under 2010 Equalities Act,’ she warned, adding that:

‘Schools should ignore the misleading advice from the Attorney General and continue to treat their trans pupils with the dignity and respect they are entitled to.’

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary NEU

Braverman is a barrister who practised at the bar for 10 years, so we should expect her to understand the law. But is it the NEU, rather than Braverman, that has got into a muddle by confusing two protected characteristics?

The Equality Act is clear. Both sex and gender reassignment are protected, and it is unlawful to treat anyone less favourably as a result. But boys are still boys, even if they claim the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. While they should not, of course, face discrimination or harassment, they cannot expect to be treated in the same way as girls.

Earlier this year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission was clear:

‘Under the Equality Act people are protected from sex discrimination on the basis of their legal sex.’


And since children in the UK cannot (yet) apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, their legal sex is the same as their biological sex. So what does the NEU think? Bousted’s original statement was brief, but the union told The Spectator that:

‘The 2010 Equality Act protects people from discrimination – and this includes staff and students. It was wholly wrong for the Government’s senior law officer to tell schools to ignore the Equalities Act, which requires schools to take barriers and prejudices away, not create them. The NEU is advising schools to abide by the law. Trans and non-binary students need to find school a positive experience, and for example, the names and pronouns that they want to use in school should be respected and used …

We think teachers should continue to treat trans and non- binary pupils with understanding and in a supportive manner, referring students for other support where it’s necessary.’

National Education Union

But what about the other children in the school? Who looks out for their rights? What do we say to children who feel uncomfortable calling someone ‘she’ when their brain wants to say ‘he’? The NEU talks of ‘other support’; but what do they have in mind here? We have no idea what cognitive conflicts are being created in the minds of children.

Of course, children who have identified as trans or non-binary will face specific challenges as a result, but we must accommodate them without sacrificing the rights of other groups. That was the basis of the Attorney General’s remarks. No child should be expected to share single sex-facilities with children of the opposite sex.

But does the NEU agree with that? Guidance published elsewhere on their website, Supporting trans and gender questioning students examines the question of toilets and changing rooms. According to the NEU it is ‘the most commonly asked question regarding trans people’. Their response?

Ask the young person what would make them most comfortable. If what they want is realistic and possible, then go with it.’

National Education Union

The guidance offers further advice on how to cater for “young trans people’ who don’t want to use ‘the facilities that correspond with their gender identity’. But what about other children? Are they expected to budge up and make room, whether they like it or not? Or will they be referred for ‘other support’?

Ironically, when discussing gender-neutral toilets, the NEU points out that:

‘It is not good practice to make all toilet facilities gender neutral however, because some students, especially girls, will prefer single-sex toilets.’

National Education Union

But how does that position hold if male children who say they are transgender might at some stage be allowed access to those toilets? Such logical absurdities are all too common wherever transgender ideology has taken root.

Thankfully, politicians are waking up to the dangers and calling them out. Miriam Cates, Tory MP and former secondary school science teacher, told me that:

‘There are sound safety reasons to separate boys and girls in intimate spaces and in sport and no child should be allowed to ‘choose’ which facilities they use.’

Miriam Cates MP

The NEU would do well to take note.

Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.

* This article was first published by The Spectator on 31 May 2022: Suella Braverman is right: schools shouldn’t pander to trans pupils.

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

5 replies on “Suella Braverman is right: schools shouldn’t pander to trans pupils”

How it is that trans people have managed to secure more than their share of rights for themselves is still something I am trying to figure out. As I’ve said before, I think that trans activists have done a very good job of painting trans people as a minority which suffers more than the rest of us. They have been so effective at conveying the idea that being “trapped in the wrong body” is an extreme and existential torture that trans people deserve more consideration of their feelings than the rest of us do.

However, before I continue, it should be pointed out that some of these trans students are not trans at all, in that they don’t have gender dysphoria, but rather have gotten the message that being trans or non-binary will get them attention. And it should be pointed out that the students who are not asking for these special privileges can see what is really happening — that the trans students are getting special privileges by virtue of being trans or pretending to be trans. Since life is basically unfair, it seems to me that the other students are learning a realistic lesson — but is that the best lesson for the authorities to be teaching them? I think it would be better if everyone’s needs were given extra weight. The problem, however, is that the trans students are acting out a pretense — that trans girls are actually girls, and that trans boys are actually boys. And therein is the real problem.

I agree that letting trans students use private bathrooms is a reasonable solution, given that both girls as a group and boys as a group have a reasonable expectation of privacy from the opposite sex. Hell, I have a female doctor, and I have never let her see me naked!


Yes, that is the issue I have, too – why is the dignity, privacy, and comfort of the students who aren’t trans being ignored when telling trans students to use whatever toilet makes them feel comfortable. I believe you’ve said it before, and I agree that wherever possible – and perhaps even compulsory – there should be single sex toilets for females and males, as well as individual unisex toilets for those who don’t want to, or can’t, use the single sex communal facilities for any reason at all. The desire for validation by a transgender person should not be a part of that particular equation, even though I do understand the desire.

Liked by 1 person

Katrina, I think you made an important point in your comment. Trans people are looking for validation, and I think it’s for that reason that they are so public in everything they do. In the U.S., Gavin Grimm, a trans boy, was given his own toilet to use in school, but that wasn’t good enough for him. He insisted on using the Boys’ room, obviously because he wanted the validation of being seen as a boy. The judge ruled in his favor, and in so doing completely ignored the feelings of the other students.

Some of the rulings coming from judges are really bad. One male judge ruled that if women have to see the male bodies of trans women in a locker room, they’d just have to get used to it. That seeing fully intact male bodies in their private spaces may make women feel unsafe didn’t matter to the judge.

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I think there’s starting to be a gradual swing now to thinking about how others might be affected by giving individuals, or very small groups, rights and leniencies that impact on others. Fingers crossed. I know we live in an unequal world, and there are those who argue this point to persuade that questionable rights are allowable, but there have to be some lines we don’t cross. It’s interesting to see how quickly some people, including women, are ready to disregard women’s legitimate concerns and curtail our freedom in favour of men’s comfort and expanding their freedom. I don’t disagree that we all have to sacrifice something to allow everyone to be safe and free in the world, but it’s a balancing act based firstly on our sex, and then other factors come into it.


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