Ireland’s Leo Varadkar backs trans-inclusive school lessons – but says parents should have ‘choice’

Irish prime minister Leo Eric Varadkar

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar has backed primary school students learning about what it means to be transgender after a Catholic association wrote to ministers to oppose teaching of trans issues. 

The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA) sent a strongly worded letter, seen by the Irish Independent, to government ministers in January.

The letter was sent after Irish Green Party minister Roderic O’Gorman said children should have an understanding of diversity.

Taking to the Irish Independent, O’Gorman said he believed young people, including primary school children, should be taught more about “what it means to be transgender”.

In the CPSMA letter, which opposed lessons about transgender issues being taught in primary schools, it argued that there is there is a lack of scientific consensus on trans issues. 

They also claimed that teaching about trans issues in schools could create division and add to “a growing psychological contagion” among children.

You may like to watch

In response to the letter, taoiseach Varadkar has said he favours the subject being taught at primary school level with parental consent. 

‘Trans people exist in the real world’ 

“I think the purpose of the education system is to prepare children for life and to teach them about the world,” he told the Irish Independent.

“Trans people exist. They have always existed and it makes more sense in schools to inform children about the world around them. This does not have to be a value judgment as to whether it is right or wrong… it does not have to challenge anyone’s personal or religious opinions.”

“It just makes sense to me that education is about teaching children about the real world. Trans people exist in the real world so why not just give them information and facts?

The CPSMA letter added that it would be “counterproductive, generating unnecessary divisions in school communities where none now exist”.

The CPSMA claim there is “is no scientific consensus on the cause [or causes] of gender dysphoria” and that “there is mounting evidence of psychological contagion” surrounding the trans issues.

In response to the letter, former prime minister, Micheál Martin, said: “Letters of that kind are not the way to deal with these issues. There has to be a sensitivity around this, and the broader context is the relationships and sexuality programme which is in our primary schools. 

“That will be modernised to deal with issues in the age-appropriate way. The curriculum experts are best deployed to create the right curriculum programme and to facilitate that.”    

Minister for higher education, Simon Harris, has also said he believes trans issues should be taught in primary schools in an age-appropriate manner. 

“I believe in providing people in our country with facts and with science,” he stated. 

‘Deeply disappointed’ 

BeLonG To, a youth organisation supporting LGBTQ+ young people in Ireland, has said it is deeply disappointed by the CPSMA comments. 

“Trans young people are in primary schools in Ireland. Ignoring their existence and silencing conversations around identity will have detrimental effects on the lives of these pupils,” it said.

BeLonG To has urged CPSMA to consider the impact of their desire to “strip educators of their ability to support these pupils who already face disproportionate rates of discrimination and bullying”. 

In Ireland, trans people can self-declare their own gender under the 2015 Gender Recognition Act. 

PinkNews has contacted the CPSMA for comment. 

Please login or register to comment on this story.