Rishi Sunak urged to drop ‘harmful’ trans schools guidance dubbed ‘new Section 28’

Rishi Sunak pictured outside Downing Street on 19 June.

Politicians, LGBTQ+ activists and advocacy groups have warned the UK government to urgently reconsider leaked draft guidance which would ban trans kids from playing school sports.

According to leaked guidance seen by The Sun, children could be prevented from playing competitive sports in school if they use pronouns that don’t match the sex they were assigned at birth.

The guidance would also allegedly instruct school heads to stop children from socially transitioning without parental consent, with teachers told not to recognise a child’s trans identity or use their correct pronouns unless their parents agree.

Charities, MPs and activists are now calling on the government to urgently clarify its plans and what they would mean for trans youth and for their families.

Kate Osborne, Labour MP for Jarrow, told PinkNews the guidance could put young people in danger.

“Schools should be alerting parents if they believe a child is at risk of harm – blanket advice on alerting parents if a pupil is gender questioning would actually put kids at risk of harm,” she said.

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“Teachers and schools do not have all the information about every child’s home environment, and instead of supporting a pupil to be themselves in school, they could be putting them at risk by outing them.” 

The official parliamentary portrait of Kate Kate Osborne
Kate Osborne. (Houses of Parliament)

Osborne added that LGBTQ+ rights have “gone backwards” under Rishi Sunak – who was heard openly mocking trans woman in video footage obtained by PinkNews this weekend.

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She urged MPs from across the political spectrum to stop using “inflammatory rhetoric” when talking about the trans community, which she said continues to face discrimination on a daily basis. 

New Section 28 fears

Reports of the government’s proposed schools guidance have earned comparisons with Section 28, the law which forbade schools and local councils from the so-called promotion of homosexuality.

Fox Fisher, a trans author and filmmaker, described the draft guidance as a “misguided grasp for authority”.

“To all the trans kids out there who may be feeling targeted – I want them to know that we see you, we stand by you, and you are deserving of so much more. I’d never want anyone to have to experience the shadow of Section 28 and the cloak of guilt and shame which probably affect me and my queer peers for the rest of our lives.” 

They continued: “We will continue standing up for trans rights, because trans people have always existed and everyone deserves the right to feel safe and supported in working out who they are.” 

Rishi Sunak
The shadow equalities minister Anneliese Dodds is among those who have condemned Rishi Sunak for his comments about trans women in a leaked video. (Getty Images)

Robbie de Santos, director of external affairs at Stonewall, urged the prime minister to create “safe learning environments for all LGBTQ+ children and young people”.

“There is nothing ‘woke’ about providing the best possible support to school staff to help trans and gender-questioning pupils, who are more likely to be bullied and have poor mental health and well-being than almost any other pupil. 

“The prime minister should be governing with the compassion he promised, not adding to a politicised debate over a small minority and mocking the community in front of his colleagues.” 

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Cleo Madeleine, communications officer at trans charity Gendered Intelligence, said she would be “really concerned” if the draft guidance becomes policy. 

“Ultimately children shouldn’t be dragged into these political conversations, into these culture war issues, and it’s particularly dangerous to weaken schools’ power to protect young LGBT people from dangerous scenarios,” Madeleine said.

She expressed particular concern about the potential for trans youth to be outed to their parents by schools, pointing out that some could face persecution at home for daring to live openly.

“What’s happening here is that the government are creating situations where young trans people are going to be at risk of harm,” she said.

“It all just stacks up to a climate in which young people don’t feel safe to be out at school, in which there’s a pressure on them and their families to stop exploring their sexuality or their gender identity in a safe way.”

However, Madeleine also cautioned against LGBTQ+ people panicking over the guidance.

“They’re only leaks at the moment… our thing would be to say that nobody should panic until we’ve seen the text of it.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said the education secretary is “working closely” with women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch to “provide guidance for schools in this area, following calls from schools, teachers, and parents”.

“This work is based upon the overriding principle of safeguarding children, and it will consider a range of issues.

“We will be publishing a consultation on the guidance this term.”

The guidance was leaked just hours after PinkNews exclusively shared video footage in which Rishi Sunak could be heard mocking trans women in a conversation with his colleagues.

In the footage, Sunak was heard joking that Lib Dem leader Ed Davey has been “very busy” trying to “convince everybody that women clearly had penises”. 

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