Rishi Sunak may abandon plans to block trans children changing their gender identity at school

Rishi Sunak pictured leaving No 10 Downing Street.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to drop plans that would have legally restricted transgender school children from changing their gender identity.

The government faced major backlash when plans were first announced to make UK schools out trans children to their parents, as part of a “blanket ban” on social transitioning in school. 

This would have involved restricting school children from identifying with an alternative name and pronouns or wearing the uniform of the opposite sex unless they had parental permission.

But, after an examination into the draft guidance by attorney-general for England and Wales, Victoria Prentis, it was determined that an outright ban on social transitioning in schools would be unlawful under the Equalities Act, The Times reports.

One source told the publication that there were fears this ban on social transitioning could put the government on “the wrong side of history”, much like a modern equivalent to Section 28, Margaret Thatcher’s 1988 ban on the promotion of homosexuality that was repealed in 2003.

The finer details of the guidance are still being ironed out within the government, The Times reports, with much debate surrounding teacher and student rights still underway.

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Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Rishi Sunak’s government has been warned that his government’s plans for school guidance could jeopardise the safety and wellbeing of trans youth. (Getty)

Some ministers have reportedly raised concerns that easing up guidance on school children’s social transitioning could give way for schools to discipline teachers who do not respect a child’s gender identity.

Others argue that it would be “unreasonable” to stop children from socially transitioning – as long as they have parental consent.

However, Prentis ruled that, under the Equalities Act, it would be unlawful to issue a blanket ban on social transitioning in schools.

She stated in her findings that gender reassignment is a “protected characteristic” regardless of a person’s age.

In response to Prentis’s ruling, a government source told the paper: “We’re looking at all options to ensure we have clear and strong guidance that protects children and empowers parents and teachers. No decisions have been taken.”

When reports first surfaced of plans to prevent social transitioning in schools, a number of activist groups, organisations, and opposition MPs publicly opposed it, warning that this move could be detrimental to a child’s wellbeing.

“When children don’t have their social transition validated, they don’t have it affirmed, we see that there’s much higher levels of mental health problems,” said Tammy Humas, policy and campaigns manager for Mermaids.

“We see that they experience more absenteeism and more pressure in their lives because of that.”

She continued: “This is a question of listening to children and listening to the needs of young people, and I think at the moment it’s been blown out of all proportion by a government which seems to have a very clear ideological approach which is to discriminate and diminish the lives of trans people.”

The original government guidance would have restricted trans school children from social transitioning. (Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Nadia Whittome, Labour MP for Nottingham East also called for the government guidance to be scrapped completely.

“For many young trans people, their ability to socially transition is essential to their mental health and wellbeing,” she said.

“Any attempt by government to prevent them from cutting their hair or using a different name and pronouns is authoritarian and discriminatory in the extreme.

“The government should abandon this guidance now, along with its wider attacks on the trans community, and focus on improving trans people’s wellbeing and inclusion in society.”