On 16 March 2016 news broke in the UK of a transgender equalities initiative that was planned to take place in a primary school in East Sussex under the headship of Emma Maltby. The initiative gave rise to an outrage from a selection of the media. The moral panic at the heart of the reporting is evident: parents are ‘fuming’, a head teacher is being ‘blasted’ and ‘kids’ are under threat. That threat radiates from a ‘transgender day’ and a dangerous invitation to ‘explore’ the forbidden territory, as it is seen, of queered sexuality.
This article sets out the ways in which primary schools have come to bear significant risks in making decisions over whether, how and when to reflect transgender issues. The article examines the features of both the newspaper reporting on Emma Maltby’s transgender education initiative and the UK policy context in which it occurred to explore how it was that this individual head teacher came to be publicly criticised by the UK press for implementing what was an apparently government sanctioned feature of the national curriculum. As the policy context evolves in both the UK and the wider western world, if there is to be a real commitment to reflecting transgender equalities within children’s learning, it cannot be left to head teachers alone to bear the force of such counter-discourses.
This article sets out the ways in which primary schools have come to bear significant risks in making decisions over whether, how and when to reflect transgender issues. We examine press reporting that arose in relation to a recent incident in the UK in which a primary school in East Sussex was widely criticised for instigating a ‘transgender education’ initiative. We argue that despite tacit indications that UK Government supports ‘transgender education’ as a learning area for children as young as five years old, there is an ongoing risk to primary schools who implement such initiatives. The nature of this risk is located within the usage of equalities terminology in governmental discussions and official guidance that effectively acts to gloss over the enduringly controversial nature of transgender issues. The vague and non-specific nature of equalities terminology allows for both heteronormative and transgressive interpretation, thereby locating the risk of public criticism with primary schools, and head teachers in particular.
Dangerous Education: The Occupational Hazards of Teaching Transgender
Ellis Morgan, Yvette Taylor
First Published January 31, 2018