A transgender teenager from Ramsgate says he fears his gender transition will be hindered because school facilities do not allow him to fully live as a male.
Lee Moor, 14, was born a girl but has been living as a boy for the last 18 months. He says a move in September to Year 10 at Chatham and Clarendon school is going to create more hurdles than those he has already faced.
Lee says issues over what form he will attend and being unable to use male toilet and changing room facilities are stopping him from living in his correct gender.
The teenager was referred to Tavistock gender identity clinic by Orchard House last year and says that living as a male is part of the transition to counselling, psychotherapy, hormone blocker treatment and, possibly, surgery.
Lee and his mum Selina say the school has offered unisex facilities previously but told them there are ‘safety issues’ with Lee using male facilities. Clarendon House, where the Year 10 and 11 forms are based, is over 100 years old and does not have space for a unisex toilet.
Lee said: “You have to live as the gender you want to be. If I study in the Sixth Form but can’t change to the boy’s form then I am worried that will put everything back until I am 18, then I’ll have to go back on the waiting list and it’ll take until I am 19 or 20. I was hoping for it to be when I am 16.
“We had a meeting at the school and they said using the male toilets would be a ‘safety issue. (Previously) they said I could use the unisex ones but they are for visitors. I used them for a week, but obviously I was the only student using them and everyone kept asking questions and taking the mickey and it just made me feel rubbish.”
The school says there are unisex toilets in the science block across the road and in the Sixth Form centres which Lee can use and head teacher Debra Liddicoat said safety issues related to the use of facilities during a school trip to France.
On the issue of a move to the boy’s form Ms Liddicoat said: “We sought legal advice regarding him moving to a boy’s form and followed that advice, which was explained at the meeting to Lee and mum with the external support worker in attendance.”
Lee and Selina say they are unsure of what the legal advice was but believe it centres on the safety issues.
Lee says the school has made sure all teachers are aware of his name change and the correct pronouns to use. But there is some confusion over uniform with Lee saying he had asked the external support worker who liaises with the school on his behalf about wearing the boy’s tie but received no response.
Mrs Liddicoat says a request was not received. She added: “The requests Lee has made have normally come via an external support worker and we have met all of the ones we can. We have made compromises over uniform; he wears uniform which is male, apart from the tie. I don’t recall at any time that he asked to wear a tie. He did ask to wear a stiff collared shirt which we agreed to. However, despite the fact we have happily agreed to his requests, he regularly does not comply with the uniform policy and has worn jeans and trainers.”
Lee admits wearing jeans to class saying they feel more comfortable than the uniform.
A question of gender
The transition journey began for Lee when he was still in junior school.
He said: “From Year 6 I was unsure, I went through lots of changes but I didn’t know what being Trans was. I went through fashion changes to see what I felt comfortable in.
“Then, when I was in Year 7, I went on Google and found a website about it. I cut my hair and started to feel more comfortable.
“I was binding my chest and that made me 100% more comfortable. If people can see you how you see yourself it makes you happier.
“My friends have all been perfectly ok with it and most of the teachers are cool with it too. A few people say things but I don’t listen to them.
“I just want to make my school listen to me so in the future they know how to deal with it if any other people go there that are Trans.”
Mrs Liddicoat says the school has made every effort to adapt to Lee’s requests but as they are in “new territory” support and guidance from Tavistock would be beneficial.
She said: “At the meeting with mum (at the beginning of this year) we asked about where Lee was with regard to reassignment and at that time they were waiting for an appointment with the Tavistock.
“Once referred to the Tavistock young people should be seen within 18 weeks. We asked that mum contact them and ask that they contact us to provide us with some guidance as this is new territory for us.
“However, since that meeting, mum has not been in touch with us, despite my staff trying to arrange a further meeting with her. We have not received any information from the Tavistock either. We are therefore unaware whether Lee has had an appointment, although the 18 weeks are well and truly up.
“At no point in the meeting did mum ever complain about the adjustments we had made and she has not complained at any point since. The external support worker is quite happy that the adjustments the school have made are as much as we can do until we have the support advice and guidance of the Tavistock.”
Mum-of-four Selina said she does understand there are difficulties for the school, adding: “I can see this from both sides. I know the school feels there is a safety issue but it is about finding the balance.”
A schools’ guide recommended by the Tavistock gender clinic says transgender pupils should be allowed to wear the uniform and use toilet and changing room facilities corresponding to their gender identity.
Reassurance from Tavistock
Dr Bernadette Wren, from the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust said:“Colleges and schools have a vital role to play in supporting transgender students and gender questioning young people, and allowing them to thrive in education. Part of this acceptance can involve giving them space to explore their thoughts and feelings in a safe, familiar and non-judgmental environment, as well as supporting inclusion.
“Ongoing communication between young people, their families/carers and their school is important to ensure that young people are able to draw on help from those around them with the difficulties that they may be experiencing. While young people are on our waiting list, parents can get in touch with us for advice on their discussions with schools.
“We can’t comment on an individual’s circumstances, but from the little we’ve been told about this situation by The Isle of Thanet News, it seems the school and family have together been making efforts to accommodate the young person.”
Dr Wren also offered reassurance to Lee that his circumstances would not impact on support from the clinic.
She said: “It would not disadvantage any young person coming for an initial assessment if they have not made a complete transition to living in the gender role with which they identify.”
What does transgender mean?
There is a difference between biological sex and gender. Biological sex refers to chromosomal make up, genitalia, hormones etc and as such would be used in reference to the physical anatomy of a person (for example, male, female or intersex). Gender concerns your internal sense of self and how you choose to express yourself. Gender is considered by some to be a social construction in that children learn how to behave in a manner deemed to be in line with their biological sex.
Gender dysphoria describes the distress experienced by those whose gender identity feels at odds with aspects of their body and/or the social gender role assigned to them at birth. This can be experienced as physical discomfort, and psychological and emotional distress. Social factors are often key in the experience of gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria can motivate some people to seek to transition from one point on the gender spectrum to another, changing social role and outward presentation and sometimes taking hormones or having gender-related surgery. Not all gender diverse people experience gender dysphoria.
What does the law say?
The Equality Act, 2010 provides protection from discrimination because of gender reassignment in schools. This means that it is unlawful for schools to treat pupils less favourably because of their gender reassignment and that schools will have to factor in gender reassignment when considering their obligations under the new Equality Duty.
Gender reassignment is defined in the Equality Act as applying to anyone who is undergoing, has undergone or is proposing to undergo a process (or part of a process) of reassigning their sex by changing physiological or other attributes. This definition means that in order to be protected under the act, a pupil will not necessarily have to be undertaking a medical procedure to change their sex but must be taking steps to live in the opposite gender, or proposing to do so.