“Won’t someone please think of the children?”
Almost everyone has undoubtedly heard that phrase in their lives. It’s synonymous with the opposition to the GSM (Gender and Sexual Minorities) community and how children, somehow, need protection from them.
But I ask this – is it the children of anti-equality campaigners who need protecting from people being themselves, or is it actually the many transgender children in today’s society who need protecting from the hatred and ridicule that they face?
A 2017 survey conducted by Stonewall found that almost half of transgender pupils in the UK have attempted suicide at some point. Almost 2 in 3 are bullied with just over 6 in 10 facing verbal abuse at school. Nearly 1 in 10 have received death threats at school whilst 59% of transgender children reported self-harming.
Transgender children in Britain are facing high rates of suicide, suicide attempts, and self-harming behaviour. They’re being bullied and threatened with death by their fellow students. So, let me ask you again, who needs protecting more? Transgender children from society or ‘normal’ children from transgender people?
These statistics are all well and good, but who is looking out for these children who are at such high risk from bullying and suicidal tendencies as a result? 29% of GSM children surveyed said that teachers didn’t intervene when they witnessed homophobic or transphobic bullying while 2 out of 5 GSM children aren’t taught about relevant GSM issues whilst at school.
In my own schooldays, GSM issues were only taught in religious education – and even that was only biased, homophobic, teaching from a religious teacher who stoked the class into a homophobic discussion about why “gays should be killed”. I reported this, of course, but not much was done about it to my knowledge. How can we expect transgender children to accept themselves and their identity when their first memories of our society are of ardent homophobia and transphobia? The simple answer is that we can’t.
There needs to be a real culture shift in our school system. Yes, somebody needs to think of the children — but not the children of the uber religious and alt-right. Transgender children who are being bullied by day and slashing their wrists by night.
GSM issues need to be thoughtfully brought into schools and introduced into the curriculum. We need to show examples of GSM people to younger people — especially transgender children who often feel isolated and as though they’ll never be able to be themselves. We need transgender, gay, bisexual, lesbian, pansexual and every type of person there is to be going into schools and speaking about their experiences. Teachers and the children who bully GSM people need to wake up to how diverse and beautifully different our society is, and they need to do it fast if we’re to start preventing young children from ending their lives oh so early. But with people like Donald Trump removing protection for transgender children against discrimination in the US, it’s a chilling reminder of how little western society seems to care about these vulnerable children.
Children are our future and we need to do all we can to inspire and motivate them. We need to show children that there is a whole world of opportunity out there, and that life needs to be grabbed by the horns with both hands. We need to show children that bullying one another and sending each other death threats just for being different is not, and never will be, okay. We need to show children that cutting their wrists and taking one too many paracetamols is not the answer — but standing up and fighting for our right to be different, for our right to be transgender, is the way forward.
Society is failing at protecting our transgender youth. Transgender children are attempting suicide and are self-harming, and this is a huge problem that needs to be tackled as soon as possible. These children need to not just see society as being an accepting place, but they need to see themselves reflected in society. This problem can begin to be tackled by simply representing transgender people in a positive way in the media.
Realistic, sensitive, and three-dimensional transgender actors and actresses need to be leading and meaningful roles so that children who are hurting themselves or facing serious depression can see themselves reflected in these characters.
It’s not good enough to have an occasional cisgender person playing a transgender character. It’s not good enough that GSM people are often presented in the media as sidekicks to the cisgender, heterosexual, lead. It’s not good enough that films like Beauty and the Beast are depicting our community as the ‘village idiots’!
Our country is facing a real crisis in terms of the mental health of our transgender children. This isn’t the children’s fault, it’s the fault of the government for failing to act on these issues sooner.
It’s the fault of schools who for so long have failed their transgender students. Bullying needs to be stamped out of our school system once and for all. We need to show bullies that this behaviour is not acceptable and will never be tolerated. We need to educate our youth about issues that reflect our diverse society and stop shoving the heteronormative and cisnormative agenda down children’s throats in school.
Won’t somebody please think of the children?