Guidelines on supporting transgender students in school published in Northern Ireland

Sonja Tutty

Northern Ireland’s Education Authorities (EA) have published guidelines on supporting transgender students in school, earlier this month.

The guidelines for schools in supporting transgender students – including non-binary, gender queer, and gender fluid students – were published after several schools asked for guidance and will apply to pre-schools, primary schools, post-primary and all other schools under the EA.

DCU similarly introduced new guidelines this March on supporting transgender students, but DCU LGBTA Society’s Trans and Non-binary Officer Shane Barr says it is still not enough.

Shane said DCU’s Student Gender Identity and Expression policy is effective and helpful for transgender students, and said it “ensures trans students are seen for who they are and feel safe to express themselves on campus.”

Roughly 75 per cent of transgender students do not feel safe in their schools, according to a survey by Gay and Lesbian Independent School Teachers Network.

Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) supports individuals and advocates for legislation and social change in supporting the Irish transgender community.

“Ireland’s healthcare system is not meeting the needs of our community” they said in a recent statement, “We are waiting too long, we are navigating an often inaccessible system and our identities are often being questioned.”

In order to access hormones in Ireland, a psychiatrists referral to a gender endocrinologist and diagnosis of gender dysphoria are needed. But, there are only three endocrinologists in Ireland who prescribe hormone replacement therapy.

A HSE representative has said the waiting time is currently 13 months for an endocrinologist appointment, but many wait longer due to several factors including “capacity constraints.”

Shane Barr added that DCU’s policy – while supporting transgender students – does not have the same support for other members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“The policy doesn’t include non-binary students in recognising their gender identity due to its access routes.”

Though mentioning non-binary students and preferred pronouns, the policy does not offer specific support for non-binary students.

They went on to say that non-binary people are not recognised under Ireland’s gender recognition legislation and therefore cannot change their birth certificates or other documents – some of which DCU requires for student registration.

There are current proposals in place to recognise non-binary people, and Shane said he hopes DCU ensures any legislative change is mirrored in the university.

“In the meantime, [DCU] should work to make sure their accommodations and supports for trans students are inclusive of non-binary identifying students as well.”

Sonja Tutty

Image Credit: Joy Nwagiriga