The Boarding Schools Association in the UK has advised teachers to address children with their “pronoun of choice”, and offered the neutral term “zie” as an alternative option.
Staff have been told they need to learn a “new language” under these new guidelines, and also put forward that “they” is also acceptable. This advice is intended to help teachers avoid offending students who don’t wish to be referred to by male or female pronouns.
Alex Thompson, deputy chief executive of the Boarding Schools’ Association, had this to say: “Teachers, heads and deputy heads were asking questions about these issues and they felt they were in the dark on what was politically correct and had fears of causing offence as young people largely between the ages of 13 and 18 were questioning their gender identity.”
“There was a strong understanding when it more obvious and direct when someone came out as gay but not in the area where young people were asking ‘who am I’ to a member of staff and these were questions they had not been asked before.”
“It’s amazing how complicated the whole thing is in a community where the norms are the ones we have accepted for years. It’s tricky for individuals that are having difficulty accepting there is something beyond the binary system of gender we take for granted.”
The association has also suggested that teachers learn a new vocabulary for gender identities. These terms include ones that are common parlance in the LGBT community, such as genderqueer, pansexual, transgender and genderfluid.
The guidance also sets out to remind schools in England, Wales and Scotland that gender identity and “reassignment” are protected classes under the Equality Act 2010.
Founder of charity Educate and Celebrate and author of the new guidelines, Elly Barnes, said: “It’s a new language that’s absolutely needed in schools. We have, of course, restrictions within the English language but the more we use these pronouns the more they become part of the language. If you’re new to the trans community, this is very new language.”