Gender identity – how do we offer freedom?

I was overjoyed last week in Junglemania to be landed on by a robust three year old boy declaring, “I’m Nella the Princess Knight!” before swinging away to bring joy to other parents wedged into a foam tree house. Yet within seconds, a young girl clutching a Lightning McQueen car scrambled past me followed by her frustrated grandmother begging her to put it down: “…And you’re supposed to be a girl anyway”.

Three year olds don’t in fact segregate by gender – it is a learned behaviour.

This difference in expectations between just two generations suggests that gender stereotyping is a rapidly changing topic at home for the parents of young children, which means that schools and teachers need to have a strong understanding of the issues too.

Broadcasters are largely doing well with the mix of role models they portray – they have made a good effort to combat the issue of girls’ roles in the media and inspired plenty of boys in the process.  Observing my own son’s social group, this very gender-open attitude to role models is now the norm: Having watched Moanna, Poppy and Nella save the world countless times, the boys spend as much time in a gown as a suit of armour.

Church is clear on gender freedom for children

Speaking directly to teachers and educators, The Archbishop of Canterbury has clearly stated the Church’s position this week that children should be given the freedom to experiment and identify how they wish, without judgement or labels, and that childhood is absolutely the time to do this. He states: “Central to Christian theology is the truth that every single one of us is made in the image of God.”

This seems to be very positive news: the Church of England is such an influential authority and appears to be very boldly stepping out with this thought leadership.

Dr Elly Barnes MBE from Educate and Celebrate comments: “We have been saying this for years about our education system: we need to let our children be who they are without putting restrictions around their gender identity or sexual orientation and we must give our students the information that they need – specifically that it is OK to explore who you are. With this guidance, teachers don’t need to be fearful of broaching the subject of queerness as it simply reflects the society that we live in. About 10% of people identify as LGBT+ which is about three students in every class we teach so therefore it is imperative that we represent everyone in our classrooms including those in faith schools.

“The new guidance from the Church of England is welcomed particularly because they are seen as the leading voice for institutional change for faith schools and for those who follow a faith. This will now reassure parents and schools that they have the full backing of the Church when broaching the subject with children and that those conversations are not off limits.

“How to move schools towards full LGBT+ inclusion has been fully debated in all of our staff meetings for the last 12 years so we are extremely excited to see that these boundaries have been removed in this guidance.”

How can you transform your school into an LGBT+ friendly place?

Start by engaging with Educate & Celebrate, who offer staff training, CPD days, Ofsted and DfE-recognised programmes including a Best Practice Award Programme and a Pride Youth Network Programme which both offer accreditation for the school and staff members. You can also follow Educate & Celebrate on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.

E&C Main Logo White Background


Author: Katie Newell

Katie Newell

Katie Newell BA(Hons) PGCE is an ex-primary school teacher, Head of Maths, Head of Year five and languages specialist. Katie qualified in Psychology at Liverpool then specialised in Primary Languages for her PGCE at Reading. Before teaching, Katie was a financial commentator and is now the Content Manager for and Katie feels passionately that teachers are the unsung heroes of society; that opening minds to creative timetabling could revolutionise keeping women in teaching, and that a total change to pupil feedback is the key to solving the work life balance issue for the best job in the world.

Button Search the latest jobs





4 thoughts on “Gender identity – how do we offer freedom?

  1. I am really quite amazed that teachers need to be told this at all after how many years of feminists questioning female – and male = role models and stereotypes, how many years of the gay movement working to help people ‘come out’ etc. My mother tried her best to make our upbringing (4 girls ) gender neutral in the 1960s and that meant no Barbie dolls (how I resented that!) and short hair whilst my friends all had theirs long (and that). We had bikes and climbed trees and grew up in jeans without thinking about it etc. My mother complained to my secondary school that I was doing cookery and needlework whilst the boys did metalwork and woodwork, By the time my younger sisters came though the school in the mid seventies all children did all 4 subjects. As a teacher myself I treated all children equally and encouraged girls in Maths and spatial skills, to make up for cultural bias against girls in these areas.
    Its mainly the pernicious effect of the media and advertisers that have pushed against the gains of the sixties and seventies (to nineties when we started to go backwards) in every possible way to 1) make money (e.g out of pink/blue plastic toys) and 2) to support the old male hierarchy that still women as sex objects, feels threatened by strong women and prefers to brand feminists and any obvious gains of feminists as slightly mad shrill women to be laughed at (‘Calm down dear’ etc). Eating disorders etc are obviously tied up with this too.
    What we need to be careful of now is NOT normalising any type of stereotype as typical, e.g. the idea that its normal to cake your face in make-up if you are female

  2. Every individual should have the opportunity to be the best that they can be. Societal norms should not limit anybody but I hope that people do not confuse gender with sexual identity. Male and female are different sexes and children should not be confused about that. Asking children to decide whether they are a boy or a girl will be confusing for them on the long run and confusing for the society. Individuals should be clear and be able to articulate concisely who they are.

  3. I’m sorry but this is nonsense- LGBT and gender are completely different things anyway and you are clearly abusing your doctorate status to push a sexual agenda on children.. if they can’t vote til their 16 why can they change their physical gender at 12!! There are many other good doctors who disagree with you and the massive selfish damaging impact this will have in years to come, but you haven’t done any longitudinal research on the possible negative outcomes such as risk of personality disorders.. Parents who agree to this are selfishly following dr titles without using their common sense

  4. What ever happened to normal people, real men and women with real children in a normal family, I suppose it is not politically correct to mention such contentious things, we all have some sort of educational, medical, mental or dysfunctional skill maybe I have not yet discovered mine whether it is an eating disorder or maybe my goat syndrome… Is there a place for my type in this ever changing world? I hope no one berates me for my comment, I have feelings as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>