Church of England’s advice not to bully boys who play dress-up in tutus is really the bare minimum
The Church of England is taking serious steps to crack down on rampant biphobic, transphobic, and homophobic bullying in its schools.
According to new guidance from the church, teachers should let children experiment with gender without labelling or criticism them.
Boys must be free to wear a tutu, tiara, and heels, for example, when they dress up as they are in a phase of “creative exploration” of their gender and identity.
The advice, which is released for 4,700 schools, reads:
Pupils need to be able to play with the many cloaks of identity (sometimes quite literally with the dressing up box). Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision. For example, a child may choose the tutu, princess’s tiara and heels and/or the firefighter’s helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak without expectation or comment. Childhood has a sacred space for creative self-imagining.
The church adds that children are in a “trying on” stage of life, so no labels need to be fixed. “This should inform the language teachers use when they comment, praise or give instructions,” the advice reads.
“It may be best to avoid labels and assumptions which deem children’s behaviour irregular, abnormal or problematic just because it does not conform to gender stereotypes or today’s play preferences.”
The 2017 School Report from LGBT equality charity Stonewall, which is mentioned in the guidance, found out that LGBT pupils attending “faith schools” are less likely to report that their school says homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying is wrong.
The report says that fewer than a third of bullied LGBT pupils say their teacher intervened when they were there during the bullying and 7 in 10 reported that teachers only “sometimes” or “never” challenge homophobic biphobic and transphobic language when they hear it.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:
“All bullying, including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying causes profound damage, leading to higher levels of mental health disorders, self-harm, depression and suicide.
“Central to Christian theology is the truth that every single one of us is made in the image of God. Every one of us is loved unconditionally by God.
“This guidance helps schools to offer the Christian message of love, joy and celebration of our humanity without exception or exclusion.”
Stonewall welcomed the guidance, saying the church is sending a “clear signal that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying must never be tolerated”.