1.0 A Sister to All Guides
On Sunday 25th March 2018 a Leader with a Rainbows unit in London bravely spoke up about her concerns regarding Girlguiding’s transgender policy. Helen Watts allowed herself to be named, quoted and photographed for an article in the Sunday Times. Parents may be wondering why she felt the need to do it. Leaders and helpers might be curious as to why a Leader would feel the need to publicly criticise the association they all love and support. Indeed, her own Rainbows unit and County Commissioner may be asking why did she do this? Do we have a transphobe in our midst reacting against trans inclusion? Is this a bitter Leader with a grudge intent on disparaging Girlguiding? The answer to that is a clear and unequivocal NO. Quite simply, Helen can see this new policy does not fairly balance the needs of ALL the members. She is upholding her Promise and the Guide Law to be A Sister to All Guides.
Fair Play For Women supports Helen and the growing number of Leaders and parents who are now speaking out against the policy. In this report we make clear the facts and reasons why Helen and others are now voicing concerns.
Open access link to Sunday Times article here.
Leaders are rebelling against a policy that lets boys claiming to be female share showers and tents with girls on camping trips. The organisation forbids leaders telling parents.
Helen Watts, 33, is one of at least 20 rebel unit leaders to write to Girlguiding’s national headquarters in protest at the rules, published in January last year, which apply to all girl guides aged 5 to 25.
They say Girlguiding has dismissed their concerns. Now they want girls and parents to be asked their views. Watts, who leads a west London Rainbows unit for girls aged 5 to 7, said: “I don’t think a transgender person necessarily presents a danger to anyone else, nor would I want to exclude them . . . but the emphasis is being placed on their needs and not on the needs or views of the other girls.”
Some rebels have been attacked online as “bigoted Terfs [trans-exclusionary radical feminists]”.
Lindsay and Richard, who live in the north of England, have a daughter about to go away on her first camp. “You are putting the onus on a young girl to say whether or not she is uncomfortable sharing with a boy,” they said. “It could lead to her being labelled transphobic if she says she is unhappy.”
Girlguiding said: “We offer bespoke guidance for any leader who is looking to run an activity, like a camp, involving a trans child.”
2.0 Executive Summary
Here we raise four important questions that anyone who cares about Girlguiding should ask themselves and others:
- Should membership of Girlguiding be based on someone’s female biological sex or their inner sense of being a girl?
- Should sleeping arrangements for residential trips be separated on the basis of biological sex?
- Should parents be asked to give informed consent for their daughter to share a room with a male child irrespective of how they identify their gender?
- Should Leader roles be open to females only and not any adult who identifies as a woman?
We show how currently, Girlguiding’s transgender policy does not fairly balance the needs of ALL the members. It is not fully integrated into, nor consistent with, wider policy aims and their understanding of the important difference between biological sex and gender identity is muddled. They also demonstrate a lack of understanding regarding UK Equality legislation and falsely assert they have no other legal options when in fact their policy is arguably in breach of the law. We highlight a lack of transparency around Girlguiding’s safeguarding procedures combined with no communication with parents, making informed consent impossible. Attempts by parents and Leaders to raise concerns with Girlguiding have been largely dismissed and discouraged.
We now call on Girlguiding to issue an immediate suspension of the policy pending:
- a meeting with Julie Bentley to discuss the issues raised in this report
- release of the Impact Assessment performed prior to the 2017 policy change, plus details of who advised Girlguiding when the policy was drafted (lawyers, child protection experts and transgender organisations)
- a nationwide public consultation with all Leaders, parents and young members
- a wide-ranging Impact Assessment by independent experts, with findings to be published so we can scrutinise them.
Campaign factsheet can be downloaded here.
Contents and quick jump to:
Note: for the purpose of clear and accurate discussion the terms male and female will be used in this report to refer exclusively to a person’s legal sex classification. For this reason a boy who identifies as a girl (aka transgirl) will sometimes be referred to by their sex in addition to their gender identity. It is a fact that all transgender children remain legally and physically the sex they were born despite identifying otherwise. Therefore, there are some very important differences that must be taken into account when performing a risk assessment.
3.0 Should membership of Girlguiding be based on gender identity and not biological sex?
Girlguiding has been a single-sex organisation since its inception in 1910. Its ethos is to liberate girls from gender stereotypes and sex-based discrimination so they are free to be themselves and reach their full potential. Changing the organisation to one based on a subjective gender identity of ‘girl’ fundamentally changes the concept of Girlguiding. It conflicts with its stance on combating gender stereotypes, changes who is included and excluded from membership, and has no clear legal basis under Equality Law. We argue that a policy change with such far-reaching consequences should only be made after consultation with the membership and a detailed analysis of the impact on all members.
3.1 What changes have there been to Girlguiding’s transgender policy?
The current Girlguiding website, in a policy statement published in September 2016, says that they are a single-sex organisation for girls and led by women. The policy statement refers to its legal basis under the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act explicitly says that, “woman means a female of any age“.
In January 2017 a new statement appeared on the Girlguiding website redefining what it is to be a girl or woman. Being a girl or woman is now about how a person feels – an inner sense of self. It refers to a person’s gender identity and, therefore, NOT someone’s biological sex. This is a radical departure from the legal and cultural meaning of the words woman and girl.
This means that boys who identify as girls can now join Girlguiding and men who identity as women can now take the Promise and become a Leader. For the first time since its creation in 1910, Girlguiding is no longer an organisation just for females, run by female Leaders.
3.2 Does it matter that membership is now based on ‘feeling like a girl’?
If the definition of being a girl no longer has an objective biological basis, Girlguiding risks endorsing gender stereotypes (be they behaviours, choice of dress or appearance, participation in hobbies or sport) as evidence of being either a girl or a boy. Yet it is the pressure and limitations of gender stereotyping on girls that Girlguiding has long fought against. Indeed, it is arguably why parents and girls choose Girlguiding over mixed-sex organisations like Scouts.
The Girls’ Attitudes Survey 2017 highlights “how girls and young women face relentless pressure from seeing and hearing gender stereotypes on a daily basis, with girls as young as seven saying these stereotypes affect their ability to say what they think”.
Girlguiding is all about giving girls the awareness and confidence to break down the barriers of sexism and there have been some excellent campaigns including Free being me and the publication of new guidance for peer educators called ‘Breaking Free of gender stereotypes’.
How can guiding reconcile that being a girl is a ‘feeling’ with its stated intention of standing up to gender stereotypes, which Sophie Wallace (a member of the Girlguiding Advocate Panel) said “aren’t just harmful, but a barrier to progress”?
In the rush to be inclusive of transgender children Girlguiding has undermined some of its own long-held principles. Trans inclusivity is a laudable aim and must be considered but this change appears to be badly thought through and simply shoe-horned into existing policy with no understanding of how this will impact the wider membership, or indeed if this is even lawful.
3.3 If membership is now based on gender identity instead of biological sex some females could now be excluded from Girlguiding.
The implication here is that females who don’t identify as a girl but rather as a boy or non-binary, will need to leave Girlguiding at some stage. These young members are still female and likely experiencing practical and emotional difficulties and upheaval as they transition – potentially made worse by Girlguiding implying that they are expected to leave the organisation (and their friends within it). Girlguiding has been asked directly whether a young member would be required to leave, or if the Leader’s discretion could be used until the natural end of that section, but it has not yet responded.
It is well established that a child’s gender identity develops through puberty with the concerns of the majority of children with gender identity issues just resolving naturally. Most gender non-conforming girls who do persist will simply develop into lesbian women. Sexual orientation is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and so Girlguiding must consider whether their policy is discriminatory by inadvertently impacting and excluding lesbian girls more than straight girls.
It can be strongly argued that the best way for Girlguiding to support their female membership is to allow them the time and space to safely explore their gender identity within the safe and non-judgmental environment of Girlguiding. This is in line with the ‘Watchful Waiting’ approach taken by the NHS Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) and recommended by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Other single-sex organisations have also considered how to be trans-inclusive and chosen a different way to Girlguiding. Eton is a single-sex school for male children. They allow their male children to continue attending the school and do not exclude them if they identify as a girl or non-binary. This demonstrates that there are many different and legal ways to be inclusive of transgender children.
Has Girlguiding given enough thought to the impact of their policy change on gender non-conforming female members, some of whom may identify as transgender? It appears that the main focus is instead on the inclusion and support of gender non-conforming male children. Both groups of children need support but the question is whether it is within Girlguiding’s remit and expertise, as a female-only organisation, to provide the latter.
3.4 Is it true that Girlguiding does not have the legal right to exclude male children who identify as girls?
On 12th March 2018 the Chief Executive of Girlguiding, Julie Bentley, made a statement in response to the coverage about their Equality and Diversity Policy. Her full statement can be read here.
One extract from the statement says that Girlguiding does not have the legal right to exclude trans people. This demonstrates a shocking lack of understanding of the Equality Act and how it applies to Girlguiding.
Girlguiding is an association and must comply with Part 7 of the Equality Act for Associations. An association is legally defined as “an association of persons which has at least 25 members, and admission to membership of which is regulated by the association’s rules and involves a process of selection”. Girlguiding is not considered a service or public function (Part 3) or Education (Part 6). As such the relevant piece of legislation that Girlguiding relies on to enable it to be a single-sex organisation is the Equality Act 2010: Schedule 16: Associations: Exceptions.
Schedule 16 clearly sets out that it is lawful for an association to restrict its membership to a single protected characteristic. Sex is one of nine protected characteristics. This means male children can be lawfully excluded from an association designed for female children.
A child who identifies as transgender is covered by the protected characteristic of ‘gender reassignment‘ but is still legally male. This protected characteristic does NOT confer the legal status of being female. The legislation that makes it possible to change one’s sex status in the eyes of the law is called the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and does NOT apply to children (under 18). Someone’s preferred gender identity is NOT a legal status and does NOT mean they are no longer the legal sex they were born.
3.5 Could Girlguiding’s transgender policy now be in breach of Equality Law?
Associations can legally restrict membership to one of the protected characteristics. They are not legally entitled to restrict membership based on factors which are NOT protected characteristics. Gender identity is NOT a protected characteristic. Gender identity must not be conflated or confused with the protected characteristic of sex or the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.
“In relation to the protected characteristic of sex a reference to a person who has a particular protected characteristic is a reference to a man or to a woman; a woman is a female of any age; a man is a male of any age.“
“A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex”.
This means someone must not be treated unfairly because they are transgender but does not mean they ‘become’ the sex associated with their preferred gender identity. An association can use the single characteristic exemption to base its membership on either the protected characteristic of sex OR the protected characteristic of gender reassignment or indeed any other of the protected characteristics, but it can’t use more than one or use them selectively. In attempting to do so an association will be in breach of the law.
The Girlguiding policy of membership based on having the ‘gender identity of a girl’ does not adhere to the principle of a single-sex association. It means that a group of females with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment will not be eligible for membership. Exclusion of females based on other protected characteristics is not allowed and excluding girls who identify as boys would be just as wrong as excluding them because they were disabled or of a certain race. Indeed the Scouts have recently paid an out of court settlement of £42000 to a family whose son was effectively excluded from participating due to his autism and therefore discriminated against based on the protected characteristic of disability.
Since Girlguiding no longer restricts membership to legal females only it can be argued that the single-characteristic exemption is not being used. In which case Girlguiding is now a mixed-sex organisation for both females and males. However, only male children who have the protected characteristic of gender reassignment are allowed to join. This is discrimination against male children simply on the basis they are not transgender. In 2011 a teenage boy who was refused entry to a Girlguiding session accused the organisation of sex discrimination. However, Girlguiding bosses fiercely defended their stance, saying it was ‘vital’ in today’s society for a girls-only group to be available. In light of recent policy changes this same teenager might well now have a strong case for discrimination. Alternatively, he could simply self-identify as a girl and would be let in. No proof of gender identity is required since it is purely based on a person’s ‘inner sense of gender’ and it cannot be objectively verified.
4.0 Should a male child be allowed to share communal accommodation with female children?
Guidance published on the Girlguiding website regarding accommodation for residential trips states:
Sharing accommodation – young trans members should be able to share accommodation with other young members if they wish. Some trans people may not feel comfortable sharing accommodation so in this case an alternative option should be provided. This should be done discreetly, in conversation with the young person and, if appropriate, their parent or carer. The option of having an alternative accommodation arrangement is open to any young person if it is requested.
Using facilities – the use of gendered facilities, such as toilets and showers, can be a cause of anxiety in trans young people. Members are entitled to use the facilities of the gender that they self-identify as. And where possible more private, individual or mixed gender facilities should be made available or offered to all young members – including trans members – should they wish or request them. This will ensure that trans young people do not avoid using the bathroom or feel singled out in any way.
Privacy when changing – a young person may wish to have more privacy when changing at a residential event and for activities too. Alternative, more private areas should be made available to all young members – including trans members – should they wish or request them. This will ensure that trans young people do not feel singled out in any way.
* This guidance was published in January 2017 but then modified in March 2018. The text in italics was added to the website in March 2018 after Girlguiding was back in the news.
This policy means that a male child who identifies as a girl will be allowed to share sleeping accommodation, toilets and washing facilities with the female children if they wish to. In 2017, when this policy was first introduced, the female children had no choice in the matter whatsoever. Fortunately, it appears that Girlguiding have reacted to pressure from parents and Leaders and the guidance has been very recently updated to include the option for all children to request alternative accommodation. This means a female child will be moved out if they do not wish to share with a male child. It is not clear what would happen if there are no alternative facilities. It is also not clear whether the Leaders who will implement this on the ground will even be aware of the updated guidance. This change to the website has been made without any announcement and was in fact only confirmed by comparing a cached version with the current website.
4.1 It is lawful to provide separate accommodation for male and female children.
The Equality Act 2010: Schedule 23 (3) clearly sets out that it is lawful to restrict communal accommodation (sleeping and sanitary facilities) to a single SEX for reasons of privacy. It is also clearly and explicitly stated how this also includes the lawful exclusion of transgender people.
Girlguiding has chosen NOT to apply this legal exemption when it comes to male children who identify as girls (transgender) but DOES apply the exemption for male children who are not transgender. The male children of Leaders are sometimes present on residential trips and rules are that they are not allowed to share accommodation with their mother (the Leader). They must sleep and wash separately. This applies to male children of any age, even very young male children who may prefer and need the comfort and safety of sleeping in the presence of their mother.
4.2 It is best practice to provide separate accommodation for male and female children for reasons of privacy, dignity and safety.
Girlguiding clearly understands and supports this routine and very commonly applied safeguarding measure. They strictly apply a single-sex communal accommodation policy when it comes to the sons of Leaders. Indeed it is considered so normal that parents take for granted and fully expect their daughters to be sharing only with other female children.
Privacy and dignity: Sex segregation for sleeping and undressing is customary and is considered normal practice to maintain the privacy and dignity of both sexes. Girls may be embarrassed about their changing bodies and dealing with periods. For some girls, their religion prevents them from sharing accommodation with males. (Religion is also a protected characteristic in the Equality Act). Some girls who have been assaulted or abused by a male would not feel able to attend residential trips if there was the possibility of sharing accommodation with a male.
Safety: There are also the obvious safeguarding issues regarding the mixing of the sexes. Sexes are separated in this way to reduce the risk of under-age sexual intercourse, pregnancy, transmission of STDs and/or unwanted sexual attention, touching, assault or rape. This is not because society thinks all males are sexual predators but simply acknowledges the risk is real and based on solid evidence. A recent government report says “Sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools is a significant issue which affects a large number of children and young people, particularly girls, across the country. Evidence shows that the majority of perpetrators of this abuse are boys, and the majority of victims are girls”. Single-sex accommodation is a very simple and common sense practical measure to reduce the likelihood of sexual activity – consenting or non-consenting.
All of the same safeguarding considerations still apply when assessing the impact and risks associated with letting transgender children sleep with the opposite sex. A boy who identities as a girl is still physically male and in most cases any ‘transition’ will have only been a ‘social transition‘. This involves wearing ‘girls’ clothes, perhaps wearing make-up, growing long hair and going by a girl’s name and female pronouns. This social transition requires no specialist or medical supervision. Only 1 in 7 children referred to gender specialists are prescribed any form of medical intervention. Genital reassignment surgery is not allowed under the of age 18 in the UK and in most cases, due to the seriousness of the decision, will not be supported by the NHS until very much older. A boy who identifies as a girl is still a male child with a functioning penis and testicles and is indistinguishable from any other male child for risk assessment processes.
4.3 Girlguiding is not taking these concerns seriously.
Someone’s gender identity does not, and should not be considered to, change the material reality of a child’s biological sex. It would be naive at best, and negligent at worst, to assume otherwise in the absence of evidence to the contrary. It is responsible, justifiable and reasonable to expect that boys who identify as girls should NOT be considered as ‘girls’ in all circumstances and differences in biological sex must be openly acknowledged within Girlguiding policy.
However, the criticism of Girlguiding’s transgender policy by some Leaders and parents has not only been largely dismissed by Girlguiding headquarters but also wilfully misrepresented by CEO Julie Bentley as being motivated by transphobia.
The risks associated with a boy who identifies as a girl joining and sharing facilities with girls is NOT because the child is transgender. It is because that child is MALE. There is no evidence to suggest that identifying as a girl makes a male more or less likely to pose a risk to girls. It has certainly NEVER been suggested that a transgender child is a sexual predator. Derailing tactics like these do nothing to progress wider understanding and the necessary respectful debate that must be had.
Although a transgender child may wish to sleep in the same room or tents with children of the opposite sex the rights to privacy, dignity and safety of the girls MUST also be considered. Everyone’s needs must be balanced to find the fairest outcome overall.
Can Girlguiding really be so confident that their safeguarding procedures will keep girls safe under this new policy? Leaders can only do so much and very little when in some instances adult leaders are not even present. It only takes one rape or assault …. and we’ll all be asking ‘how did we let this happen?’.
5.0 Parents will not be informed that their daughter may be sharing a room with a male child, even if they ask to be.
Guidelines published on the Girlguiding website concerning disclosure state:
When a young person is 18 or over, it is unlawful to tell other people that they are trans unless the trans person has given you permission to do so. When someone is under 18, it is still good practice not to tell other people unless they have given you permission to do so.
It is not a requirement – or best practice – to tell parents that a trans person will be attending a residential event.
This guidance has been confirmed in writing to a concerned parent. Girlguiding says it will not disclose now or in the future if a trans child is in her daughter’s Rainbow unit.
Helen Watts (Guide Leader) also wrote to Girlguiding with a detailed set of questions in February 2018 (page 1, page 2) but received the same stock answers in reply. Disappointed by this standard dismissal of her concerns Helen wrote again on 13th March emphasising her concerns. She is still awaiting a response to her questions.
5.1 There is no law that stops Girlguiding informing parents.
Firstly, there is no law that says someone’s transgender status cannot be disclosed. This only applies if a person has a gender recognition certificate. The GRA 2004 Act makes it a criminal offence for a person to disclose information he has acquired in an official capacity about a person’s application for a gender recognition certificate or about the gender history of a successful applicant. Only 1% of adult transgender people have a GRC and children are not eligible for one.
Of course, if someone’s trans status was revealed for the purpose or effect of violating a trans person’s dignity or to create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment this would be harassment and in breach of the Equality Act 2010. However, this is not the purpose or effect of a Guide Leader sensitively disclosing to parents that a male child who identifies as a girl will be present on a residential trip so all parents can give informed consent for their daughters to attend and/or share the communal accommodation.
The chosen Girlguiding policy of not informing parents is NOT A LEGAL REQUIREMENT. ANY parent of a girl who expects robust safeguarding should and would expect males and females not to be accommodated together, certainly not without parental knowledge and consent.
5.2 Leaders will now consult the other girls but not parents.
In a recent statement published on the Girlguiding website Julie Bentley downplays the concerns raised by parents and Leaders by claiming they do in fact consult ‘the other girls’ if a trans child is involved in an activity and that in some cases separate facilities have been used.
Most notably, this does not include discussion with the parents of the ‘other girls’. This puts the onus on a child to have the awareness and confidence to assert her own boundaries in terms of privacy, dignity and safety. This is a decision that must be taken with parental involvement, particularly for younger children.
The statement also says there has been ‘use of separate facilities’ but does not say by whom. This could mean exclusion of the ‘other girls’ who felt uncomfortable sharing. The impact on these girls should also be considered. An important aspect of building girls self-esteem and keeping them safe, is teaching them about consent and how to set and maintain boundaries regarding their own bodies. They are encouraged to “find their voice, discover how to use it and feel empowered to do so“. This is not achieved by withholding information, excluding or shaming them if they choose not to share private space with males.
5.3 Leaders will be supported and given ‘bespoke guidance’.
Despite Julie Bentley being ‘frankly disturbed’ that anyone would suggest their new policy could put members at risk she does thankfully acknowledge that there are legitimate concerns regarding the practicalities of sharing sleeping and bathroom facilities. She appears to suggest, however, that these concerns are unfounded because they offer ‘bespoke guidance’ for any Leader to help them manage any risks.
There is no information on what this ‘bespoke guidance’ for a Leader could be. For example, what happens if a unit joins a regional camp with hundreds of Brownies, Guides and Rangers from different units? This question was put to a Leader by a parent in advance of such a meeting. They were told that they can specify on their daughter’s paperwork that she must not share a room with a male child but that even the Leader could not find out in advance of the trip whether a male child would be present. It is hard to imagine how any bespoke guidance could be given in this instance.
5.4 Informed consent is part of the Girlguiding safeguarding policy.
The withholding of important information is in breach of one of the Girlguiding safeguarding policies. It is unacceptable that parents are not given all the information they require to give informed consent to a residential trip for their daughter.
6.0 Adult males who identify as women are allowed to make the Promise and become Leaders.
6.1 Trans people have been eligible for Leadership since 2004.
In 2004 a Gender Recognition Act became law which allowed a male-born transsexual to change their legal sex class to female for all purposes. Although not a legal requirement it was expected that the vast majority of male-born transsexuals had or would undergo genital surgery to remove their penis and create a cosmetic vagina and vulva. It was estimated there were approximately 5000 transsexual people in the UK, the majority of whom were male born.
The single-characteristic rule for associations means that membership of Girlguiding, including Leaders, can be lawfully restricted to people legally classed as female only. This legal category includes women who are female by virtue of birth AND male-born transgender people with a Gender Recognition Certificate. There are only 4500 people in the UK with a Gender Recognition Certificate and this represents only 1% of the estimated transgender population. Nevertheless, since 2004 transwomen who have obtained the legal status of female have been eligible to become a Leader. Due to privacy laws once someone has obtained a GRC it is unknown if this has ever happened.
Note: Girlguiding are wrongly referring to the protected characteristic of sex as ‘gender’ here demonstrating what a muddle they are in.
6.2 Any male can now identify as a woman to be eligible for the role of Leader.
The situation has changed completely since 2004. We now have the 2010 Equality Act and the protected characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’. This quite rightly makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone because they are transgender. However, the definition of someone covered by ‘gender reassignment’ is extremely broad and requires no medical supervision or treatment. Anyone is free to self-identify as transgender if they consider their gender identity (or their inner sense of gender) does not match what they would expect for someone of their birth sex. Post-operative transsexual people are still very rare today with 80% of transgender people undergoing no medical intervention (of those that do, some may take hormones, some may have cosmetic procedures, very few actually have genital reassignment surgery). This means that the vast majority of transwomen (male-born) retain their penis and testicles.
Girlguiding’s website is now a muddle; its guidance, still live on the website, dated January 2017, says that Leader positions can ‘only be taken up by female members’. However, they also say that they allow ‘any adult who self-identifies as a woman’ to become a Leader. This effectively means any man who feels like a woman can now become a Leader. It’s interesting to note that Julie Bentley was previously the CEO of the Family Planning Association; we find it hard to believe she doesn’t know what ‘female’ means.
The fact that two incompatible policy statements currently exist on the website regarding Leader eligibility betrays Girlguiding’s overall lack of consistency and understanding when it comes to differences between sex and gender identity. Worryingly, it may also signal that this new policy was simply bolted on to existing policy without a thorough assessment or understanding of the impact throughout the organisation as a whole.
This is a major change in policy and raises a number of important issues:
Legally: Self-identifying as a woman does NOT mean someone has ‘become female’ in the eyes of the law. Self-identifying transwomen are not only physically male, with most retaining a penis and testicles, but they are also legally male. This may breach the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act as discussed previously.
Female experience: There are times when a woman’s lived experience is required to support girls. Some girls might find their first spots of blood in their knickers while away on camp. What if a girl bleeds through into her clothes or onto her bedding overnight? What if she is sexually assaulted while away? In these instances it is a fellow biological female a girl will want to turn to for help.
Sleeping arrangements: It is current Girlguiding policy that male volunteers must have separate sleeping and bathroom facilities. However, the same policy will not apply to male-born Leaders who identify as women. This means that in these specific instances a legal and physical male will be allowed to share sleeping and bathroom facilities with other female adults and children (in line with current policy on adults sharing the same sleeping spaces as children). This may present legitimate issues of privacy and dignity for other Leaders and the girls.
Safeguarding: There is also no proof or evidence that can be asked for to substantiate someone’s self-declared gender identity. Although there is no reason to believe that most people are not genuine and truthful, the lack of checks means it cannot be ruled out that a man could simply pretend. It is possible for a man to self-declare himself as a woman for the sole purpose of obtaining a position of trust and gaining access to young girls. Some say that would never happen, but male sexual predators have joined the priesthood, coached football teams, become television presenters to gain access to, groom and abuse children from a position of trust. There is also the added weakness inherent in the DBS checking protocols that have been put in place to protect the privacy of transgender people. An individual is not obliged to include the details of a previous gender on their DBS application form. Instead they must inform the sensitive applications team themselves but it will not be possible for Girlguiding to check this has in fact been done. No matter how unlikely it may or may not be for a sexual predator to abuse the system of self-identity and/or DBS checks there will be times when that Leader will have unsupervised access to girls and young women.
We have shown how Girlguiding’s transgender policy in its current form is not fully integrated into, nor consistent with, wider policy aims. Plus, their understanding of the important difference between biological sex and gender identity is muddled. They also demonstrate a lack of understanding regarding UK equality legislation and falsely assert that they have no other legal options when in fact their policy is arguably in breach of the law. We highlight a lack of transparency around Girlguiding’s safeguarding procedures combined with no communication with parents making informed consent impossible. Attempts by parents and Leaders to raise concerns with Girlguiding have been largely dismissed and discouraged.
We now call on Girlguiding to issue an immediate suspension of the policy pending:
- a meeting with Julie Bentley to discuss the issues raised in this report
- the release of the Impact Assessment performed prior to the policy change in 2017, plus details of who advised Girlguiding when the policy was drafted (lawyers, child protection experts and transgender organisations)
- a nationwide public consultation with all Leaders, parents and young members
- a wide-ranging Impact Assessment by independent experts, with findings to be published so we can scrutinise them.
8.0 How can you support our campaign?
We need your help. We need parents, members and Leaders to come together to show Girlguiding they must look again at their policy.
Parents and Guide members: If you share our concerns please join our public Facebook group called “Sisters to all Guides“. This is a space to find information and updates and to share your experiences and concerns about this specific issue. If you wish for your support to remain confidential please use the contact form below and we will provide you with ideas and updates by email.
Leaders: We also have an ever expanding group of Leaders who support our aims. Discussion of this topic amongst Leaders on official Girlguiding Facebook forums has been blocked; posts have been deleted and members banned. If you are a Leader and wish to join other Leaders in private discussion please contact us, in confidence, using the contact form below quoting your membership number.
Everyone: Please also share this article on Facebook and Twitter using #sisterstoALLguides Let Girlguiding know your concerns by tweeting them (@girlguiding), phoning, emailing or contacting them through their website.