My name is Helen Watts. I’m a unit leader with Girlguiding. I’ve been involved in Guiding throughout my life, as a child and adult.
Being a leader is a huge privilege and a big responsibility. Parents trust us to take their on sleepovers and camps. All residentials are based on the principle of informed parental consent. As leaders, we are expected to be open and honest at all times. All adult volunteers undertake safeguarding training. As anyone who’s undertaken child protection training knows, we never promise a child confidentiality. Girlguiding does not tell parents and girls, even in the most general terms, that facilities are no longer single sex.
Despite no change in the law, membership of Girlguiding is based on the principle of self identity. Boys who identify as girls are treated as any other girl when it comes to residentials. The transgirl – who still has the physical body of a boy, and who the girls may have known as a boy until recently – is entitled to use the same sleeping, changing and washing spaces as the other girls, if they choose, and the other girls are not given a choice. Girlguiding say that any member can request more private accommodation – but how will they know to ask if they are unaware that they may be placed in mixed sex facilities? Self identity also applies to adult leaders.
I oppose gender self identity because it breaches the most basic safeguarding principles. It undermines privacy and dignity and denies women and girls a choice. It also reinforces stereotypes: if being a girl is not based on biological sex, then what is it? Is it about how you dress, what you call yourself, how you behave? Is it a feeling? Women’s groups, including Girlguiding, have spent years challenging these stereotypes which limit girls’ aspirations and choices – Girlguiding’s annual Girls Attitude survey details how girls as young as 7 are negatively affected – and yet now membership reinforces these very same stereotypes. If gender self-identity is enshrined in law, it will limit all children, but it will have the most negative impact on girls.