BIRMINGHAM – Muslims in the Manchester area have expressed split views on the announcement that gender-neutral language will be used for communications with students at the highly successful Altrincham Grammar School for Girls (AGSG).
In December, principal of the school in Bowden, Stephanie Gill, wrote to parents: “We are working to break ingrained habits in the way we speak to and about students, particularly referring to them collectively as ‘girls’.”
“We know that for many transgender students being misgendered can be very hurtful and we are conscious of the figures recently published by Stonewall that more than four in five trans young people have self-harmed and more than two in five trans young people have attempted to take their own life.”
The school, a favorite amongst Muslim parents with high achieving daughters, has received a mixture of criticism and congratulation on social media at the news.
Firefighter and Trade Unionist Paul Embery called the move the “latest transgender madness” in a tweet.
Dr. Siema Iqbal, a highly respected local doctor and community activist, highlighted the fact that the schools status as a female establishment had not been addressed.
“Erm it’s called Altrincham Grammar for GIRLS,” she tweeted.
Erm its Altrincham Grammer School for GIRLS…..
— Siema Iqbal (@siemaiqbal) January 10, 2018
While an account called TransactualUK congratulated the school on the measure to avoid misgendering students.
Well done @AGGSchool for your inclusive approach to education.
— Trans Actual (@TransActualUK) January 10, 2018
AboutIslam.net spoke to AGSG students and parents about the change and wider social implications.
Aminah Chaudary is in her first year of Sixth Form. She felt the move which is based on language use, was minor and wouldn’t affect the majority in any significant way.
“Personally, I don’t see the massive issue with it because for those who do identify as a girl it doesn’t affect us whatever pronouns are used. It’s to help others feel more comfortable,” she told AboutIslam.
However, in line with general feedback AboutIslam has received, a generation gap opens up in the views of Muslims in relation to transgenderism.
Is it an issue of civil rights or one of mental and emotional health?
Aminah’s mother Saeeda, hold a very different view to that of her daughter.
“The school (AGSG) may have done this for a couple of vocal people who felt their sexuality needs to be identified. But, it’s not fair to relabel the majority for a few. Because it’s a girls’ school and a girl is defined by her genital organs.’
The view that a human being’s gender is defined by their physical makeup is in line with traditional Abrahamic teachings.
This understanding that the physical make up of a person is a blessing from God in all its forms, allowed those born with naturally androgynous sexual organs known as ‘Eunuchs’ to be treated with respect in the Muslim world five hundred years before the issue of LGBT rights were raised in the West.
In the UK, orthodox faith groups remain largely resistant to the teaching of transgender issues to younger children.
Vishnitz Girls School is a well established Haredi school in North London. The Haredi Jewish tradition has 45,000 followers in the UK and dictates the separation of genders in schooling.
Ofsted papers from 2014 revealed that of 13 schools which underwent full unannounced inspections of three were Orthodox Jewish schools. The teaching of gender assignment issues and homosexuality remain major indicators of a schools success or failure according to Ofsted.
Rabbi Abraham Pinter is principal of Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Stamford Hill. He has been outspoken about social agenda’s, which he believes negatively target families, students and teachers of the faith.
”This is social engineering at work and nothing to do with safeguarding our children,” he said.
At the state girls’ grammar in Altrincham, the principal feels the ‘sensitive’ move to acknowledge the gender orientation of all pupils will have positive outcomes for both students and faculty.
A statement issued by the school said: “We welcome and celebrate diversity at our school and we will look at any measure, however small, to ensure the wellbeing of our staff and students.”
Names have been changed by request.