Eight-year-olds are set to be taught that boys can have periods too
It goes without saying that in recent years, there has been a huge increase in the visibility of transgender people and the various issues that they still face. Yes, the media has taken much more of an interest in the everyday lives and struggles of transgender people in a bid to normalise the community.
We are more likely, now than ever before, to discuss in detail the issues surrounding those whose anatomy does not align with mainstream society's ideas of gender. For instance, the topic of transgender boys and men and their ability to get their periods challenges widely-held beliefs about which genders have certain biological functions.
And now, recent sex education guidance has been approved by the Brighton Council in the UK in order to emphasize this point among schoolchildren. First and foremost, the new guidance aims to promote gender inclusivity and address the stigma attached to menstruation. According to this new piece of guidance, primary school teachers will be advised to tell their students that boys can have periods too.
The primary purpose of the report was to put in place a policy that seeks to reduce "period poverty" by handing out free feminine hygiene at schools. It also aims to "reduce stigma and shame related to periods and provide education on puberty and changes within the body". It also stated it was "important for all genders to be able to learn and talk about menstruation together."
The policy will make it compulsory that all students from year 4 (UK equivalent of third-grade students) "receive age and development-appropriate period education within a planned programme of relationships and sex education."
Other parts of the report focused primarily on trans issues. The report stated that "trans boys and men and non-binary people may have periods" adding "menstruation must be inclusive of all genders."
Another part of the report suggested that schools should have trash cans for used period products provided in all restrooms for children, and that transgender students should be given additional support from a school nurse if necessary.
These guidelines on how to address the issue of period poverty were released just a few months after the Brighton & Hove City Council released a Trans Inclusion Schools Toolkit that they hoped would help in terms of "supporting trans, non-binary, and gender-questioning children and young people in Brighton & Hove educational settings."
First distributed in 2014, the toolkit stated that it aimed to "[create] safe, trans-inclusive learning environments" that would "reduce and prevent harm to trans and non-binary children and young people" and "be of benefit to all genders as gender stereotyping, sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are challenged."
In order to achieve a better learning environment for all students regardless of gender, the toolkit advised teachers to be prepared to be responsive to the needs of all non-binary and trans children, and clarified that intentionally disregarding a student's preferred name or pronouns would be considered harassment.
Furthermore, it was recommended that unisex or non-gendered uniforms should be considered an option so children would learn to support their peers regardless of how they identified.
The recent policy change, however, has not been universally well-received. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Tory MP David Davies said that teachers having to explain the concept of transgender boys having periods to a class of eight-year-olds was "insanity."
"Learning about periods is already a difficult subject for children that age, so to throw in the idea girls who believe they are boys also have periods will leave them completely confused," he said.
A spokesperson from campaign group Transgender Trend was also concerned about the change in policy, stating, "Girls going through puberty are already having a difficult time. What they should be given is clear language to be able to talk about their bodies and their female biological functions without couching it in politically correct terms."
However, the council continued to insist in a recent statement that the change would be beneficial for everyone. "By encouraging effective education on menstruation and puberty, we hope to reduce stigma and ensure no child or young person feels shame in asking for period products inside or outside of school if they need them," it read. "‘We believe that it’s important for all genders to be able to learn and talk about menstruation together… Our approach recognizes the fact that some people who have periods are trans or non-binary."
What are your thoughts? Do you think eight-year-olds should be learning about periods in this way or should we stick to more traditional sex ed methods?