Dr Catherine Meehan responds to the recent bullying guidance issued by the Church of England to its schools.

I recently watched a documentary by Louis Theroux about the children, teenagers and young adults who identified as transgender. The starkest example for me, was the five year old child who was featured in this documentary. I was left thinking that all young children I have ever known experiment with roles, dress up and engage in play to make sense of themselves and their place in the world.

Just because a five year old boy or girl expresses an interest in something that is traditionally or socially constructed as belonging to another gender, should not spark concerns about the child’s gender identity.

As a young teacher, I remember working with a family of a four year old boy who insisted on wearing a pink tutu to Kindergarten and how concerned his father was about him being ‘gay’. It is therefore welcome that today’s statement from the Church of England about children being allowed to be themselves and have the freedom of expression.

The statement recognised the early childhood years as a critical period in which children’s identity is shaped, both those children who are exploring their own gender and those children learning about being accepting, tolerant and welcoming of diversity. This diversity may be not just related to gender, but ethnicity, religion and disability.


Dr Catherine Meehan is Director of Early Childhood in the School of Childhood and Education Sciences.