Supporting advice to Cobham Lacrosse Club Committee and those in direct contact with players. This does not constitute a policy document.
Perspective from Schools on Gender Identity
Alicia Drummond, founder of Teen Tips, and an expert on teen issues https://teentips.co.uk/about/ advised on gender identity at the last Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) conference, suggesting the tenet for gender identity concerns is to ‘hold it lightly’. This entails keeping a balance between respecting pupils’ wishes, but lightly, so that situations are avoided where students feel ‘they can’t go back’. Legally, young people cannot change their gender until 18 years old. So, for young people under 18 years, the advice is very much to offer support, respect wishes but not to seek to over-emphasize the current status of the child. This is good advice for clubs.
Gender Dysphoria – General Guidance for Committee Members and Senior Coaches
For those involved directly with children who have taken steps to express themselves as a different gender to their biological one, it is important to be aware of the potential stresses that can be experienced, particularly in adolescence.
This stress condition is known as gender dysphoria and can constitute a safeguarding issue. As such, coaches and other responsible adults should be alert to this and report anything that concerns them. It also falls within the parameters of normal safeguarding, protocols for which are outlined here:
· Any concern that is not considered to be an immediate threat to the well-being and health of the child should in the first instance be flagged to the Club Welfare Officer. No-one involved in the club should feel any issue is too small to report - it can often be a collection of observations that builds a picture. There is then the opportunity to discuss any concerns with the parents, based on what has been observed, and put in place the necessary support.
· If there is reason to believe a child is in danger, a club member should contact the single point of access (C-SPA) for the Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership (see below) and England Lacrosse Safeguarding (https://www.englandlacrosse.co.uk/safeguarding). This is a call that can be made jointly with the Club Welfare Officer so that all information can be shared, and advice sought.
· If a child is thought in immediate danger, then a call to the police (999) should be made; this should be done without delay, and by anyone who is witness to the concern.
· For advice regarding child safeguarding concerns and to make a request for support from Surrey Children's Services/ Surrey Children's Single Point of Access (C-SPA) Tel: 0300 470 9100; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Help for adults concerned about a child: Tel: 0808 800 5000
· Help for children and young people: Call Childline on 0800 1111; http://www.nspcc.org.uk/
It is helpful to establish how the parents are supporting the child and whether there is any formal diagnosis of gender dysphoria and any treatments being sought, but equally they may not wish to disclose this. Regular contact with the family will also help to identify any problems that may be surfacing. It is important to note with gender dysphoria that it is not a mental health condition, but teenagers can suffer poor mental health as a result. As such, we have a duty to respect their wishes, monitor their well-being and ensure they feel fully accepted at training and at matches. In this way, the potential for any additional mental distress is minimised.
· What to look for – signs of gender dysphoria and subsequent distress in a child:
This list is not intended to be exhaustive, but to provide a guide to the kind of behaviours one might observe, and as such we should be alert to them.
According to the NHS gender dysphoria in teenagers and young adults can lead to
- Feelings that gender conflicts with biological sex
- Only feeling comfortable when in the gender role of preferred gender identity
- Strongly desiring to hide or get rid of physical signs of biological sex.eg. breasts.
- A strong dislike of the genitals of the biological sex.
- Feeling lonely, isolated or misunderstood by peers.
- Stressed due to feeling pressure from family or peers to act or behave in certain ways
- Acting isolated or withdrawn because of bullying or harassment from others.
- Acting isolated or withdrawn - suppressing emotions and poor affect on physical and emotional well-being.
- Evidence of self-harm if the child, manifesting their emotional distress in this way.
- Evidence of self-neglect, low self-esteem and anxiety.
Approaches to families at the Club if a child presents e.g., seeking to change name or use male toilet facilities:
In the case of gender identity, if an issue is raised within the Club, a meeting with the parents of the identified child is best practice. This may be to establish why, for example, a name change, or change of pronouns to ‘he’ or ‘they’ is requested. At the same time, the discussion must be handled with courtesy and sensitivity, and it is key that any Club decisions taken align (where feasible) with the child’s wishes.
It is unlikely that requests would be made to use a separate bathroom, but if it were made then appropriate advice should be requested from an appropriate local body (in this case Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership) and England Lacrosse Safeguarding and should be immediately raised with club Welfare. Fundamentally, a child cannot be put at greater risk by being allowed to use alternative toilets for example, and therefore no agreement should be made for this if it makes the child vulnerable. It is unlikely that parents would object to this precaution, but it could be a source of stress for the child. This must be discussed ahead of away matches as well as home matches/training.
General Issues for the Club
Cobham Lacrosse Club is a girls’/women’s club and needs to address gender identity issues raised by the presenting child and their family, and deal with other members, their parents, other teams and game officials. In girls’ sport, it is possible that a young player presenting as a boy may attract comments, perhaps with some players/spectators suggesting that this is an advantage to Cobham Lacrosse in a match. In this instance, the Club needs to be able to give support to all our players, not just the identified individual because of course the whole team may be affected. Club supporters may also question the situation, and again the Club needs to be ready to talk about our gender policy with other families.
The Club may also need to discuss with England Lacrosse the extent to which, at matches, officials will need to be alerted, and whether any mention is made to captains of the opposition. Again, this needs to be done with the greatest of care and with consideration for the individual. It may be that no specification should be made of any individual, but a more general exchange held on principles. SEWLA may also need to be alerted re match guidance.
In all questions raised or which may be raised, and, in all discussions, it is key that the Club either has protocols in place or is very prepared to seek answers from the appropriate authorities, key members of England Lacrosse Safeguarding team and other of its related committees. England Lacrosse currently has a working group on gender transition, but it is not expected to report within the next year. However, the Club has access to key members of England Lacrosse for assistance as and when issues arise.
Please always feel free to approach the Club Welfare Officer, Club Chair and Head Coach for guidance on how to handle any sensitive situation.
Club Welfare Officer: Anna Woodfine