When ‘Lauren’ decided she wanted to be recognised as a girl, life at school became a nightmare. Should teachers be doing more for transgender pupils?
The day that Lauren Quick, 11, started at the mixed comprehensive in her Yorkshire home town, an older lad stormed into her classroom at break, shouting, “Oi, there’s a tranny in here – show me where it is!”
Suddenly, Lauren, who had been insisting from the age of three that she had “a girl brain in a boy’s body”, was surrounded. She was distraught and, weeks later, made her first attempt to kill herself. Two further attempts followed in the next five months – the last in the school lavatories.
Her life, says mother Jan, had become a living nightmare. Every day, she faced shouts of “man beast” and “tranny” from pupils, as well as calls to “get your dick out” – even, on one occasion, when she was being escorted by a teacher. Lauren’s response was to self-harm on a regular basis.
The town’s police hate crimes unit became involved three times after several incidents, including one pupil spitting in her face and a mother who was picking up offspring shouting, “You fucking tranny”, through the car window as Lauren walked home from school. Lauren was more often absent than in school.
Although the school supported Lauren’s desire to be accepted as a girl, and made determined efforts to stamp out the bullying – taking the perpetrator of each incident aside to explain Lauren’s circumstances – one day, everything came to a head. Lauren was ambushed on the way home by older boys, who tried to remove her skirt in an attempt to see her genitals.
Lauren refused point-blank to return to school. Jan obtained a transfer for her to a nearby high school, which had already successfully dealt with a transgender pupil. Lauren lasted only a few weeks. Now 14, she is being educated three days a week in a unit for long-term ill and severely bullied pupils. She would like to go back to school, but she and her mother doubt that it will ever be possible.
“There are no easy answers, but the school was just handling it on the hoof,” says Jan. “There was no attempt to plan anything. The school was totally unprepared for dealing with a kid like Lauren.”