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Church Of England Wants Its Schools To Allow Kids To 'Explore Gender Identity'

The decision to wear a tiara shouldn't depend on gender norms, the church says.

11/16/2017 15:46 EST | Updated 11/16/2017 17:27 EST
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The Church of England is encouraging its 4,700 schools to allow kids to explore "gender identity."

Exploring gender identity. Boys wearing tiaras. Tutu dress-up for everyone.

These are just some of the things the Church of England says kids should be allowed to explore if they choose.

The church's new advice guide instructs teachers at its 4,700 schools that young kids are in a time of "creative exploration" and should be allowed to try on "many cloaks of identity" without the fear of being bullied or judged.

The directive is called "Valuing All God's Children" and is likely to fuel a discussion on how youngsters should be exposed to a wide spectrum of gender ideas.

The guidelines advise teachers to create an environment where students "will be equipped to accept difference of all varieties and be supported to accept their own gender identity or sexual orientation and that of others."

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The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks at the annual Lord Mayor's Banquet at Guildhall in London on Nov. 13, 2017.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rev. Justin Welby, who leads the church of 80 million Anglicans, told BBC News that this will help spread the Christian message of tolerance and acceptance "without exception or exclusion."

In practice, that means if any child wants to wear a tutu, they can. Tiara and heels are just as OK for boys as they are for girls. And nothing should stop a girl who wants to cinch up a tool belt or don a superhero cape.

The goal is to cut down on bullying and help foster a true acceptance of one another.

In 2014, the church gave out guidelines on how to deal with homophobic bullying, but the recommendations are expanded to transphobic and biphobic bullying in this newest edition.

Canada cracks down on transphobic bullying

In Canada, Bill C-16, which passed on a federal level in June, seeks to protect gender identity and gender expression in the Human Rights Code and Criminal Code by stating that Canadians should not be targeted for prejudice or discrimination on the basis of these.

Each province has also pledged to crack down on discrimination against LGBTQ students, staff and family members in schools.

But incidents of transphobic bullying still occur, such as when a 16-year-old Dieppe, N.B. high school student had to be taken out of classes to avoid name-calling.

​​​Watch: Touching Halloween PSA brings awareness to gender stereotypes in children

The Church of England guide focuses on the fact that children are not tied down too much early on in life.

"Children should be afforded freedom from the expectation of permanence. They are in a 'trying on' stage of life, and not yet adult and so no labels need to be fixed," the guide explains.

The verse from Matthew chapter seven, which reads, "Judge not lest ye be judged" is being taken to heart, with the guide advising teachers to leave their judgments at the door.

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The Church of England's advice book encourages kids not to be tied down to playing with toys or clothing that is tradtonally for one gender.

Best to avoid labels and assumptions: guide

"It may be best to avoid labels and assumptions which deem children's behaviour irregular, abnormal or problematic just because it does not conform to gender stereotypes or today's play preferences," the guide says.

The impact of the church's recommendations is fairly substantial.

The New York Times reports that in Britain, schools affiliated with the Church of England are seen as the crown jewel of the education system instead of state-run or private schools.

Some people aren't that thrilled with the new guidelines from the Church of England.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of an evangelical group called Christian Concern told the tabloid, the Daily The Mail that, "These rules are unkind, unloving and lacking in compassion."

We are all against bullying but ... (this agenda) runs counter to the Church's teaching.Andrea Minichiello Williams, Christian Concern

She says that differing opinions from the Church Of England could put you in hot water.

"We are all against bullying, but the Church is using these guidelines to pursue an agenda that runs counter to the Church's teaching."

But the new guidelines could be a welcome boon to British kids, BBC News reports. In a UK's Anti-Bullying Alliance poll, it revealed two in five kids are hiding aspects of who they are to avoid being bullied.

'Celebrate what makes us different'

The group's national coordinator, Martha Evans, said the new guidelines are exactly in the spirit of what their week-long anti-bullying campaign is about.

She said it's great "when we are shining a light on needing to celebrate what makes us all different and equal".

"Schools have duties under law to ensure they do not discriminate against a pupil or prospective pupil by treating them less favourably because of their gender or sexual orientation."