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May 14, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 7:46am

TES columnist resigns over education mag’s trans coverage

By Charlotte Tobitt

A columnist at weekly education news magazine TES (formerly the Times Education Supplement) has resigned over the title’s coverage of transgender issues.

Natasha Devon MBE has written a weekly column for the title for around four years, but announced on Saturday she had resigned “with deep regret” after its latest front page highlighted the organisation Transgender Trend.

TES rival Schools Week has previously described Transgender Trend as a pressure group set up by parents who “question the trans narrative”, while LGBT charity Stonewall warned schools against using “factually inaccurate” guidance shared by the organisation.

The cover feature, headlined “How teachers can support transgender students”, sets out how to “ensure young people can express their gender identity in school without experiencing discrimination or being made to feel uncomfortable”.

In a statement posted on Twitter on Saturday, mental health campaigner Devon wrote: “Today, with deep regret I have resigned as a TES columnist. It’s been a brilliant home for me for the past four years and I want to say thank you so much for all the help and support they have given me – I’m very grateful.

“However, I have been concerned for some months now re TES’ stance on trans issues. I am a vocal ally to the trans community and believe the prejudice and bigotry they face is directly equivalent to that faced by gay and bisexual people 20 years ago.

“TES’ front page article this week contains promotion of an organisation called Transgender Trend, which supports conversion therapy for trans young people and suggests being trans is a mental disorder.

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“It is my understanding that Transgender Trend pretends to be an organisation which gives teachers tools to support transgender young people but in fact does the opposite. I’ve had several people contact me to express their despair that TES would promote such an organisation.”

Devon added: “I cannot remain professionally associated with a publication which supports transphobia.”

TES said in a statement: “We stand by the content of the article, and we won’t comment directly on the specifics of Natasha’s resignation.”

Devon also said she would remove TES from the signees of the Mental Health Media Charter, which she created to champion responsible language in mental health reporting, “since trans people are at high risk of suicide”.

The charter is signed by 28 magazines, radio stations, websites, newspapers and blogs, including TES, meaning they agree to follow seven guidelines in their reporting. They receive a “stamp of approval” in return.

The guidelines ask publications not to use the phrases “commit suicide” or “successful suicide”; show “before” images in eating disorder stories or otherwise triggering images for those who self-harm; use the terms anorexics, bulimics, depressives or schizophrenics; give too much detail on suicide, self-harm or eating disorder methodology; or use generic terms like “mental health issues” when describing terrorists or other violent criminals.

They also ask organisations to do their best to reflect the difference between mental health and mental illness, and include links to sources of support like charities Samaritans or Calm where necessary.

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