New Delhi: “My child was bullied in school, she would come home crying, not wanting to go to school the next day,” said Nilakshi Roy, a retired college professor and parent of a queer individual. Roy, whose daughter is now an adult and no longer in school, has started an online petition urging the NCERT to reinstate its teaching manual for transgender children and those with non-binary identities.
The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) had earlier this month released a training manual to sensitise teachers and administrators towards transgender children in schools. The manual explained terms like cisgender, agender, and gender-fluid, among others, and made suggestions like having gender-neutral toilets and uniforms and mixed rows of boys and girls in classrooms.
It was, however, pulled down from the official website of the council after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) raised objections. The arguments made included the recommendations not being “commensurate with their (the children’s) gender realities and basic needs”.
Roy started a petition on Change.org this weekend urging the NCERT to reinstate the manual. In her petition, she has congratulated the NCERT for “sensitising teachers to the fact that some children could be non-binary”. “It only suggests love and compassion for children who seem or are different in some respects,” she added.
“Your decision to impart formal gender and sex education, with proper awareness about diversity within genders, to school teachers is highly laudable…
“It is rightful to include the chapter to the NCERT training manual so that the country with an average age of 24 can at least make up for the lost time and rise to the occasion as well-informed citizens. I strongly suggest that the training material be retained and used effectively in the wonderful classrooms of our young country and its responsible future adult citizens,” her petition adds.
Her online petition had received over 5,600 signatures by Wednesday evening.
‘Wish this manual was there when my daughter was in school’
Speaking to ThePrint about seeing her child get bullied because of her gender identity, Roy said, “I had a difficult time counselling my daughter in her school days. She used to be bullied in school… kids would just write random things on her school bag and say mean things to her. Those kinds of things are very difficult for a young child to deal with…”
“I have had a painful time dealing with it… from making trips to schools and counsellors, I did it all, and the worst part is… I was not able to understand what the problem was,” she added.
“At a young age, a child does not really know or understand whether they have a different orientation or whether they do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth, but there is definitely a different feeling that they have and there is a difference in the way they behave. This is exactly where they get targeted. I know of kids getting targeted because they are not good in maths and science, now imagine a child who behaves in a different way, he/she is definitely going to be bullied,” she added.
Roy said she wishes a manual like this existed when her daughter was in school so that the teachers and administrators could have provided support to children like her.
Her petition has been supported by LGBTQIA+ people and parents of other queer children.
“I too am a mother of a queer child and feel strongly that it is most important to sensitise teachers so that they can inculcate inclusion and diversity amongst all children and make the non-binary children (or those who are different in any way) feel safe in the school environment,” wrote a user.
Another user wrote, “The way teachers and students had traumatised my childhood, I don’t want the same for future generations.”
“I’m non-binary and would have loved to be taught to accept my identity in school,” wrote another user.
Many others who signed the petition admitted to being bullied in school because of their identity and wished for more awareness among teachers and administrators towards transgender children.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)