In a shocking decision by the Scottish government, a new law has been passed that will allow children as young as four years of age to choose their gender, even against their parents’ wishes. The Scottish government justified the decision by saying that it will give a new measure of autonomy to even their youngest citizens. The shocking thing about the new guidance is that it completely disregards parental consent for children four or over who believe that the gender assigned to them at birth is not their “real” gender. According to this new decision, this means that a child’s decision about their own gender must be respected in a school setting, with the force of law behind it. The Scottish government claims that “gender recognition” can occur at a “young age.” The Scottish government has also mandated that teachers are not allowed to challenge a child’s gender identity. Instead, teachers are now required to ask for and use a child’s “preferred pronouns.”

In both Primary and Secondary schools in Scotland, books will also be provided that will feature transgender individuals. Students will also be able to use whichever bathroom they feel fits their gender identity best. The government has even been kicking around the idea of getting rid of gendered school uniforms. People are accusing the government of giving children too much autonomy that could lead to decisions that will have lasting repercussions throughout the rest of their lives. The government counters by saying that children should be allowed to “explore” their identity in a Primary school setting that will give them the tools to do so adequately. The Scottish government says that it wants to create a learning environment that is “safe, inclusive, and respectful.”

The government has also said that students will be able to change their gender status and how they are referred to without changing their permanent records. School employees will be forced to accept any decision that students make on these matters. As one can imagine, the pushback has been immense. One advocate, Marion Calder of the For Women Scotland campaign group, has noted that typically gender dysphoria has been considered a mental illness requiring an official diagnosis. The government and school system have countered by saying that the new laws and decisions create the right environment where the “rights” of children are being best protected. The internet, understandably, has taken the Scottish government to task for what they see as its reckless decision to empower children to damage their own lives in lasting ways. One commenter has remarked that her four-year-old can’t even decide how to have her sandwiches cut. How could we then turn around and trust them to tell us what their “gender” is, whatever that ends up meaning? What remains certain is that policies will continue to meet stiff resistance from those who believe that children should be protected by adults, not be given absolute autonomy to make their identities into however it is that they feel in any particular moment.