There are transgender students at most schools in New Zealand, but they are not going to come out unless the school offers support.’ JEANNIE GRANT
support,’’ she says.
In addition to Trans Tea Time, EGGS offers a support group for LGBT students called Prison Break and a support group specifically for Asian LGBT students called EGGquasian. EGGS also has gender-neutral uniforms and bathrooms, and both teachers and students are expected to use preferred pronouns. Ryan says he has never been bullied and both teachers and students have made him feel comfortable with his new identity. ‘‘To be honest, sometimes I wish I could be at school all the time because school accepts me as a transgender male while some of my family members do not,’’ Ryan says. ‘‘It is not that we think we are another sex or that we want to be another sex – we are another sex. And believe me, no one would transition for fun, it is definitely not fun, and it is not easy.’’ Year 11 student David (not his real name) is in a particularly complex situation, living a double life as a boy at school and a girl at home.
David’s parents have not yet accepted him as a transgender male – they are struggling with anxiety about what lies ahead for him as a transgender adult.
‘‘Not being accepted by the ones you love the most is definitely heartbreaking at times,’’ David says.
‘‘But we have to understand our parents’ doubts and anxieties. Just imagine, when you were born, your parents held you in their arms, and they had dreams for you – they dreamt of what kind of person their baby would become and what kind of life their baby would lead.
‘‘And then someone takes those dreams away and forces you to create new dreams – it takes time to create new dreams.’’
They laugh when asked what it’s like to be a boy at an all-girls school.
‘‘It is like a drama overload,’’ year 9 student Alex Curtis says.
‘‘Girls get so emotional and bitchy – sometimes it is just too much for my head to handle,’’ Ryan says as he rolls his eyes.
‘‘And all they do is talk about boys – how cute they are, blah blah blah,’’ David says.
It’s like listening to a bunch of ordinary teenage boys.
Alex says he wanted to go to an all-boys school before he started at EGGS, although he knew it was unlikely he would have been accepted.
His transgender friends at other schools are targeted by bullies, and he says it would be hard to find another school with the strong support system that EGGS has.
‘‘We are definitely some of the lucky ones,’’ Alex says.
EGGS principal Lorraine Pound says it was natural to work with students and families on matters such as gender identity and not to ignore or stigmatise it.
But the latest Youth’12 health and wellbeing survey reveals particular concern about the wellbeing of transgender secondary school students, showing more than 40 per cent suffered significant depressive symptoms and nearly half had self-harmed in the previous 12 months.
The Post Primary Teachers’ Association has issued guidelines for schools to create a safe learning environment for all pupils including avoiding the reinforcement of ‘‘gender stereotypes’’. But specific polices for transgender students are up to individual schools.
Rainbow Youth executive director Frances Arns says conversations need to be had about how schools can better support their queer and gender diverse students, and it is great to see this dialogue happening at EGGS.
With out parental consent, Ryan and Alex must wait until they are 16 before they can transition medically, but David, who is already 16, has already been turned down.
Getting hormone therapy involves a psychologist or psychiatrist giving their tick of approval – this often requires convincing a psychologist that you ‘‘really are’’ transgender, and deserve medical treatment.
‘‘I don’t know what went wrong. Maybe I wasn’t ‘trans’ enough, whatever that means. It is so frustrating because you get so far in your transition and then hit a wall,’’ David says.
Ryan, Alex and David say there is definitely a growth in acceptance of transgender people.
‘‘There is still a long road ahead, but if we are on it together, we are not alone,’’ David says.
Mattias Tafto, 3, was the first one onto the ‘‘War Horse’’ statue. His great great grandfather Clutha Mackenzie was a member of the Wellington Mounted Rifles and served in World War I on a mare named Dolly.
Principal Lorraine Pound says working with young people and their families about gender identity was natural.