UN­DER­STAND­ING

Sunday News - - NEWS -

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.

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