From the Commissioner - Understanding discrimination against trans youth
Recently a six year old who attended a Catholic school as a boy last year has returned to the same school this year identifying as a girl.
Reports stated other parents were concerned they were not informed of this by school staff and it left classmates shocked and confused.
The media has previously stated two to three children a week are being referred to WA's clinic for transgender young people.
Young people identifying as a different gender to the one they were assigned at birth, and subsequently transitioning to their gender of choice is becoming more common.
The confidence to be able to identify as a different gender to that assigned at birth, may be due to increased awareness and understanding of gender diversity and its complexities.
There is now a substantial amount of research on gender transition in young people and strategies put in place by medical staff and families to assist transitioning young people through this often difficult journey.
Transitioning young people and young people who identify as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth are some of society’s most vulnerable. Not only are they susceptible to bullying from other students and discrimination from the wider community, many lack the necessary support from their own parents.
Tragically, suicide rates among transitioning young people are high.
Young people who identify as another gender and transition gender in a supportive environment, are able to learn and later contribute to society in a meaningful way. If they are not supported and are discriminated against that potential can be lost.
School staff and the school community play an important part in supporting young trans people and helping them reach their full potential.
Schools can make changes such as providing single user toilets that can be accessed by any gender.
At home toilets are gender neutral, so extending this idea to a school or workplace should not be a big deal.
Some of the single user toilets at the Equal Opportunity Commission are gender neutral, and that has not caused an issue for our customers or staff.
Another way schools can support young trans people is gender neutral uniform options. Again, in wider society, women and men can acceptably wear pants or shorts.
It is now acceptable that males can have long hair and women can have short hair, things such as this should not cause concern for the school community, and should be considered when forming policies in case those policies are indirectly discriminatory to certain groups.
Adopting gender neutral policies wherever possible not only make it easier on transitioning students but the entire school community.
However, if a male child identifying as female wishes to wear a dress, it should be their choice.
Embracing diversity is always better for a school community than shock and confusion.
The Equal Opportunity Commission cohosts the annual Isabelle Lake Memorial Lecture event with the University of Western Australia to raise public awareness about trans issues.
You can find out more this event in the next edition of our Ebulletin.