Trans Inclusivity In Schools Must Start With Teachers

Trans students have copped a lot recently, but change can start in the classroom.

Trans Students

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Transphobia in Australian schools is once again in the spotlight on International Transgender Day of Visibility.

As pointed out by resource group TransHub, social affirmation for trans and gender diverse students can often begin at primary or high school, university, or TAFE institutions.

However, there are still be prickly points around names, pronouns, uniforms, bathrooms and change rooms, excursions, certificates, staff and institutional support, as well as safe spaces, bullying, and discrimination. While the stats on trans students in Australia are scarce, a 2019 report from La Trobe University found that just over two percent of the 6000 Year 10, 11, and 12 students surveyed identified as transgender.

Academics at Monash University in Melbourne say that educators are vital leaders in nurturing vulnerable kids and paving the way towards a safer, more inclusive learning environment — particularly as their students continue to be the subject of political talking points.

“Many LGBTIQA+ students face discrimination at school, which can negatively impact their well being and academic performance,” Faculty of Education researcher Blake Cutler says in a statement. “Education faculties are uniquely placed to provide initial support and foster [education students’] understanding so that they can make positive changes in their future classrooms.”

In the ongoing saga at Citipointe Christian College in Brisbane, a leaked letter sent by principal Brian Mulheran revealed on Wednesday that the school was planning to withdraw internal psychological support to students wanting counselling for identity concerns, according to the Guardian.

It comes off the back of One Nation MP Mark Latham’s controversial Anti-Trans Kids Bill being officially canned across the border in NSW this month, which was criticised by Amnesty International for threatening students’ rights to education. Only a month before that, the nation was debating the Religious Discrimination Bill, which was also shelved after the Australian Christian Lobby weren’t satisfied with protections put in place to protect trans kids from being expelled from schools.

Senior Lecturer at Monash Dr Megan Adams says that another avenue for inclusive allyship should start back in the lecture hall. “Many of these barriers are present in [teacher accreditation] courses and when Pre-Service Teachers enter schools during placement experiences.”

“The political and power structures of universities position gender and sexual diversity as controversial topics in teacher education.”

Her colleague Dr Louise Jenkins agrees, adding it’s a David and Goliath battle against curriculums, university standards, ideological differences, and government leaders and departments. “The desire to be an LGBTIQ-inclusive teacher is not without challenges,” remarks Jenkins, who believes that “employing gender-inclusive language, working within particular religious settings, and having the appropriate knowledge” are the next steps in creating widespread trans-friendly classrooms.

Photo Credit: MChee Lee/Unsplash