New resource helps create safer schools for transgender students
Queer youth organisation InsideOut's national coordinator says a new resource released by the group could help schools to meet new Ministry of Education guidelines to create safer environments for transgender students.
Tabby Besley said the resource called "Making Schools Safer for Trans and Gender Diverse Youth" used the experiences of current and former secondary school students to craft "best practice" guidelines around sensitive issues such as school uniforms, bathrooms, camps and bullying.
Released on March 31, the international day of transgender visibility, Besley said several schools had already registered their interest ahead of the resource's national roll-out in May.
"We've had huge requests even from guidance counsellors wanting advice on how to support trans-students better.
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"The resource delves into those things that people don't think about, those situations that can make people feel really unsafe but for teachers might seem natural."
Crowdfunding was necessary to finance the resource. Besley said some "harmful messages" about segregating transgender students in schools publicised by Family First two weeks ago seemed to boost donations by $2000.
"I guess people wanted to give back. We're actually really lucky - that [money] will allow us to push it out to every secondary school around the country."
The resource also aligns with updated sexuality education guidelines issued by the Ministry of Education last year which recommend gender-neutral bathrooms and uniforms among other changes.
QYouth Nelson co-ordinator Marcia Hickmott said the group would share the resource with local queer-straight alliances to try grow an awareness "that sitting in the closet isn't okay".
"A lot of people don't mind gay or lesbian people but transpeople are in the 'too hard' basket. We have to make adjustments."
Besley, a former Nayland College student, said there "definitely has been a change" in recent years with Nelson schools setting up queer-straight alliances but that more needs to be done to support trans students.
"A lot of transgender students are coming out younger and younger because it's starting to become visible and more accepted but some of them are not having the best time with bullying from other students or teachers that don't understand.
"It's something that is unknown to them, but there's a lot of ways to educate and schools should really be taking that on."