A trans teenager has described the first time she wore a dress to school as “awful”, because of other students’ reactions.

The first time Mia Pike wore a dress to Carrum Downs Secondary College the responses from the other children were “awful”, says her mother Donna.

The 17 year old came out as trans around a year ago, and during her transition she wore a dress to school for the very first time on a casual clothes day, where she was confronted and teased by other students.

Assistant principal of the College Lisa Holt described how the school countered the bullying, explaining that after being told Mia identifies as trans teachers were keen to know what they could do to help during her transition.

“Kids are incredibly compassionate when they understand”, says Holt. By opening discussion and using tools such as International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia to promote education on the topic of gender diversity the staff have been able to tackle the bullying, allowing Mia to feel safer at school.

A 2012 study by the Scottish Transgender Alliance found that 42% of participants have ‘feared they will die young’ as a direct result of being trans. 73% had ‘been made fun of or been called names for being trans’.

This has a direct effect on the emotional wellbeing of trans people. The same study concluded that ‘Anecdotal evidence among trans groups suggested trans people are experiencing high levels of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal ideation related to transphobic discrimination’.

Young people are especially at risk, and these findings highlight the importance of education on the subject of gender diversity and of ensuring institutions such as schools are a safe space for transgender people.

Mia has said that when she first addressed her transgender identity she felt trapped by the expectations of others.

She said: “[I] just felt like I couldn’t do it because no one would accept me.”

By tackling ignorance and helping to build a supportive group of students around her Carrum Downs Secondary College has had an important impact on Mia’s journey.

Today Mia has come a long way from her original feelings of fear: ‘I feel like I actually exist now and I’m definitely a lot happier.’

There is still a long way to go before Mia, like all trans people, is fully accepted. ‘My dad doesn’t agree with it and said to me that I might feel like this now but I probably won’t later, he still calls me Brendan.’ But with strong advocates of trans and gender diversity issues such as Janet Mock, Laverne Cox and Conchita Wurst gaining attention progress continues to be made.