For more than a year, Amaranta School in Chile has been helping trans children to escape bullying and discrimination suffered at mainstream schools.
The school, which is believed to be the first school predominantly for transgender children, opened in 2017 with just five students and now has 38 pupils aged six to 17, the BBC reported.
The school is named after Mexican transgender politician Amaranta Gómez Regalado and provides a safe learning environment for trans children.
Among the student population, 22 to 23 identify as transgender—the other pupils tend to be siblings and friends of the trans children.
Many children who come out as transgender in Chile stop going to school out of fear, so Amaranta was originally created to allow them to take their state exams.
Chile is a strongly Roman Catholic country and only legalised divorce in 2004, and LGBT+ children often face bullying and discrimination in traditional schools.
One 16-year-old pupil called Angela suffered so much physical and verbal abuse at her old school that she considered taking her own life.
“I just wanted to die, I didn’t want to exist, because what they did to me made me feel awful,” she told AP News.
Trans kids just want to “grow up and be happy”
Amaranta head teacher Evelyn Silva told the BBC: “Gender is not so static. We think you’re a boy or a girl, I think the kids go from one to another. They are more free than us. I think we as a parent, or grown-up people, we want to tell you what you are.
“Boy or girl? Tell me. Sometimes the children don’t know, they just want to play, they just want to grow up, they just want to be happy.”
The school is free for now, with lessons taught by volunteer teachers. All costs for its first year were put up by Silva and school co-ordinator Ximena Maturana from their personal savings.
LGBT+ Chilean rights group Fundación Iguales pushed for a gender identity law which finally passed in September 2018, allowing trans people over the age of 14 to legally change their gender.
The country also introduced hate crime laws in 2012 in a bid to provide protections for the LGBT+ community.