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Education

All this trans student wanted was a school LGBT+ support group. Teachers said it would be too ‘inappropriate’

Patrick Kelleher August 29, 2020
Ireland TENI report school

Stock image (Envato Elements)

A trans student who tried to set up an LGBT+ support group in their school was told that it would be “inappropriate” and “too time-consuming” by teachers in Ireland.

The incident was recorded as part of a new report examining the experiences of trans and gender diverse young people in Irish schools by the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) and the University of Limerick.

All trans and gender diverse students interviewed for the study reported feeling marginalised in school, with many pointing to the stagnant discussion around gender identity as a contributing factor, according to the Irish Examiner.

Some of the trans and gender diverse students interviewed said they left formal education altogether due to the discrimination they faced, while others reported moving to a new school due to anti-trans attitudes.

Researchers interviewed 50 trans and gender diverse young people for the study, as well as parents, educators, unions and members of the public sector.

Students reported hostile attitudes to LGBT+ identities in schools. One participant said teachers “wouldn’t discuss LGBT+ people at all, but especially not trans people”.

When one student tried to set up an LGBT+ support group, they were told that it would be “inappropriate” and that a teacher would have to supervise.

Other students said they were not allowed to put up posters about homophobic bullying in their schools.

Trans and gender diverse students in Ireland said teachers made transphobic remarks when they disclosed their gender identity.

The hostile school environment caused many young trans people to hide their gender identity, with many reporting feeling shame and anxiety about coming out to staff and other students.

The majority of the trans and gender diverse young people interviewed said they disclosed their gender identity to a member of staff at school – but teachers offered mixed reactions.

Most students who did come out at school said teachers were supportive when they came out.

However, some said staff members asked them inappropriate questions about their gender identity and made transphobic remarks.

One transgender boy who came out to a teacher and his school principal was told there was “nothing they could do”. Teaching staff repeatedly misgendered and deadnamed the boy, even after his parents intervened.

Moreover, transgender and gender diverse youth stressed the importance of school staff affirming transgender and gender diverse youth’s identity by using their preferred name and pronoun. 

Meanwhile, a trans girl said she had to leave school altogether and enrol in an early school-leavers’ programme because the school refused to accept her gender identity. She reported being repeatedly deadnamed by staff.

Every trans or gender diverse young person who transitioned in school said they were deadnamed and misgendered, and faced issues with restrictive uniform policies and bathroom accessibility.

The young people interviewed said they would like to see dedicated staff members appointed in liaison posts in schools to help trans and gender diverse youth cope while transitioning.

They also said school staff need more training on LGBT+ issues, and asked that schools introduce gender-neutral bathrooms and eradicate restrictive uniform policies.

It is vital that school staff affirm trans and gender diverse young people’s identities.

The report was co-written by Dr Ruari-Santiago McBride of the University of Limerick, who said they wanted to provide an “in-depth understanding” of the challenges facing trans youth in schools in Ireland.

“The research findings suggest that transgender and gender diverse youth do not have equality of educational opportunity in Irish post-primary schools.

“The transgender and gender diverse youth we spoke to made a wealth of recommendations regarding the changes they believed schools needed to introduce to be supportive of transgender and gender diverse youth.

“This included making the school curriculum more inclusive of gender identity and gender expression as well as reviewing their uniform policy and provision of gender-neutral facilities.

“Moreover, transgender and gender diverse youth stressed the importance of school staff affirming transgender and gender diverse youth’s identity by using their preferred name and pronoun.”

More: Ireland, Ruari-Santiago McBride, trans in school, Transgender Equality Network Ireland, University of Limerick

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