16-year-old transgender student Stefani Rose Muollo-Gray had a pretty rough ride at her school when she tried to use the girls bathroom. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised but I kind of imagined the bathroom policing was for countries like the USA, so I’m a bit shocked it is so close to home. She started a petition which has drawn attention to the issue.
While it’s hard to put it alongside the horrific events in Orlando, this is probably a worse kind of violence, one that society sometimes condones and supports. Policing where you pee these days seems to be the new way to ensure we stick with binary genders based on the most important part of being a human – how you excrete kidney waste. Sorry to get all anatomical but, frankly, that is what is being questioned.
I think the issue is with teacher education actually. Heck, you get one year to become a teacher at a high school – what portion is spent looking at the complexity of diversity, gender, sexuality, culture, functioning? Not much. but Principals could do more to support LGBTQI+ young people. The violence of silence is what bothers me. To not even recognise that a school they will have Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Fa’afafine, Takataapui students and teachers in them.
But Principals could do more to support LGBTQI+ young people. The violence of silence is what bothers me – to not even recognise that a school will have Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Fa’afafine, Takataapui students and teachers in them.
Events like the school ball can be places where schools become more aggressive by asking for proof of gayness. Or for young transgender people trying to attend a school that fits their gender identity having to go through psychological interrogations to prove they are who they are. A serious lack of uniform options for High School students enforces gender norms – it is like wearing a straight jacket (great pun). Schools make life unnecessarily hard for people on the rainbow spectrum. School leaders need to take the lead.
I hope Stefani reaches the 7500 signatures she needs and I hope it starts some hard conversations among other schools about how to genuinely make schools a safe place for everyone.
The mass shooting at Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando USA, has likely stirred many conversations. I wonder how we make sense of these sorts of events here in New Zealand. The thing is, while I can imagine the terror of being at the venue, I can’t comprehend that level of violence based on some form of fear.
It’s important to keep perspective and recognise our own judgements and assumptions. Three communities are in the spotlight: the LGBTQI+ and Latinx communities; and those of strong religious faiths, particularly Muslim and Christian.
So we might not have the kind of violence other countries seem to experience, but maybe we have other forms of violence that do not get recognised. Like making groups of people ‘disappear’ so they don’t exist.
When I talked to a bunch of counsellors recently, some of whom worked in schools, they shared with me how Principals do not see LGBTQI+ students as needing any form of recognition or place of safety. Some schools seem concerned that acknowledging this community existed would potentially bring protests from parents or others.
Uniforms forcing young people to fit specific gender roles also stop diversity being expressed and, if you want to identify as something other than your assigned sex, then you have to submit to the violence of a psychiatric diagnosis.
So – no mass shootings in NZ, just mass ‘shooings’ – like, “Shoo, you pesky rainbow people, you are messing with our perfectly heteronormative, gender defined image.”
But right now my thoughts are with the LGBTQI+ community in Orlando. Sending messages of support could be a way to bring visibility to our own community and discuss the other forms of violence going on in our schools.
Let’s also open up discussions about religion. I think schools need to do this because pretending people ditch their beliefs at the gate closes down opportunities to look at the complexity of identity.