Wednesday the 17th of May was International day against homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and intersexphobia. Also known as IDAHOBIT. The best way to describe IDAHOBIT is straight from the IDAHOT website, “it was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people internationally.”
2017 was the first year some of New Zealands politicians from the Parliamentary Rainbow Cross Party group decided to organise something to commemorate the occasion. They worked with local organisations and people to work out what would be most beneficial for our local LGBTI community. I was fortunate enough to be apart of this process and discussions.
We decided to send out a survey and work out some key issues that our community are facing, then have a handful of people fire those key issues with some personal stories to politicians. With it being election year we thought it was important to ask politicians what they’re going to do about these key issues.
I spoke on youth and safety in our schools, particularly around how the education review office is not doing a good enough job at making sure our schools are safe. Over the last few days I have been asked by a handful of people to share my speech, so teachers can hear more about the issues our young people are facing in schools. I thought it would be easier and more beneficial to share it on my blog for public consumption. Give or take a few words/sentences this is what I said.
Tonight I chose to wear black to acknowledge the young lives we have sadly lost to the lack of inclusion support and lgbti education in our schools. Kia ora, my name is Bella and I am a trans advocate, who believes in inspiring and empowering trans people.
Schools have a responsibility to be a safe environment for students. As you have read from this report, this is not the case.
I would like to highlight a key point from this report as well: when students talk about being bullied, this isn’t just from other students. This is also from teachers, deans, support staff and counsellors. These are the adults that are supposed to be there to help support students and make sure that they are safe.
It is important that teachers have professional development to help them learn and understand what some of their students are going through. It is also important that staff put their personal beliefs aside and focus on the student, and what will help the student.
A student shouldn’t have to teach their health teacher and class about how sexuality is fluid and that gender isn’t just male and female. Sexuality and Gender identity are these big beautiful interchanging spectrums and that every identity is valid.
How does this relate to me and my school experience? As a trans women who came out at the end of primary school, I have often been the one educating staff and student. I have had to help support students who weren’t feeling supported by their schools. This is all a lot of responsibility to put onto a young person who just wanted a normal high school experience.
You would think that as time went on and young people felt more comfortable to be themselves, that schools would make an effort to be more educated, understanding, and safe for their students.. But that isn’t the case. Time and time again we see young people fighting and standing up to people in power just to make their high school experience safe and more comfortable. Not just for them but for those around them who don’t have the opportunities or the support to stand up and say if something is not ok.
A simple example is gender neutral bathrooms. Students are working really hard to make them happen in our schools. I know a lot of people are probably thinking, Oh it isn’t that important I don’t know why you’re complaining. From personal experience I can tell you right now, holding on for 12 plus hours is not fun, and I am 100% sure I have bladder complications because of it.
Being trans can mean that sometimes, and by sometimes I mean almost all of the time, public gendered bathrooms are not an option.
We need the government to step up and actually say the Education review office is not doing their job well enough. There are huge aspects of our schools that are not safe for our students. Young people are dying while attending our schools, so why are we ok with that?