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Oppression, intolerance and Dysphoria: The harsh reality for Australian transgender and agender students
magine if your child was prohibited from attending a same sex school, or forbidden from playing on a sports team of the gender they identify with. This is a stark reality faced by transgender and gender non-conforming individuals everyday. Gender discrimination has always been prevalent in society, however, to many it previously seemed simple: you were either deemed male or female. In more recent times, gender identity has risen to the forefront of popular culture, allowing biological gender and gender identity to be recognised as two separate aspects. Although greater awareness is being raised through openly transgender celebrities, such as Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono, and Caitlyn Jenner, everyday institutions such as secondary schools, continue to enforce the cisnormative ideals of there being only two genders, male and female.
Gender Dysphoria is a struggle unfathomable to most, yet faced by many transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. In South Australia, a person under 18 seeking to legally change their gender, not only requires gender reassignment surgery, but also parental consent.[footnoteRef:1] This creates an immense struggle for transgender children and young adults, particularly those with unsupportive parents. Not only do these individuals face discrimination and isolation at home, but also from their peers, and the gender binary ideals present in the education system. [1: South Australian Gender Reassignment Act 1988]
Gender specific uniform is a rule, implemented by the majority of Australian high schools, which adds to the transphobia already widely present in today’s society.
“It is estimated that up to 41% of transgender or gender non-conforming individuals have attempted suicide”
The typical school uniform is designed to reduce discrimination about fashion choices and the financial position of students, as well as create a sense of belonging and safer school community. However, these factors are contradicted when considering the perspective of a transgender, or gender non-conforming individual. Not only do they face immense discomfort and Dysphoria, they become targets for discrimination and bullying, creating an unsafe environment for those students.[footnoteRef:2] It is estimated that up to 41% of transgender or gender non-conforming individuals have attempted suicide.[footnoteRef:3] Unsafe and discriminatory environments, such as those created by the school uniform policy, frequently contribute to this. [2: Tulloch, B. "School Uniform Policy a Gender Issue." Mojonews.com.au. Monash University Journalism, 19 June 2014. Web. 13 Aug. 2015. ] [3: Malone, L. (2015, May 3). Transgender Suicide Attempt Rates Are Staggering. Retrieved August 18, 2015. ]
Through the increasing popularity of private education, same sex schools have become a societal norm in Australian educati...