Since early 2016, I have watched on helplessly as right-wing factions in both the federal and state Liberal parties led a campaign to destroy their own program designed to protect LBGTI students in schools.
At some point, powerful people in the party must have made a decision that they could win votes by exploiting the fact that very young transgender children are sometimes misunderstood.
They set in motion a dialogue that framed Safe Schools as a program to indoctrinate children rather than protect them, spreading misleading information about the program, designed to create fear.
Worse, the party have demonstrated no care or concern of very young transgender children for almost three years now. The conservative faction of the party have simply denied their existence and suggested that any attempts to support them will confuse other children.
My child does not have a contagious disease. When other children learn about him, they learn how to support and respect someone who is transgender. They don’t catch it.
Australian Guidelines and Standards of Care for Trans and Gender Diverse Children have been designed and agreed upon by all the doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and health care workers working with transgender children in Australia.
These guidelines explain that some young children are transgender, and affirming them will give them drastically better mental health and academic outcomes than forcing them to live in the closet. They also recommend education at schools and kindergartens to provide supportive environments for kids like mine.
The Australian Psychological Society, our nation’s largest and most respected body of psychologists, also recommend parents affirm trans children and contact Safe Schools for support.
Despite this overwhelming advice from the mainstream medical and health community, the LNP and some other conservative parties have made a conscious decision to override these professionals and thereby put at risk the mental and physical health of a vulnerable group of children.
Like other parents of transgender children, I support my child because I love him and I want him to be happy. Also like other parents, I support and affirm him on the advice of my child’s paediatrician and psychologist. They give this advice because they have knowledge that is based on years of solid research, experience and evidence.
I am constantly bewildered and appalled that political groups cast aside the best medical advice from our health professionals and replace it with any junk science they find on the Internet, religious dogma or scary buzzwords designed to confuse people like ‘gender ideology’ and ‘identity politics’.
Hence, my question this week to Q&A:
The Liberal Party campaign of fear and misinformation about transgender children and Safe Schools in Victoria has failed spectacularly. I see a Prime Minister who makes disparaging comments about young transgender children, like my son, that are very concerning. Do you think the federal government will take away anything from the Victorian election and decide to treat children like mine with respect and support those who endeavour to make them safe?
I received the typical ‘We can’t teach our children that stuff’ response.
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) November 26, 2018
Repeatedly, the LNP conveniently forget they had Safe Schools independently reviewed and it was endorsed as perfectly suitable.
Here’s the thing.
When a transgender child comes to school and has made a social transition that means they are turning up at school one day as a different gender, with a new name and usually a different uniform.
That needs explaining.
When he had no suitable answer to that question, Senator Eric Abetz tried a bit of ‘all our birth certificates are now going to be degendered’ scaremongering.
No one is being forced to leave a gender off a birth certificate. All these laws are trying to do is make it easier for transgender people to change them appropriately.
As I said on Q&A, my son wants his gender recorded on his birth certificate. But as the law stands now he can’t change it unless he has a full hysterectomy. My mum has had a full hysterectomy as have many women. Does this make them men too?
It’s an outdated, barbaric law that urgently needs updating for transgender individuals.
Perhaps if we had all had the benefit of understanding trans and gender diverse people when we were at school, our society wouldn’t find small changes like this so confusing or confronting.
As the new Australian Guidelines say, being transgender is a normal part of human diversity. I think it benefits all children to learn about others in their community who might be different to them.
My favourite saying when I’m talking about gender to children is:
We are all the same,
We are all different,
We are all friends.
It would be a culture change, but if our current federal government took that up as their new logo they might even be up with a chance at the next election.
Jo Hirst (@thegenderfairy) is an author and advocate for transgender and gender-diverse children.