Schools ‘should let’ children change gender

The Press 18 January 2008

A ground-breaking inquiry by the Human Rights Commission is calling for law changes to recognise the rights of transgender people, including allowing children to change gender at school. Its report, released today, recommends the Human Rights Act be amended, adding “gender” to the grounds of discrimination to reinforce that transgenders are protected by law. It also wants simpler procedures for changing sex on passports, birth certificates and other legal documents so they match a transgender’s identity. The 18-month inquiry, believed to be a world first of its type, found that four out of five transgender people had experienced discrimination – at school, work, in the street, and in daily interactions with shops, government agencies and health professionals.

Discrimination against transgender (or “trans”) children at school came in for particular attention. Some schools refused to acknowledge a change to a birth name, ignored bullying or got into conflicts with trans children about what they wore to school. “There is a need for schools to think about how to be flexible with the rules to make sure that kids do participate,” said Human Rights Commissioner Joy Liddicoat, who led the inquiry. “Can you imagine your child going off to school in the morning and hiding behind a bush to change their clothes and then bracing themselves for a conflict with their teacher just about what they are wearing?” she said. One person told the inquiry she legally changed her name when she was 16. However, her high school refused to issue school reports under that name and required her to use the male toilets and changing rooms, where she was harassed. The report says transgender children should be able to play sport and use appropriate changing rooms and toilets without fear, humiliation or embarrassment.