We do need to let our kids be kids - and embracing young trans and gender-diverse children in their school environments is doing just that.
By
Jo Hirst

5 Sep 2018 - 2:04 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2018 - 11:32 AM

COMMENT

Our brand new Prime Minister weighed in Trump-style on the subject of young trans kids at school this morning and, to be honest, I could not agree with him more.

His comments were made in response to a Daily Telegraph article about supporting young trans and gender diverse children; he suggested we simply “let kids be kids”.

Hallelujah!

You’ve hit the nail on the head, Scott. We do need to let our kids be kids - and embracing young trans and gender-diverse children in their school environments is doing just that.

This echoes the advice of experts everywhere who have said that for too long we have been forcing many children to be something that they are not.

We are still imposing gender stereotypes on children from the minute they are born. Pink and ‘look pretty’ for girls and blue and ‘don’t cry’ for boys. Many schools still force our girls to wear dresses. Toy manufacturers ruthlessly market to stereotypes on a scale we certainly didn’t see when we were kids. Kids love rules. They pick up the rules of gender they see projected around them and enforce them in the playground, in the classroom and even on themselves.

Imagine how hard it is for the children, like my son, who don’t fit neatly into their assigned gender boxes. In a society that has such strict gender policing, how do these kids be kids?

Transgender actor Evie Macdonald, said to me recently: “We only get one childhood. Mine didn’t start until my parents finally started listening to me and let me be myself at nine.”

I’m privileged enough to see many children blossom and thrive once they start living as themselves.

Ask parents of trans kids and many will tell you of a withdrawn often depressed child transforming into a happy, social “kid being a kid” once they started living as themselves.

Not surprising, really, given that research has told us this is what happens.

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"The pushback against the relentless gendered marketing of toys and clothes for children is gaining momentum across the western world. There’s an important reason for that."

It echoes the expert advice of health professionals around the country. Far from debating the care of trans children, health professionals who work with trans children in Australia have agreed on the Australian Standards of Care.

These Standards of Care, released through the Royal Children’s Hospital and contributed to by experts all around Australia, cover everything from medical and psychological care and are research and evidence based. They also state that education in primary schools and kindergartens can be necessary to support trans students as does the advice from our other experts the Australian Psychological Society.

That’s how you let kids be kids.

These kids go to school and some go to kindergarten. It’s conservatively estimated that there are around 1.2 per cent to 3.7 per cent of trans and gender diverse children in our schools.

When a family approaches a school or a kindergarten and tells them their child is making a social transition it means that child will come to school or kinder with a new name and pronoun and sometimes a new uniform.

This requires some explanation in order for the rest of the class to understand and support that child. This education is recommended by the Australian Standards of Care and the Australian Psychological Society.

When my child made a social transition at six years old, our school and family had the benefit of the Safe Schools program. The school staff had a professional development day to help them develop policies and find the best way to support my child at school and keep him safe. They were helped to find the best  way to explain to his new name and pronoun to his peers so they could understand and support him. Almost five years later and my son has been able to get on with his life as a kid. He’s living his best life.

Unfortunately programs like this are becoming increasingly rare.

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Teachers and early childhood educators around Australia are asking for help. Now that our doctors and psychologists are telling parents how to support trans and gender diverse children, educators are looking for the best ways to do this.

I’m looking forward to hearing the Prime Minister's ideas about how the government could go about supporting children like mine in our schools and our kindergartens.

He's right. 

Let kids be kids. They only get one childhood.

Jo Hirst is the author of The Gender Fairy and A House for Everyone.