Talk Transgender Awareness in Primary School – NFP
2 June 2016 at 11:34 am
Not for Profit Transgender Victoria has said discussions about teaching transgender awareness in primary school “have to happen”.
It comes after ABC’s online survey Vote Compass revealed Australians are divided on the issue.
The Vote Compass – which has so far attracted around 250,000 responses – asks respondents a series of questions to explore how their views align with parties contesting the federal election.
When asked whether transgender awareness should be taught in primary schools, more Australians were opposed than supported it.
The survey results, released on Wednesday, showed 46 per cent disagreed compared with 37 per cent who agreed, while 17 per cent remained undecided.
The issue has been surrounded in controversy since the Turnbull government announced changes to its Safe Schools anti-bullying program in February.
Transgender Victoria executive director, Sally Goldner, said teaching transgender awareness in primary school was important for everyone and it was time to tackle the elephant in the room.
“People perhaps they don’t understand it or to a stronger degree are afraid of it, you know ‘I’ll just pretend it’s not there and it will go away’. Well, of course it doesn’t go away. The reality is, if it’s there, if we’ve got young people affirming their identity in schools, which we do, then clearly it’s a reality that needs to be faced rather just than putting your head in the sand approach, which clearly won’t work,” Goldner told Pro Bono Australia News.
“So I think, people are aware of it and want it discussed.
“It [teaching transgender awareness in schools] helps trans and gender diverse people get an equal start in life… We’re a country that I thought was about equality and fairness, so it get’s trans and gender diverse young people off to the same start in life and keeps their schools safe for them.
“It also is preventative. No one wants to be in the position of having to explain, ‘oh your friend who was here last week isn’t here anymore’. So, the fact is that this makes it easier for the other students, they don’t have to worry about their friends, it makes it easier for teachers, they can get on with teaching. It means that the whole school community is healthy and more productive.
“It has got to happen. It needs to happen. There are only going to be more and more trans and gender diverse people disclosing and getting on with their life early, so it is a reality that needs to be faced.”
Vote Compass found young people were more likely to support transgender awareness education.
A total of 51 per cent of respondents aged over 55 disagreed compared to 31 per cent who agreed, while 48 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 34 agreed compared to 36 per cent who disagreed.
Golder said it was a good sign that younger people were in favour and gave them hope for the future.
“[There are] lots of issues that simply weren’t talked about in the past, that maybe make older people feel unsure about these things, but the reality is, again, that they’re there,” Golder said.
“I understand where they are coming from, it might see maybe a bit mysterious to some people in older generations. But I would make it clear that I say ‘some’ because the reality is lots of older people are grandparents. They want their grandkids … to be safe and happy… so I think when it is framed in that way, there is every reason for older people to want younger people to be safe and have this talked about as well, as it is in their interest as grandparents and/or parents.
“I think we need to keep breaking down some of the myths around transgender that are there, I can understand that as I say people either haven’t heard a lot about it or may have heard inaccurate beliefs, so we will perhaps need to keep breaking down inaccurate beliefs that exist for transgender people and to some extent young people as well… If something is illogical we have to point out that illogicality and then say what is more logical and will be more useful. So I think It is a matter is persistence.”
Vote Compass found women were more in favour of the idea with 21 per cent of women responding saying they strongly agreed compared to just 10 per cent of men.
Meanwhile one-third of the male respondents said they strongly disagreed, compared with 23 per cent of Australian women.
When viewed in terms of the election and how people plan to vote on 2 July, the survey revealed Coalition supporters were strongly opposed while Labor voters were more mixed on the issue.
But Golder said the part of the statistics we should be looking at were the 17 per cent that were undecided.
“I think that is probably critical,” Golder said.
“So I think those people will move over in time. My reasoning for saying that is go back around 10 years to when we had the… ‘controversy’ – or if you don’t want to use controversy, the debate – about the Play School episode with the lesbian mums and all the steam that came off about that and now we look back at it and say what on earth was that about.
“So I think it will move forward and the only way for it to move forward is to communicate sensibly about it.”