Oliver one of growing number of transgender children at single-sex schools

Original article published here

OLIVER Robertson is the only student at his school who wears shorts.

He is also the only boy.

The Mentone Girls’ Secondary School student is one of a growing number of transgender children at single-sex schools. Others schools that have supported transgender students include the private Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar and the Catholic Avila College.

Oliver, a year 12 student, said he feared coming out would “destroy everything”.

“When I first came out in year 9, I thought it was going to be a huge issue because this was a girls’ school and I was a boy,” he said.

“A lot of students were worried about how school assemblies or classes would go, whether teachers could still say, ‘Morning, girls’. I understand this is a girls’ school and it’s a habit, so I’m not going to get angry about it.”

Uniform concessions allow the 18-year-old, who is having hormone treatment, to wear shorts rather than a skirt.

He uses non-gendered toilets with other students, except in the gym or lecture theatre, where he uses the male or staff alternatives.

Oliver Robertson feared coming out would “destroy everything”. Picture: Tony Gough

Oliver said he hadn’t wanted to transfer to a co-educational school because he would have had to explain to another cohort of students that he was transgender.

“Especially with the boys, I didn’t think they’d be able to understand it or accept it,” he said. “I feel accepted here.”

Oliver, his family and his school wanted to tell his story to highlight transgender issues.

Assistant principal Carol Duggan said Oliver was not pushed to change schools.

Mrs Duggan predicted that more students would identify as transgender as it became more accepted.

“Oli is inadvertently supporting the next generations of students who come through this school,” she said.

“When you’re used to working in a single-sex school, the hardest thing initially is getting used to the appropriate pronouns.

“However, it’s more important to continue to provide a safe and supportive environment for all our students,” Mrs Duggan said.

Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar, which charges up to $25,000 a year, confirmed a “very small number” of its senior students were transgender.

It said it would “confidentially support those students’ decisions in partnership with their parents”.

But a relative of one Ivanhoe student questioned whether parents would support the school’s policy.

“What about the parents who pay all this money because they want to send their children to a single-sex school?” the relative said.

“You don’t have that mix-gendered dynamic that you have in a co-ed school, which is why parents are sending their kids there. The environment does change.”

Education Department policy is that schools must respect a student’s choice to identify as transgender.

Fran Reddan, president of the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia, said: “A school has to honour its commitment to educating girls because it is a girls’ school but also have to respect diversity. The bottom line is schools have to ensure they are safe places for all students.”

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