When parents or carers are not supportive
Managing a situation where one or both parents or carers are not affirming the student’s gender identity can be very challenging for the school. Trans and gender diverse young people who have experienced family rejection can be at very high risk of suicide, suicidal ideation and depression.
Anti-discrimination legislation protects all students in the school, whether or not their parents and carers affirm their gender identity. Nonetheless, a student seeking to make a social transition at school will undoubtedly benefit from being supported by their parents. The degree to which parents and carers are supportive has a strong impact on the wellbeing of a trans or gender diverse young person.
The best way to manage the situation may be to first offer information and referrals to the parents. Parents and carers may be experiencing strong emotions about their child’s gender identity. They may have limited or inaccurate information about gender identity. Providing parents and carers with someone to talk with as well as accurate, evidence informed information is essential. Sometimes parents and carers just need more time and the right support.
There are a number of referrals that you can provide to parents. The Australian Psychological Society has an information sheet for the parents, caregivers and families of trans and gender diverse children. Parents of gender diverse children provides information and links to a network of support. Transcend Support also provides information, support and referrals.
If you have provided information and referrals but the student still feels unsupported, there are a number of referrals you could provide to the student. The student can seek affirmative care from the Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service Gender Service. This service may also be able to assist the student to work on the relationship with their parents or carers. If the student requires legal help then the LGBTI Legal Service may be able to give advice or act on their behalf.
If the student or another person has indicated that the student might be at risk of harm at home because of affirming their gender identity, schools must carefully consider how to handle the situation. This may influence the steps that the school will take to meet the student’s needs while ensuring they act in the student’s best interests and not in a way which could contribute to harm to the student.