Transgender students drive change at Catholic school

BREAKING CONVENTION: A Lismore Ctaholic school has allowed two transgender students, who were born female, to wear the male uniform to better align with their gender identity.
BREAKING CONVENTION: A Lismore Ctaholic school has allowed two transgender students, who were born female, to wear the male uniform to better align with their gender identity. Thinkstock

A CATHOLIC school in Lismore has received widespread praise for allowing two transgender students to dress in school uniforms more aligned with their gender identity.

The two students wore their preferred uniforms for the first time on Monday, Trinity Catholic College principal Brother John Hilet said.

"I saw one of them during the day and they sort of gave me a thumbs up, so things seem to be going okay," he said.

"I spoke to the second student before the end of the day and they were very happy with how everything had gone."

The school rolls had also been changed with teachers and staff told to call the students by their preferred names.

Lismore mum Kate Nightingale, who has two kids with her partner Monique Cheswort, was "amazed a Catholic school was taking that step".

The move has instilled hope in transgender people like Rhys*, who struggled with transition, for the future of youth grappling with their gender identity.

"I think its great what Trinity is doing and I hope other schools can follow suit," he said.

The 44-year-old admired the courage of the two students, who separately confided in Br Hilet two weeks ago about their plight and asked Br Hilet if they could wear the uniform.

Br Hilet said he told the students he was open to change and later discussed their request with Bishop of Lismore Greg Homeming and the Catholic Education Commission.

"Their view was exactly as mine that the appropriate response ... should be pastoral and for the student's well-being."

When he met with the students again, he affirmed they would be allowed to wear their desired uniform.

"I said there may be comments, I can't guarantee there won't be. For some people it may be confronting; for other people it'll be quite 'oh well, who cares'," he said.

Br Hilet told the two students to report any bullying and encouraged the school community to embrace the "basic Catholic teaching" to treat everybody with dignity and respect regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity or sexual identity.

In a letter informing parents about the changes prior to Monday, Br Hilet encouraged them to reinforce values of respect for all students. Of the 60 responses he received, Br Hilet said all were positive with one parent raising concerns about the use of toilets.

The issue was rectified by the students being granted access to use unisex bathrooms, which are restricted to mostly staff.

Br Hilet said the college was also investigating the creation of a gender neutral uniforms and the availability of unisex toilets.

*name changed.

Topics:  catholic editors picks lgbtqi lismore northern rivers schools transgender trinity catholic college

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