By Stacey Attwood
When a child draws a rainbow it is unconsciously associated with happiness. Yet when members of the Rainbow Youth community practice their human rights, it can be so consciously critiqued with notions of judgement and prejudice.
It is no secret that the transgender population continue to face scrutiny from a narrow-minded bracket of our New Zealand society. Deliberate means of out-casting transgender people is prevalent to the point that there is a corresponding term called ‘transphobia-enabling moderation’.(Bridgeman, 2011). ‘Cis-gender’ is a word used to describe people who are happy with their biological gender assignments- whom in the article, are critiqued for having a bare understanding of the profound difficulties that transgender people face.
Earlier this year, female student Laura voiced her outrage regarding her school’s decision to allow transgender students to use female bathroom facilities. She claimed that her “rights were being overlooked” in the sense that she felt uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with someone biologically born with a penis. Her mother was in support of this petition, further perpetuating this discriminatory attitude (NZ Herald, 2017).
The irony in this post is that Laura attends an all-girls high school! What kind of hypocrisy would the school be demonstrating if they matriculated a female-only student body and then insisted on the segregation of bathroom use depending on gender identification? Another irony in the student’s post is her claiming the disregard of her rights. When in fact New Zealand law states that you have the right to use the toilet of the gender you identify with.
The sad reality of this bigotry is that this is only one example of many (on an international scope) where transgender individuals are ridiculed for their differences and assumed to be ‘predators’ (McSweeney, 2016)for using their gender assigned bathrooms. I wonder if this female hostility could be a result of the perceived conflict for women living in a misogynistic society?
Regardless, we need to band together in support of the transgender community. As social workers, it is our role to advocate for people’s human rights- particularly those who are subjected to unfair treatment and prejudice. We need to persist in our responsibility to support sexual minorities (such as transgender) and encourage respect for diversity. As a student studying social work, it surprises me that in my four years of tertiary education I have had very little exposure to learning about sexual minorities. Although we have studied the structural influences to consider when working with minority groups, there appears to have been a lack in education on how best to advocate social justice for the transgender community. I suggest that specific content surrounding this topic be introduced to university education.
As challenging as it may be to tackle social constructions and normalities, there is no better time to promote change than now. Change in perception and change in attitude toward being ‘different’. I believe that education and advocacy is the platform we should use to extend this enlightenment. We may all think and look different, but we are all human.
Bridgeman, S. (2011). Transgender Discrimination. New Zealand Herald. Retrieved from http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=10753539
McSweeney, P. (2016). Are New Zealand bathrooms doing enough to accommodate Transgender people? Stuff. Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/79760678/Are-New-Zealand-bathrooms-doing-enough-to-accommodate-Transgender-people
Naming New Zealand (n.d) Your rights when Transgender and Identifying as Male or Female. Human Rights Act 1993, s42; Health & Safety in Employment Act 1992. Retrieved from http://www.naming.nz/your-rights
NZ Herald (2017). Kiwi teen hits out in video over school’s transgender toilet policy. The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved from http://www.nzherald.co.nz/social-issues/news/article.cfm?c_id=87&objectid=11804688