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"I am a queer avenger"

Sun 9 Oct 2011 In: Community View at Wayback View at NDHA

Read three compelling speeches from members of Wellington's Queer Avengers, including two high school students, who are fighting for change in the education system. Ryan Images taken by and copyright © 2011 Mark Beehre. Hi everyone, I’m Ryan, and I like Metal music… And skateboard… And I want to be a photographer… And I wish I could still play rugby. And I also like girls, but not their dramas. Actually, I’m like most other normal and healthy 17 year old boys. Except that I go to Wellington Girls College. I didn’t start out there as Ryan. Thing is, being a girl just didn’t work out for me. Life as a woman didn’t quite make sense. I wondered if it was my sexuality, but realised it wasn’t. I didn’t feel that I could talk to anyone about it. All I knew existed was men and women and being straight. It’s difficult to find any information about sexuality at school, let alone gender. Education is a human right. I have the right to an educated suited to my needs and on my terms teaching me the things that I need to know. Sadly, that’s not what I’m getting. It wasn’t until I was lucky enough to meet someone else who felt like me, another trans man, that I understood what I was feeling. And now that I know I’m a man, I’m okay with it. But there are some things as a man that I’m not okay with. I’m not okay with being made to wear a skirt at formal school functions I’m not okay with having no control over how my gender and identity is presented, that people at school have the ability to decide whether or not they are going to respect my identity. I’m not okay with other people having the power to call me by a name I that I don’t identify with. I’m not okay that my old school wouldn’t give me a locker because they think I bring it on myself when transphobic insults are scratched onto it. I’m not okay that there is no bathroom I can easily access without being in fear of what people will think about me. I’m not okay that many students who are transitioning leave school early because they cannot find any support and understanding at their schools. What I am okay with is that there are teachers from my school here today and other people that agree with me that it’s not okay. I am a queer avenger. Victoria I wish that instead of instead of schools saying “it’s okay for people to be different” they would say for once, “it’s okay for you to be different”. I wish they would teach all of us about each other’s differences and show how normal each of our differences are. I wish that my homophobic principal wasn’t allowed to try and pressure students at my school from setting-up a queer straight alliance, a place where we can talk about our differences and learn that were not as alone and as different as we thought we were. I wish he wasn’t allowed to dismiss our oppression by saying “there’s no discrimination at this school”. I wish he wasn’t able to make us hide away our group as if our differences were something to keep quiet about, to be ashamed of. I wish someone would have told my friends at 11 that it is normal to be bisexual, that way they would not have spread rumours about my differences being bad, and also so that maybe they might have had a chance to explore their queerness as well. I wish that school didn’t presume I was cis-gendered and heterosexual all of the time. I wish that I was told about all the different ways I can express my sexuality and gender. - I wish that my differences weren’t segregated out to be discussed in boring health classes where the teacher made a point of talking about our differences as if they were different to anyone else’s differences. I wish that schools presumed everyone was going to be different and made a point of incorporating those differences into the regular curriculum. I wish that I didn’t have to Google “famous gay people” because I didn’t know any older queer people to teach me about our history. I wish that the first older queer person heard talk about our differences wasn’t at the Queer the Night demonstration a few months back. I wish that people realised that the only way to change culture is to accept differences as normal. I wish that people wouldn’t think that Pakeha is more normal than Maori or straight is more normal than gay. I wish that 20% of school-aged queer people did not feel so lonely, so isolated in their differences as to seriously consider suicide. I wish was as angry as me about this as I am. I wish they realised the need to take action to change the system which stigmatises our differences. I wish everyone would will help us to Queer our Schools I am a Queer Avenger Kassie Images taken by and copyright © 2011 Mark Beehre. We’re here because we’re angry. Our anger should not come as a surprise, in fact its long over-due; the ministry has consecutively failed, year after year, in its legal care-of-duty to provide safe and affirming environments for their students. The situation for queer youth has been well known to the Ministry for years. Since 2007 they have known that 33% of queer youth face bullying on the basis of their identity and that 20% of queer youth will make at least one attempt on their own life. A decimation is literally one in 10. This is one in 5. Further, the Ministry has known since 2008 that trans, queer and gender variant students face immense difficulty in simply gaining access to schools and to education. With no control over how they are presented, with no guarantee that their identities will be respected by staff, with the scapegoating of bulling onto the victims, with strictly gendered dress codes, with sex segregated bathrooms and with generally no available support to help students who don’t fit within the gender binary, trans and gender variant youth face an uphill battle even to remain in schools. The right to education is a basic human right. The fact that there are no national requirements that schools respect and make every possible effort to accommodate and affirm gender-variant youth is appalling. One can only imagine that the Ministry of Education’s complacency in the face of institutionalised oppression within our schools and its willingness to trade off queer youth’s educational opportunities and lives either comes out of a bureaucratic ineptitude or for reasons of political expediency. We’re here to say that no matter what the reasons, we’re not going stand by any more and accept the status quo. So what is to be done? The first goal of this demonstration has already been achieved. The Ministry of Education has already made contact with The Queer Avengers looking to discuss the demands we are raising today. We don’t know what will come of this meeting, but what we do know is they wouldn’t pay us one ounce of attention if we weren’t here right now, calling them out on their abysmal record of simply accepting institutionalised queer oppression. Which leads us to our second goal of this demonstration. If we are going to be able to fight the long fight and achieve our demands for safe, accessible and inclusive schools we need everyone who is at this demonstration to get involved, not only in attending demonstrations but in becoming organisers of the community. If we are going to challenge the queer oppression we face on a daily basis we need to stand together as a community and demand it. We as a community need to get angry that queer youth are five times more likely to take their lives than heterosexual, cis-gendered youth. We as a community need to get angry that the solutions to the queer oppression that The Queer Avengers came-up with within 6 weeks’ time the Ministry of Education has not managed to stumble upon in the 5 YEARS since it has been undeniably clear to them that a problem exists. We have already shown what can be achieved when we come together to demand change. The anger and empowerment coming out of the Queer the Night demonstration has led to the development of The Queer Avengers. The so far merger actions taken by The Queer Avengers has already led to the Ministry of Education falling head-over-heels to meet with us and discuss our demands. They know they need to act now or face our scrutiny. Change is possible, not only in this campaign but in all campaigns which we set ourselves to. Change happened 25 years ago when we as a whole community stood-up and demanded our rights to exist during the Homosexual Law Reform campaign. Well I’ll tell you what, we may be legal now, but we’re certainly not accepted and valued as equals. Our next meeting is this coming Thursday at 7:00pm at Anvil House on Wakefield St. We will be discussing the next step in our Queer the Schools campaign. We look forward to seeing everyone there. I am Kassie and I am a Queer Avenger     The Queer Avengers - 9th October 2011

Credit: The Queer Avengers

First published: Sunday, 9th October 2011 - 2:40pm

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