College says yes to trans student using female toilets

By Brittany Keogh

Auckland academic and transgender woman, Lexie Matheson, said the result was a "win" for the transgender community. Photo / Dean Purcell
Auckland academic and transgender woman, Lexie Matheson, said the result was a "win" for the transgender community. Photo / Dean Purcell

The Marlborough teenager whose fight to use the female bathrooms at her school made headlines last month will now be allowed to use any restroom of her choice.

Auckland academic and transgender woman, Lexie Matheson, said the result was a "win" for the transgender community, but there was still more progress to be made in the battle for inclusion.

"I'm extremely pleased with the result," said Ms Matheson, who flew from Auckland to Blenheim to advocate for 16-year-old Stefani Muollo-Gray.

Ms Matheson sat in on meetings with the Year 12 student, her family and staff at Marlborough Girls' College, which she said were "extremely well -- handled" by the school.

She said the issue was "not so much a 'problem', but something that needed to be worked through".

Marborough Girls' College principal Jo Chamberlain told Fairfax today any student at the school, including Ms Muollo-Gray, could now "go where they feel comfortable", whether that be self-contained gender diverse toilets or larger bathrooms for either gender.

Toni Duder, spokesperson for Rainbow Youth, said gender neutral bathrooms were "one of the key safety measures that should be put in place to ensure the wellbeing of transgender and gender diverse students".

"I hope school senior staff all over Aotearoa understand that their duty to provide a safe learning environment for their students applies to the needs of every student," she said.

Ms Chamberlain spent two weeks researching before a decision was reached. The school consulted the Ministry of Education, the Human Rights Commission and transgender advocacy organisation Tranzaction during the process.

Ms Matheson acknowledged changes such as this required due process and consultation.

"There will always be questions to be asked by good people trying to recognise what being transgender means," she said.

The next change Ms Matheson would like to see is for legislation to better protect transgender rights: "For the words 'gender identity' to be included in the Human Rights Act".

Ms Duder agreed that more work needed to be done: "It's really cool to see some of our schools leading the way to demonstrate how our systems can become more trans friendly, but we've got a long way to go".

"The thought that a student has to petition to be allowed access to a bathroom is not the ideal situation."

Another issue, of which Ms Duder said was of concern, was in the healthcare system. There were "far too many barriers facing transgender youth for everyday health care needs," she said.

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The background:

* Stefani Muollo-Gray, 16, submitted a petition to Education Minister Hekia Parata through change.org after being told by staff she must use male restrooms.

* It gained the support of singer Lizzie Marvelly and 7000 other Kiwis.

* Similar struggles have been experienced by transgender people in the US. States such as North Carolina have

NZH

- NZ Herald

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