Victorian schools are being urged to avoid using gendered terms such as “mum” or “dad” as part of a campaign to curb the suicide rates of young people in the LGBTQIA+ community.
The #SpeakingUpSpeaksVolumes campaign by The North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network will also introduce unisex bathrooms, rainbow flags and non-gendered sports teams in a bid to be more inclusive.
The campaign hopes that by using non-gendered language in school and sporting groups, drop out rates will decrease and young LGBTQIA+ people will feel more supported, The Herald Sun reports.
“When someone is experiencing bullying, silence often feels like indifference, which can create a terrible sense of isolation,” the network’s CEO, Chris Carter told the newspaper.
“The simple act of openly showing support can be a catalyst for great change for the better and it’s often the less obvious moments that can be the most impactful to someone’s wellbeing.”
The campaign found LGBTIQA+ people aged 16-27 are more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. Transgender people aged 18 and over are nearly 11 times more likely.
LGBTIQA+ people are also more likely to experience a mental health disorder.
The campaign material suggests using non-gendered terms such as "parent", rather than "mother" or "father" and encourages others to ask which pronouns they use.
Campaign crucial for children questioning gender
Merrin, parent of Jax, who is now 12-years-old said the support offered by the campaign is crucial for her child who from a young age would describe himself as “gender not-sure”.
“I was rung by a parent of a friend of his, saying there’d been some correspondence during the school day, and that Jax was feeling like he didn’t want to be here anymore. That life was just too hard,” Merrin explained.
When she approached Jax, who was assigned female at birth, he told her: “mum, I’m a boy”.
Merrin said she wanted to do anything she could to support Jax, but her heart dropped when he asked if teachers and students would call him “Jax” the next day at school.
“I remember this huge weight of fear overwhelming me,” Merrin said.
“I said: ‘Hang on mate, this is too quick. There’s admin around this’. It was a stupid thing to say, but fear completely took over.”
Although Jax was ready “to get on with it”, Merrin said she was worried about what others would feel about her son.
“I actually wanted him to know he was amazing and incredible and loved in that moment.”
Head of Elevation Secondary College in Craigieburn, Colin Burke, tod The Herald Sun homophobia was “really detrimental to our student culture” and the school was already doing a lot to be more inclusive.
He said that includes installing gender non-specific bathrooms and taking down signage mentioning boys and girls.
Mr Burke also said that while gender-specific terms weren’t banned, proactive programs were promoting the use of more inclusive language.
“It’s also about calling out mistreatment and making it clear it’s not okay,” he added.
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