AROUND Australia young people are changing the face of gender and challenging how we think about it.
Georgie Stone, 17, is a young trans woman who has already achieved a tremendous amount as an activist.
An increasingly well-known name in trans politics, Georgie was awarded Person of the Year at last year’s GLOBE Awards in Melbourne for her activism.
“When I started advocacy and set out to make a change, I didn’t really think that I would really become a spokesperson for the young trans community, but I know that we need people to speak out,” she said.
“We need our issues heard, from law reform to birth certificates.
“I’m really glad that I’ve been able to get our voices heard and get our story out there, it’s a good feeling. But then again I just feel like I’m doing what I can, as many kids and families are.”
Georgie believes kids her age think differently about gender than their older counterparts.
“For us it’s not as definitive,” she said. “We’re more aware of other people feeling different things, and that there’s a space where people might not fit in with male and female. The people around me are very accepting and understanding of that.”
Georgie thinks the greater representation of trans folks in the media is a major reason people are becoming more aware.
“The massive worldwide conversation we’re having about LGBTI people and issues is the reason people are more knowledgeable, aware, and accepting of the LGBTI community,” she said.
Georgie’s classmates and friends treat her like any other girl at school. She says people who are aware of her trans status are good about it—sometimes to a fault.
“They’re hyper aware, and often I can see people trying to say the right thing because they’re trying to be sensitive,” she said.
“Like in science last year we talked about the chromosomes that decide if you’re male or female. After class I was taken aside by the teacher and she said, ‘I hope it was okay to talk about that, because we know there’s more to gender than biology’.”
Georgie speaks a lot with politicians about the law reforms that are needed for young trans people. She recently delivered to federal parliament a petition with more than 15,000 signatures calling for the abolition of the family court requirement for teenagers to transition.
In Georgie’s lifetime, she’s already seen trans rights and the services available for trans kids come a long way.
“There’s a lot of support, and if you think about what was out there ten years ago, this is incredible,” she said.
“However, I do think there needs to be more support, especially in schools. There are trans kids who feel isolated at school, they don’t feel they have the support.
“School is so gendered. Male and female toilets, male and female uniforms. In the school production there’s male and female roles. It can be a very scary place for people who don’t feel comfortable to be out, or to transition, or to tell anyone at all.”
Georgie says the help that’s required for young trans people ranges from family support to access to transition treatment. Support for trans youth in regional areas is also an emerging need.
“We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go,” she said.
“We have come so far and there’s a lot of conversation about it. The support that trans kids are getting from the community—it’s a really positive thing that’s happening at the moment.”
Rory Blundell, 21, is non-binary and transmasculine. He’s a third-year criminology student hoping to get into law, and he spends a lot of time working to improve inclusivity and understanding of LGBTI folks in the community.
“I think young people, and people in general, are starting to be a bit more critical of the way gender is constructed,” he said.
“When you start to break down how we think about gender roles, stereotypes, and binary gender itself and why we think that way, it becomes pretty apparent that these ideas don’t necessarily fit everyone and we shouldn’t have to adhere to them.”
People tend to think of transgender and gender fluidity as being a new phenomenon, but Rory points out this isn’t true.
“I think for older generations, it’s not necessarily something they’ve encountered before,” he said.
“There’s the perception that it’s a ‘new’ thing, which if you look throughout history and across many different cultures, is most definitely not the case. There are so many examples of genders outside the binary of male and female.”
Rory credits communication technology with the increased awareness these days of diverse genders.
“I think young people through the internet and social media are generally more exposed to these ideas and have a greater awareness of different identities,” he said.
Rory works with Minus18 and Drummond Street Services to give a voice to young people and create LGBTI-inclusive environments. He says despite more progressive attitudes around, transphobia is still an issue.
“Transphobia is multi-layered,” he said. “It can appear through bullying, misgendering, rejection, being treated as different.
“It can also appear on a structural level in schools through uniform policy, not having inclusive sex ed, and preventing students from using the toilets they want to use. These are just a few examples and all of them can have an enormous impact on trans students, making them feel alienated, worsening their mental health, or making them want to leave school.”
Rory says that while he’s “out and proud”, he can be selective about who he comes out to, especially since many don’t understand what non-binary means.
“I find it a lot easier to come out to young people,” he said.
“Most of them are very accepting of LGBTI people and are willing to know more about identities they may not fully understand.”