The ‘safe schools’ debate has raged through the media in the last few weeks.
At times like these, it’s easy to be blind sided by political op ed’s and vocal public figures. We tend to forget to listen to the voices of those affected by the very thing we are debating.
Last week, popular LGBTIAQ+ book store, Hares and Hyennas, held a reading for The Telling Tree, a storybook project created by members of the LGBTIAQ+ youth community. The Telling Tree, a collaboration between Yarra Youth Services, Drummond Street Relationship Services, Minus18 and The Ownership Project, features Kai Hart, a teen who identifies as agender, aromantic and asexual.
[The Telling Tree] is about getting out what we wanted to say and having an opportunity to make sure we are acknowledged,” Says Kai.
“We participated in workshops where we discussed things like, how did you discover your identity, what sort of explorations did you do, what sort of reactions have you experienced. It’s about Drawing from our own experience from growing up queer.”
Exposing cisgender and heterosexual teenagers to the LGBTIAQ+ community is simply a way to promote inclusion, shatter stereo types and open dialogues in the community.
“When people know who we are… it means [a person] can say ‘look these are real people in my community who are dealing with these real things, I should probably respect them more.'”
The Telling Tree is a compilation of 10 short pieces by various LGBTIAQ+ youth. From descriptions of terminolgy to recounts of real events, every word is written with knowledge beyond its years.
Living in an environment that challenges your right to existence is both physically and mentally challenging. It affects the individuals, families and friends, and can often cause conflict in relationship dynamics.
“My parents are super supportive, but they have trouble with [aspects of] it. They do have a little bit more trouble with my gender identity… I think it’s a thing that a lot of parents do, which is ‘Oh you’re my baby girl’, and ‘I want to call you your [real] name’ and ‘it’s so hard for me to remember.’ I’m still your child, i’m just not your daughter.” they say.
Acknowledgement ignites the process of acceptance. For Kai, changing her name was a step toward feeling more at ease in their body.
“At one point, my mum was like, ‘I named you, you’re under my roof.’ But as recently as last week, she said, ‘you know its your name and I acknowledge that that is you, but I do so much and i’m so busy and it’s hard for me to remember a whole new name to call you’, so she is softening.”
“I do struggle with it. A few days ago i sent off my official name change form, so i had to subtly ask my parents where [my birth certificate] was. I have this fear of what they will do, when they see my new birth certificate with my [new] name on it. It’s something that can make me really anxious and contributes to these feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness that I feel.”
By accepting one’s right to choose their name, pronouns, gender identity and sexual preference you’re leading by example. It’s the small changes that make a big collective difference to kids growing up Queer.