Posted on March 13 2019
To be honest, this is about my 12th plus attempt at writing a response to bullying in schools and sports, and although my line of work is in Education, I still do not have all the answers. What I have learned is an understanding that bullying is part of a human condition where power and influence on others is at the core of why individuals or groups continue detrimental behavior towards others. I still struggle at nearly 50 with why people, of all their variations, feel that they need to put others down, harass or even bully others. Even worse, I think we all do it in one way, shape or form, and I find that inexcusable.
My journey is probably a fairly typical one, but I am by no means able to identify myself in one box or another due to the complexities of my background, gender and family situation. Depending on when you ask, who you are and what the situation is, I can be one of many individuals packaged within one skin. I am a person who happens to be a husband, father, teacher, friend and due to social constraints, a man. But who I am is also an individual that is very much in touch with an inner feminine individual. I present as male due to family, work, friends and no one would expect anything else other than my wife, who 20 years ago I bravely shared the real me with, who has accepted who I am with boundaries – we all need boundaries.
Throughout my life I grew up in a very traditional family - Mum, Dad and two kids living and going to school in the southern suburbs of Adelaide. From the age of about 7 I always knew I was different to the other boys. I loved playing with army toys and sport, but was always intrigued by my beautiful mother, her clothes, hair, make up and presence. Because I knew I was different, I kept myself hidden and was scared to share my inner self with anyone else for the fear of what might happen. My older sister was the one who finally awoke the inner girl in me by dressing me in girls clothes with the help of her friend. I knew then who I was inside - a complicated and multi-gendered individual, but I was even more afraid than ever of what this meant being a boy growing up in the 70s.
I suffered throughout my schooling years, growing up with the bullying and harassment of anyone different. I remember the day that one brave young man turned up in year 8 with his ear pierced and the horrible treatment he received from “the boys”. I wish I was brave enough to stand up for him but was conscious of the retribution that I would also suffer. I am ashamed looking back at myself now but from this, I have learned a lot and vowed to never let this happen again, and not to stand by and let this kind of bullying happen again.
It was knowing that I was different and the strong altruistic person growing inside of me, which has allowed me to, with the social constraints, fight for the LGBTIQ within the educational system. I can tell you that bullying in all shapes and forms still continues in school between students but this is due to immature young people who are still developing skills and trying to understand of the ways of the world. As such, our job is to shape them and to polish these young people. Sadly, I've had to, at times, challenge school administration where discrimination toward the LGBTIQ individuals has been more than evident. In a well-established school in eastern Adelaide, the principal argued confidentially that a transgender student “need to have somewhere else to complete their education so they didn’t disrupt the others in the school."
Yes you've heard it right. I couldn’t accept this statement and views of the principle. So I challenged the system and followed up with policies that supported that student. After developing a strong relationship with that student, I can happily say that the student was fully supported, is now very happy and flourishing well in school. We should never be put into a situation where we have to choose sides when it comes to supporting someone in being who they are or want to be. Maybe, just maybe, if I was in the same situation many years ago, I too may be a different person today.
Written by Claudia Rae from Adelaide, South Australia.