A bunch of flyers railing against an LGBTI anti-bullying program have been floating around this election. They're aimed at adults – but plenty have been picked up by kids.
One flyer, distributed by the Australian Family Association, landed in the letterbox of Rebecca*, a 12-year-old transgender girl who lives in Adelaide.
Rebecca said reading the flyer made her feel "upset and annoyed" because it wasn't true. She spoke to BuzzFeed News to point out some of the errors in the flyer's claims.
Claim: "Labor & Greens extreme sex education means no safe place for kids."
“I felt annoyed because it’s not sex education. It’s more about helping me, and other people who are LGBTI," said Rebecca. Often, that help occurs behind the scenes.
Rebecca is not out as transgender at school, and initially felt sick with worry about the other kids finding out. "I thought that no one would like me. I thought they would be mean to me," she said.
Safe Schools Coalition staff assisted with Rebecca's enrolment to ensure as few people as possible know that she is transgender, and explained her situation to the principal and other teachers.
Rebecca said she feels safe at school now, but was suicidal before she started to live as herself.
"At one point I was … I was very sad," she said. "I felt like killing myself. And then I found out that I could transition."
Claim: "Safe Schools tells boys they can use the girls' toilets if they 'identify' as a girl."
"They’re not telling boys to use girls' toilets. I am a girl," said Rebecca.
Claim: "Schools can decide that parental consent is not needed for a student having gender transition medical treatment."
"That bit's not true," Rebecca said. "Safe Schools and the schools aren’t the ones that allow it. It’s doctors."
Rebecca is currently on puberty blockers, which can be prescribed for pubescent children after consultations with psychiatrists and endocrinologists. Teens can start on hormone therapy around age 15, but must go through an arduous Family Court process first.
Safe Schools is an opt-in anti-bullying program. It has no power to strip parents of their legal right and responsibility to give medical consent for their child.
Claim: "This program sexualises and confuses Aussie kids."
In Rebecca's case, Safe Schools worked behind the scenes to help explain her situation to teachers and ensure she isn't forced into situations where she is outed to classmates.
But Rebecca is out to a few friends from her old school, who have accepted her for who she is – and are not confused.
"I wanted to have a fresh start at my new school," she said. "But some of my friends from my other school know, and they’ve been fully accepting."
Rebecca is deeply worried that people who receive the pamphlets and don't know much about transgender issues will want to stop her from receiving support and medical treatment.
"They would get the wrong vibe," she said. "I wish the adults doing this would stop giving people the wrong information."
*Rebecca's name has been changed to protect her privacy.
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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