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Catholic School Lets Transgender Students Choose Their Uniforms

by Brittany Ferrendi
Sunday Sep 3, 2017
Catholic School Lets Transgender Students Choose Their Uniforms

An Australian Catholic school allowed two transgender students to choose their own school uniforms to match their gender identity.

"I saw one of them during the day and they sort of gave me a thumbs up, so things seem to be going okay," Principal Brother John Hilet told Australian publication The Northern Star. "I spoke to the second student before the end of the day and they were very happy with how everything had gone."

The Lismore school, Trinity Catholic College, also welcomed the children to change their names on the school register.

The option was allowed after the students confided to their principal that they would prefer to wear the male uniform. Hilet told them he was open to allowing it, and discussed the change with Bishop of Lismore Greg Homeming and the Catholic Education Commission.

He told ABC News: "[The Bishop's] response to me was quite clearly that this is an issue of wellbeing for these students. It is an issue of being caring, compassionate and reaching out and doing what we can to assist. I was very happy that confirmed my feelings."

Once he got their approval, he let the students know the good news.

"I said there may be comments, I can't guarantee there won't be," he told TNS. "For some people it may be confronting; for other people it'll be quite 'oh well, who cares.'"

That being said, he also told the two students to come to him if they encountered any bullying. To all students, he encouraged them to follow "basic Catholic teaching" to treat everyone with respect.

Hilet told ABC News he was "very quickly moved by their level of trust, faith and willingness to come forward and speak with me."

"They were moved at a very deep level and at that point the only response I could think of was to treat them with compassion and reach out and do whatever I could to assist," he added. "One of the things I said to the students was that it is a fundamental Catholic teaching that all human beings have an innate dignity that doesn't derive from anything other than the fact we are human and made in the image and likeness of God."

Hilet also wrote a letter to parents of the college informing them of this allowance. The letter stated:

"I will address the other students about difference and respect and will point out that it is essential as a Catholic community we offer our full support to these students and that any comments seen as targeting or bullying these students will not be tolerated. I ask that you also support these students in any conversations you might have with your children."

All 60 responses were positive - one parent raising concerns about bathroom usage. To solve this concern, the school allows the two transgender students to use unisex bathrooms typically restricted to staff.

In the future, Hilet claims the school is looking into gender neutral uniforms and more accessible unisex bathrooms.

"Invariably the responses have been incredibly positive, thanking the college for its openness and inclusiveness and overwhelmingly supporting the idea of a gender neutral uniform option," he said. "The one that touched me most was a mother who indicated one of her children left the school about three years ago for the same reason and at the time didn't feel confident in coming to approach me and talk to me about it. And that was sad."

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