Transgender teen Georgie Stone and her mother on The Project
For year 10 student and LGBTI advocate Georgie Stone, the importance of the Safe Schools program cannot be overstated. Appearing on The Project on Thursday night, the transgender teen spoke about the devastation of being ostracised by peers and having to navigate inflexible school rules.
Stone was nine years old when she came out and faced intense bullying by other primary school students.
"My first primary school wasn't very understanding at all. There was one scenario where it was school swimming and I was forced to use the male change rooms," says Stone.
Georgie Stone and her mother on The Project.
"There were some students a few years above me who were bullying me...they were really mean and they were in there when I was going to get changed.
"They were yelling 'Why are you in here?' 'This isn't right." It was an awful experience. I was crying and I came out half dressed. It was one of the worst experiences of my life."
Stone changed schools eventually, where she received the support and acceptance she needed.
"It was fantastic, I could use the female toilets for the first time in my life and I was nine years old."
Now an LGBTQI advocate and supporter of the Safe Schools Coalition, she credits the program for making school life more inclusive for young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
"Without the Safe Schools Coalition, life is hell at school," says Stone. "That is why it's important that politicians in particular know the importance of this."
Stone's experience reflects that of many vulnerable young people. Lately, conservatives have expressed concerns that the program isn't 'age-appropriate', but as Stone's story demonstrates, people often discover their sexuality and gender at a very young age.
School isn't always the most accepting place for non-conforming students. According to a 2010 Australian study, 61 per cent of same-sex attracted young people reported verbal abuse because of homophobia. Other studies report that 20 per cent of trans Australians and more than 15 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians have suicidal thoughts.
Safe Schools aims to create a more gender-inclusive environment – increasing trans-inclusivity in learning resources and introducing training for teachers and students that they can carry through school and beyond.