A dedicated teacher – except I am transgender

Credit:Illustration: Jim Pavlidis

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A dedicated teacher – except I am transgender

I have spent most of my life living in the shadows of fear, looking over my shoulder as to who will attack me for just being Ricki. I am one of those people you may encounter living next door, shopping at your local supermarket, using an ATM, or sitting next to you on a bus.

However, you probably will not see me in your child’s classroom. Although I am a qualified teacher, as an open, transgender, non-binary woman, I am not welcomed with open arms in private school settings or public school spaces.

I have applied for more than 52 positions and have given up on trying to be the next exceptional teacher at your school. Every time I go into an interview panel, I am confronted by the stares of heteronormative people. I have a background in social work and child protection and I know in my heart, and in my passion for teaching, that I can work effectively in the classroom.

I also know I can develop a healthier environment for all students and be a role model of diversity, and I try to convince the panel of this. However, I always get the same response – thanks, but no thanks.

If this bill is passed in the Senate, it will develop a toxicity as it threads it way through the education system in Australia. It is at a cost to our voices. Perhaps I am too old (53) and problematic to look at, but you may have a child or relative who does not identify with their assigned gender at birth and who is struggling to deal with their identity. Is being transgender in our classrooms, as a teacher or a student, so problematic for you that you want to exclude us?
Ricki Spencer, West Footscray

The most vulnerable children need our protection

Scott Morrison says: “If you want to support multiculturalism, support the bill.” Intentionally or otherwise, he fails to acknowledge that support for multiculturalism has not precluded the banning of some cultural/religious practices. For example, female genital mutilation and forced marriages are deemed serious crimes in Australia. The right of a person to be protected from harm trumps other rights with which they conflict.

Given the enormous life challenges faced by transgender children, they tend to be among the most vulnerable members of our community. They need co-ordinated and meticulous protection. Why is it not imperative that they be protected from the devastating experience of school expulsion purely because of their gender orientation?
Ruth Weston, Glen Iris

The pain when our true nature is not recognised

I was deeply moved by Theo Boltman’s account (Opinion, 10/2) of his experiences as a young, transgender, non-binary student, and particularly pleased that he felt safe and accepted at his school.

Now a long-retired state-school principal, I recall several girls (from different schools in the 1960s and ’70s) I taught as a grade 6 classroom teacher, who confided that they would rather had been born as boys. I remember one girl, in particular, in an outer-eastern suburb, who could be described as a “tomboy” and who habitually wore shorts instead of dresses (there was no school uniform). . She was devastated when her mother enrolled her at an all-girls school for year 7, rather than her preferred “mixed” local high school.

When our Prime Minister and his colleagues drafted this contentious legislation, how could they not have anticipated the extreme difficulties transgender students would experience?
Max Waugh, Melbourne

Labor is trying to have ‘a bet each way’ on bill

Dear ALP, why support this odious Religious Discrimination Bill in the lower house because you want to “fight it” in the upper house? Integrity, courage and a genuine commitment to creating a respectful and safe society for transgender people would demand outright rejection of a legislated right for religious belief to trump basic human rights. Yet here you are, playing political games and having a bet each way. Shame on you.
Michelle Goldsmith, Eaglehawk


Call for another apology

So the Morrison government has put on hold the Religious Discrimination Bill while a Senate inquiry into gender discrimination is carried out. They should now also apologise to every transperson in Australia, their families and friends who have felt further vilified and targeted by these abhorrent discussions about other people’s bodies and identities.
James O’Keefe, East Melbourne

Solving the problems …

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash says, “striking the balance between any individual’s right to want to change their sexual identity and other parents’ and children’s wishes to go to a single-sex school must be sensitively managed”. Here is an idea – abolish single-sex (or is it really gender?) schools. Problem solved.
Donna Wyatt, Wyndham Vale

… at religious schools

Michaelia Cash believes it would be too big an impost to ask faith-based schools that receive millions in federal government funding to convert a few toilets for transgender students. Who is she trying to kid? Stop supporting bigotry in the name of religion and compassion for others.
Lynnette Patullock, Blackburn

The message from Christ

What is the Christian attitude (ie, the attitude of Christ) to the expulsion of transgender kids from schools? Look no further than Matthew 25.40 – “Whatsoever you do unto the least of these my brethren, you do unto me”. How can anyone weasel out of that one?
Kevin O’Donnell, Sale

Gender and respect

Your correspondent says that “for safety, it is my right to know whether the person before me is a biological male or female” (Letters, 10/2). As a Christian, heterosexual, married father of four, I say that a person’s gender is their own business. Ours is to treat each and every other person with respect, not judgment. What would Jesus say and do, I wonder?
Brendan Douglas, Alphington

The all-night debate

In my 70-plus years I have, on countless occasions, had a need to say “god help me”. It has not worked. Staying up all night and (mass) debating about religious freedom is pointless.
Bill Keneley, Grasmere

Avoid unfair labelling

I question whether Victoria’s new literacy and numeracy tests for year 12 students (The Age, 10/2)will necessarily give employers better insights into their capabilities. Achievement in these core subjects is related to opportunities to learn and may have little to do with capability.

A recent report, Australian Teacher Workforce Data, found that out-of-field teaching was 40per cent for mathematics and at least 18per cent for English. These figures are national.

The brunt of this situation will be felt in lower socioeconomic, remote and rural areas. Does Victoria want young people labelled for under-achievement when they have not had an adequate opportunity to learn? Will there be opportunities for them to achieve the required standard and have this reflected in a new certificate? How will these opportunities be provided?
Jan Thomas, North Melbourne

The testing contradiction

I am confused. How could a student fail the new literacy and numeracy tests in the revamped General Achievement Test but still pass year 12 subjects? Either the former is extraordinarily difficult or the later inexplicably facile. It is little wonder employers are exasperated.
Alan Duncan, Frankston South

Power of two women

I used to try to engage in dialogue and debate about “issues” affecting us personally and collectively, but became so sad about personal interest overtaking everything. And lo – Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins. Thank you so so much, both of you, for reminding us what true power and integrity looks like. I am in my 50s and you are my role models.
Emma Vagg, Warrnambool

You call this ‘leadership’?

What a pathetic presentation of such important issues at the National Press Club. Grace Tame pulled faces and did not answer the questions informatively. No challenging questions were asked of Brittany Higgins, and both she and Tame showed political bias. It was not a case of inspiring leadership in these matters.
Christine Baker, Rosanna

Why we admire Tame

Oh my god. What is this world coming to when a young whippersnapper (a girl to boot) refuses to heed the advice of an entitled, conservative silver tail. Go, you good thing, Grace Tame.
Timothy Ashton, Katamatite

Tale of two Australians

I fully endorse Grace Tame in her endeavours to advocate for women and am a passionate supporter of her cause. However, she does not do herself any favours with her delivery, which can be strident and overly belligerent. These two traits do not endear her to all individuals sympathetic to her cause. In contrast, the 2022 Australian of the Year, Dylan Alcott, endears himself to others with his humour, commitment and humility.
Noel Butterfield, Eltham

The high-achieving Tame

Adversity crushes some people. To others it brings strength, passion and clarity. Grace Tame, you could achieve anything. Thank you.
Helen Gibb, Alexandra

Why didn’t the PM attend?

So Scott Morrison did not go to the National Press Club to hear Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins give their opinions and reflections. Instead he sent his mainly female representatives, again signalling that this is “women’s” issue. He missed another opportunity to show interest, learn and comprehend his role as the leader of the country.
Robyn Stonehouse, Camberwell

High cost of land clearing

A startled awakening at 3.30am. Close the bedroom window. Fit the earplugs. The forest workers are on their way to work.

Counting, not sheep, but trucks and the screaming, knobby-tired four-wheel drives driven by the machinery operators. Such is daily life for the sleep-deprived residents who live along the highways leading to forest roads.

For some people, it is not only sleep disturbance but also the knowledge of clearing a football-oval area of our native forest for every B-double truck that blasts away the night’s rest.
Cherie Forrester, Gembrook

Surely manageable ’risks’

Re the fracas at Collingwood Children’s Farm (The Age, 10/2). I have more “hazards” in my own back garden than I can count. It is easy to imagine the dangers in the every day if you are searching for them. Access to the farm is primarily for those who are tending their plots there anyway, and they are well aware of their surroundings.

One of the claimed risks is snake bites. Surely this is a risk at most parks. (At my local park with a creek running through it, there are plentiful signs warning of snakes.)

As for the risk of falling on to star pickets and danger from falling structures, aren’t we all at risk of similar events in our daily lives? It seems there is another agenda here. Maybe the area is not considered to be aesthetically pleasing to some, so let’s put everything in cottonwool and airbrush the elements that are not to our liking.
John Paine, Kew

Sydney, call that a race?

Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys will introduce a news horse race, The Big Dance to be run in Sydney over 1600 metres on Cup Day. Given that the Melbourne Cup is run over 3200 metres, The Big Dance will only ever be half as good.
Frank Stipic, Mentone

The risk of e-scooters

Your correspondent (Letters, 9/2), on his electric scooter, says he “resorts to the footpath” for his own safety when using a road is dangerous. I hope he is also concerned for pedestrians who are entitled to feel safe on footpaths.

Victims of e-scooter accidents are unlikely to be covered by the Transport Accident Commission and the councils that are trialling e-scooters should be aware of this. Perhaps your correspondent could use the bike lane?
Margaret Bowman, Albert Park

Protecting pedestrians …

Pedestrians, like Chris Burgess (Letters, 10/2), should not have to get out of the way of any cyclist or scooter rider, bell-ringing or otherwise, on a footpath. The right thing for the rider to do is to dismount and walk their vehicle, or wait until the pedestrian has safely passed. The key word is “foot” path. If the rider is young, their parent should teach them that.
Ranee Mischlewski, Box Hill South

… from themselves?

Your correspondent says “many drivers treat giving way to pedestrians at intersections as optional” (Letters, 10/2. I accept this as real but I think it is time to ask pedestrians to also take care. With the exception of major CBD intersections, many pedestrians do not think the “Don’t walk” signal applies to them. For the families of injured parties, a tragedy at a crossing will bring a lifetime of misery.
Bruce Love, East Melbourne

The commission we need

A federal integrity commission answerable to the High Court. Able to act without obstruction. To undertake investigations in response to questions or complaints or on its own initiative. Free to investigate the acquisition and disposal of all public and political money. Able to bring a case to trial within a week of its investigation being concluded. There is nothing complicated about that, Scott Morrison. Do it.
Ben Draper, East Melbourne

Worth her weight in gold

Whatever you are paying Niki Savva – “PM faced with a difficult Joyce” (Opinion, 10/2) – it is not enough. She is the best addition to The Age in years. Smart, knowledgeable and entertaining.
Tim and Lynn Corcoran, Carlton North


Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

National Press Club

Brave Brittany and anything-but-tame Grace.
Marina Holland, Blackburn South

Grace Tame is very poorly named. She should be called Grace Angry.
Geoff Dunstan, Footscray

Tame and Higgins were electrifying at the National Press Club. The tide has turned.
Jodie Brown, Northcote

The Higgins/Tame vaudeville act, conducted by maestro Laura Tingle, was predictable. It was partisan and full of gripes.
Dennis Walker, North Melbourne

Grace Tame should be a guest on Neighbours to spice it up. She radiates so much charisma.
Jenny Smith, East Melbourne

My dream for the leadership of our Republic of Australia: Brittany as PM and Grace as president.
Brendan Hoban, Mornington

Religious bill

Our government is intent upon enshrining in law rules of religious intolerance.
Peter Drum, Coburg

How can Labor remain the party for the battlers, caring for the community, yet vote for this bill?
Anne Kruger, Rye

I can’t imagine Jesus condoning discrimination against the young and vulnerable in favour of the religious.
Glenda Addicott, Ringwood East

Liberal and Labor: Pepsi and Coke.
Fabio Scalia, St Kilda

Ian Thorpe, take (another) bow. Your fight to see all people treated equally is an admirable one.
Matt Dunn, Leongatha


Matthew Guy, what are the “low-risk” indoor settings where marks don’t need to be worn?
Vivienne Fry, Beaumaris

The United Australia Party: long on slogans, long on cash, short on policies. What a waste of space.
Noel North, Malvern East

Could we have the number of “employed” who work one hour per week?
William Hines, Mornington

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