Trans-Gender – Reality Check

Non binary student surprised by school’s supportive stance


A 15-year-old Kavanagh College pupil who identifies as neither male nor female has been a “little surprised” at just how supportive the Dunedin Catholic school has been.

During the last term of last year Arryn, who identifies as non-binary and asks to be referred to using the pronouns they, their and them instead of he or she, changed uniform and stopped being called Erin.

All this happened with the school’s support and Arryn, whose parents asked their last name not be used, was “a little surprised” at just how willing the school was to let them wear boys’ pants and the girls’ uniform’s top half.

Arryn’s mother, Keely, said the school had been “absolutely brilliant” and concerns Arryn would be bullied after changing uniform were not realised.

Her advice to other parents with children who did not identify as either he or she was to “listen to what your child wants” and contact support groups if things were a struggle.

Mr Steve Read, the school’s deputy principal said Kavanagh College’s decision to be accepting fitted with its core values of service, respect, justice and truth.

“I guess justice and respect are the two that sit around this issue.

People don’t choose this path. They are born into it and feel like they are in the wrong gender and we need to respect that difference.”

Read accepted there would be some in the Catholic community who were against the school’s stance.

“Whereas we would say we are all made in God’s image … and therefore we should be being supportive and respectful.”


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  • Kavanagh College, a Roman Catholic School in Dunedin, New Zealand, has proved to be a non-threatening environment for one of its adolescent pupils, who has been revealed to be ‘trans-gender’ – identifying as neither male nor female – who prefers to be treated as neither exclusively male nor exclusively female.

This tolerance at school has enabled Arryn to come to terms more easily with the fact that gender identity can be fluid, and that this need not lead to what might have been a climate of bullying at school. Any perceived problem with this situation has been largely resolved by the school’s acceptance of Arryn’s own understanding of what it means, in real life, to identify as a non-gender-specific human being, made in God’s image and likeness, but different from the majority.

How refreshing, that a Roman Catholic school can accept that the category of trans-gender is a reality, and that this should not interfere with the person’s  education and flourishing in the school environment. That the school is Roman Catholic should be a wake-up call to other Christian Schools, that might not feel so inclined to tolerate a pupil’s desire to be treated as the person s/he feel more closely identified with.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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3 Responses to Trans-Gender – Reality Check

  1. murraysmallbone says:

    Kavanagh College is to be celebrated on its Christ like attitude in such a situation.A n all too rare phenomenon ,especially from a Roman Catholic institution.It is such rare instances, that give one hope for an enlightened future as opposed to being further deafened by the lack of intellectual vigour displayed by the hollow screams of purely human construct.

    Jesu mercy! Mary pray!

  2. Brian Ralph says:

    I taught for 15 years in a senior Catholic Boys’ School in Sydney. I was outed as a gay man by a TV station in 1979 but remained teaching, my sexuality open knowledge for perhaps the last 10 of those years. I was able to help a few boys and have received (sometimes anonymous) emails from students who said my openness helped them at the time although they did not confide in me. The De La Salle Brothers were supportive although not always happy when they had to deal with irate parents. The best was at a reunion when a boy from my advisor group told me that he and his mates had often defended me in the playground and it helped when his older brother (also a student of mine) later came out as gay.
    I moved to teach in a junior school and decided to keep quiet but have been told it was still not a big secret.
    I am sure I would not have been so accepted in the schools of the Sydney Anglican Diocese.
    It is pleasing to read of such acceptance of sexual minorities in schools here in Dunedin not just State schools but Catholic as well.

  3. kiwianglo says:

    Dear Murray and Brian,

    Yes, it is amazing that it takes a Roman Catholic School in Aotearoa/New Zealand to lead the way on this matter – which affects more young people that we know about. One can only hope that other Christian schools will note this inclusive action as an example for themselves.

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