In 2015 Avila College in Mt Waverley marked 50 years of educating girls with a Golden Jubilee celebration. In 1966 the girls wore a plain grey blazer and skirt with a light blue shirt. Today they wear a navy blue blazer and navy tartan skirt with a red jumper and white shirt.
The only male student at a Catholic girls’ school.
27 May 2016
Jeremy was the only male student at his Catholic girls’ school.
He had short spiky hair, hated wearing the school’s checked skirt and in Year 12, the Avila College student came out as a transgender male.
“It was inherently a very gendered environment. It made it more difficult.”
It’s a situation many single-sex schools – whose entire existence has relied on rigid concepts of gender – are grappling with.
For the first time, the region’s peak body for girls schools, the Alliance of Girls Schools Australasia, is urging its members to support transgender students.
This includes males who transition to females and want to enrol in girls’ schools, and females who transition to males and want to remain in girls’ schools.
Earlier this week, the organisation, which predominantly represents private girls’ schools, held a conference which focused on gender and transgender issues.
“It’s an emerging issue, everyone is still learning what to do and that includes the doctors, the psychologists, the support services,” the Alliance’s president and Mentone Girls’ Grammar principal Fran Reddan said.
“It’s critical that we provide a safe environment where all students can express their gender identity.”
Micah Scott, the chief executive of LGBTI youth group Minus 18, said single-sex schools faced a unique challenge.
“Their existence is based on the concept that the sex you are assigned at birth will match your gender identity,” he said.
He said teachers needed to avoid gendered language like “good morning girls” and should provide more flexible uniform options.
Jeremy agreed, and said he felt very uncomfortable wearing his school uniform.
“A teacher told me that I could wear the trousers but said everyone would look at me funnily,” he said. He claimed another teacher picked on him.
Human Rights Law Centre director of advocacy Anna Brown said there did not seem to be a clear protection for transgender students in single-sex schools under federal discrimination law. But she said it was a grey area and yet to be tested in court.
She said schools should let transgender students wear uniforms and use toilets that reflected their gender identity. They should also ensure that sports divided along gender lines are inclusive, and that students are referred to using the name and pronoun of their choice.
Girls at Avila College Mount Waverley are not permitted to wear t-bar shoes with their school uniform. But they look back longingly at the days there were allowed to, with the ‘Golden T-Bar Shoe’ being awarded annual to the winner of the Avila Day celebrations.
Term Four, 2011
Following the Avila Day Mass, students returned to their homerooms where they enthusiastically participated in a whole-school trivia competition. The brain-bending questions covered sport, music, movies, general knowledge, East Africa, ‘who am I’, and Avila. Year 11 Purple was triumphant and was awarded the ‘coveted’ golden T-Bar shoe.
Girls at Avila College Mount Waverley are not permitted to wear t-bar shoes with their school uniform. They wear plain white knee socks with their summer dress, and navy stockings or navy knee high socks with their winter skirt.
The uniform comprises:
All Year; navy blazer, black lace up shoes, navy backpack-style school bag.
Winter; pleated blue wool tartan skirt, maroon v-neck jumper, (navy for Year 11 and 12), white long-sleeved blouse, and navy stockings or navy knee high socks. The Avila school scarf is the only scarf to be worn.
Summer; blue tartan, short-sleeved dress with white collar, and white knee-high socks.
All students must wear low-heeled black lace up leather school shoes.