© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Transgender student: Girls' High has culture of trans- and homophobia

Safiya Mehta-Woledge

LGBTQIA+ students fight for better representation and support.

Transgender students at Christchurch Girls' High School are pushing for change in an environment they say is not equipped to deal with LGBTQIA+ students.  

The single-sex school has a growing Rainbow community, members of which are adamant the current system needs to be better. 

The gendered teaching style has been a barrier for trans and non-binary students, who are working with the school to create a more inclusive space. 

Alfie Smeele, a transgender student and prefect at Girls' High, said there was a deep-seated problem within the school that made progress difficult. 

"I believe there is still an underlying culture of homophobia and transphobia in this school."

Smeele has been a strong and often singular advocate for Rainbow youth and although the school has been obliging, responsibility for this change has often fallen to him and other LGBTQIA+ students. 

He said the movement should be student-led but urged the school to do more to facilitate safe spaces for Rainbow youth.

Smeele said he had faced personal struggles with being respected as a prefect at the school. 

"It is very hard to keep doing work for a school that you don't feel represented by." 

He has organised workshops for teaching staff at both Christchurch Girls' High School and Christchurch Boys' High School to encourage an environment that better supports its students.

Boys' High student Lucas Armstrong, who has worked closely with Smeele, felt similarly about his school. 

He said although the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) at Boys' High was taken seriously but not enough was being done to ensure students felt heard school-wide. 

"There is a lot of unwillingness to really sit and hear what we are saying." 

Girls' High has not responded to requests for comment.