Cape teen shares experience of life as a transgender schoolboy
Cape Town - Being a teenager is hard enough, but for Jake Thompson coming out as transgender has been life-altering.
“It’s been a really weird experience, I didn’t know how or where to start,” said the Camps Bay High pupil.
Jake was born female but now identifies as male.
He spoke of his experience of coming out as transgender at school.
“Lucky for me I knew a matric pupil at our school who identified as a transgender boy and he really helped me. He even gave me my first binder (a binding bra used to flatten breasts) and told me which teachers to talk to about my name change and such. We have an LGBT club at our school. It’s informally known as Camps Gay and it aims to educate learners and teachers at our school about queer people - and it’s also a safe space for LGBT learners to talk about their issues,” said Jake.
He said he’d had some difficulties at school, particularly with changerooms and bathrooms. The school has a gender-neutral bathroom but he said it was sometimes locked.
“Often I just wait till I get home. When I need to change for PE, I either have to change in the neutral bathroom or the audiovisual room.
“I had an incident while using the boys’ bathroom. I was in a stall and a group of boys started banging on the door and told me ‘this is the men’s room, you’re in the wrong place’. It was really scary.”
Jake said while there were struggles at school, his family were supportive.
His mom, Alison, said she supported his decision wholeheartedly.
“I don’t believe that anyone should be singled out. One’s education should not be hampered by private inclinations or background,” she said. The class teacher and grade head she met had been accommodating, she added.
On her experience of accepting Jake, she said: “At first I was in total disbelief and thought that my child was merely responding to popular culture. My daughter came out as transgender male in November 2019. It was, I think, harder for them to discuss than for me. The more we have spoken about it, however, the closer we have become. Getting the terminology right - I am allowed to say “he” or “they” but not “she” - that was weird to get used to. I have incrementally grown in acceptance.”
Kerry Mauchline, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said: “There had previously been no guidelines or policies for schools to follow to support transgender learners in the Western Cape or in any other province. The need for such guidelines became apparent when a school alerted the department to their uncertainty when a pupil at the school was going through gender transition.”
Mauchline said some school governing bodies had addressed the matter through diversity policies, but there was a need to assist all schools in creating a more inclusive environment for all pupils.
DA spokesperson Lorraine Botha said:“The provincial department’s gender identity and sexual orientation guidelines are a landmark towards achieving understanding and respect for LGBTQ rights at our schools.”