September 16, 2020
More than two dozen pupils find it very safe at “Les niñes”, Latin America’s first-of-its-kind school for trans children opened in Chile last year.
Named after Amarant Gómez Regalado, a Mexican transgender politician and LGBT activist, the school cater to 28 children aged between 6 and 17. They learn math, science, history, English and art. However, for the children, It isn’t the lessons that are important but the acceptance they find at the school.
Trans children are subjected to discrimination due to social stigmas. Furthermore, trans children often get bullied in traditional schools. They are forced to hide or sometimes change themselves in order to get accepted.
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Chile is a strongly Roman Catholic country and only legalised divorce in 2004. Many children who come out as transgender in Chile stop going to school out of fear.
Angela, a transgender child in Chile, experienced such physical and verbal abuse at her elementary school that she contemplated suicide.
“I just wanted to die,” said the now 16-year-old. “I didn’t want to exist, because what they did to me made me feel awful.”
Grow up and Be happy
After suffering years of discrimination, Angela and some 20 other transgender minors aged 6 to 17 have found hope at Amaranta school for transgender children. Amaranta was originally created to allow them to take their state exams after dropping out of their previous schools once they began to transition.
“Gender is not so static. We think you’re a boy or a girl, I think the kids go from one to another. They are freer than us. I think we as a parent, or grown-up people, we want to tell you what you are”, said Amaranta head teacher Evelyn Silva.
“Boy or girl? Tell me. Sometimes the children don’t know, they just want to play, they just want to grow up, they just want to be happy.”
The school is free for now. The lessons are thought by volunteer teachers. All costs for its first year were put up by Silva and school co-ordinator Ximena Maturana from their personal savings.
Now, trans children in Chile can embrace themselves for who they are. The school provides them with a place to grow and be as and who they are.
“I’m happy here because there are many other kids just like me,” said Alexis, a 6-year-old student, who also said that he was constantly bullied at his previous school.
Students have agreed that the school has helped them fully embrace their identity.
“I feel free and happy here,” said Felipe, 15. “The environment is very good. Everyone who arrives is simply accepted.”