Rome (AP) – The Ripetta School of Art in Rome has recently joined several Italian high schools that allow transgender students to be recognized by a name other than the one they were given at birth.
The initiative aims to create an environment where transgender students feel safe, reflecting the growing awareness of gender dysphoria among adolescents and children in Italy.
“I am very happy about this,” said Matteo Kokimiglio, an 18-year-old schoolgirl who was born a girl but identified as a man, and is in the process of turning legal sex into a man.
She hopes the new rules at her school will help other teenagers who change their gender “feel more protected” and “go through far less trouble than I have ever experienced.”
Matteo said he felt the body trap had grown. He said he was being abused, suffering from anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. When he was 14, he mustered up the courage to tell his parents that he wanted to change his gender. Although they supported, it was a long way for the family.
His father, Franco Coquimillo, said he initially struggled to come to terms with Mateo’s desire to become a man, but now fully supports his transition.
“My only regret is that we could have started earlier,” Coximillo said.
Although research shows that public opinion is increasingly supportive of LGBTQ rights, Italy is still a conservative society, influenced by the Catholic Church’s views on sexuality.
2016 by the Williams Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, assessing public support for transgender rights in 23 countries. The survey ranked Italy 16th, lower than the United States and six other countries in Western Europe.
Some Italian universities allow transgender students to choose their name and gender on internal documents, even if they have not yet legally changed their gender, but only a few high schools have recently adopted similar rules.
Ripetta School adopted a new policy in December to give transgender students a “quiet” environment during the transition and the freedom to be independent, says school teacher Sonia Mugello.
Maddalena Mosconi, a psychotherapist who runs the juvenile ward at the San Camillo Hospital in Rome, said transgender students were often abused and more likely to drop out of high school than the general population.
“On many occasions, I have had to deal with teenagers who dropped out of school because of bullying and ridicule, just as they were not accepted,” he said.
Mosconi says the average age of applicants for help at his center is declining, which he attributes to the growing awareness of transgender issues in Italy.
After graduating in June, Mateo wants to pursue a career in cartoon animation. She started hormone therapy six months ago and is undergoing psychiatric therapy. In Italy, sex reassignment surgery is not required, but Matteo says he wants to have breast surgery.
“Someone thinks we do it so that others are recognized as (male or female),” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. We just do it because when we look in the mirror, we can finally say, “Finally I am.”
Carl Ritter, based in Rome, contributed to this report.