Bee Fennell (they/them), a 13-year-old trans teen from Wicklow, took the stage at the 2023 Child Talks conference to discuss the need for further education programs regarding to transgender issues facing Irish youth.
Trans teen Bee Fennell, hailing from Newtownmountkennedy in Wicklow, was one of six youth speakers at the Child Talks event held at Dublin’s Helix Centre for the Performing Arts earlier this month. The event, hosted by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office, was attended by nearly 1,000 schoolchildren from institutions in Wicklow, Kildare, Dublin, Cork, Westmeath, Roscommon, and Meath. The most recent conference marks the sixth annual Childs Talk event to be held since its inception.
The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, said: “Child Talks has been running for six years now and is going from strength to strength. We’ve had so many brave and passionate young people tell their stories over the past few years and this year is no different. Hearing from children on the issues that matter to them is an integral part of the work of our Office and we were delighted to provide this platform to young people again.”
Amongst other issues discussed at the event, including STEM programs for girls and vaping, LGBTQ+ issues emerged as a serious concern for school-aged children through the country. Bee Fennell used their time on stage at the Child Talks conference to discuss their experience coming out as a transgender teen and the lack of resources available for trans youth in Wicklow.
“I wanted to take part in Child Talks 2023 because I wanted to share my story and hopefully encourage others to get the education to be a true ally to the community and to understand what it is like to be transgender,” said Fennell.
During their time on stage, Fennell described how they came out to their family and their school: “I was 12 when I officially came out to my parents and only a few months later, to the primary school that I was attending.
“Coming out to my school was the biggest step, because it meant everyone knew, it wasn’t just in the house anymore. I remember that night so clearly, mam and I, sitting on the couch, typing an email that was going to change my life.
“I talked about my name and gender change and explained what it meant. That email was sent around 7PM, outside school hours. We received a response 3.5 hours later, at 10:30 that night.”
Fennell went on to explain how their school set up a meeting to help the 12-year-old student come out to their classmates: “After a terrifying but amazing meeting with my school to discuss next steps, the day came when the teacher would tell the class about who I really was.
“Me and two friends I had already come out to went to a separate room to avoid any negative reactions. After the most anxiety-filled half-hour of my life, I was walking up the steps to where my class awaited my arrival. A few friends immediately hugged and congratulated me.”
Unfortunately, as Fennell reported on stage, not everyone’s reaction was so kind.
“Some others just stared. Shocked, confused, some even with disgusted impressions,” they said.
Thankfully, however, the vast majority of Fennell’s classmates were accepting and welcoming, leading the trans teen to report that “At that moment…I was more comfortable in my identity than I have ever been before. I was officially Bee, officially me.”
Bee went on to explain how the LGBTQ+ organisation, BelongTo youth services, helped them discover the community that they’ve always been looking for.
“I had been alone in that fight until I walked into that [BelongTo] youth group. I always knew there was community, sure, it’s in the name. But I didn’t have anyone in my position, having gone through it. I didn’t have anyone who didn’t get confused when I simply introduced myself until I walked into that group,” Fennell concluded.
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