School support feedback
The Joint Managerial Body provides an advisory and support service to Ireland’s 380 voluntary secondary schools. While the incidence of gender identity questioning and transition has, no doubt, been a constant presence in the school-going population, it’s only since around 2010 that students have been
'coming out’ as transgender to school personnel in any significant numbers. The spectrum of pastoral and, indeed, policy challenges arising from this emergence required trustworthy, professional, and compassionate guidance for school authorities, particularly as most of our schools have a distinctive faith ethos and many have single-sex provision.
Enter Dr Vanessa Lacey! Vanessa was our first point of contact in terms of seeking not alone advice, but actual accompaniment, on a case-by-case basis over a number of years. Her empathic understanding of young people on the trans journey, their parents and siblings, as well as their school principals, guidance counsellors, teachers, and classroom peers, provided a secure, ‘held’, foundation for addressing the many anxieties and practical challenges often arising in such situations.
Empathy, however, only gets you so far. Trust-building with school communities is embedded in the twin foundations of relationship and professionalism, and Vanessa’s calm and considerate demeanour was underpinned by her experience and expertise, containing, and holding everyone concerned in the ultimate goal of meeting the student’s needs while on this often-complex journey.
The JMB and its school communities have been so fortunate to have encountered Dr Lacey in our own respective journeys toward transgender student recognition, integration, and pastoral care, and we wholeheartedly commend Vanessa to her new and exciting venture with Gendercare Ireland.
Dr Michael Redmond,
Director, JMB Research & Development,
Secretariat of Secondary Schools,
School support feedback
Today school leaders face a myriad of challenges and often they struggle to find the answers to support their colleagues and the students in their care. When I faced the challenge of managing the needs of our first transgender student, I was advised to make contact with Vanessa Lacey. In my twelve years as a school Principal few people have impressed me more than Vanessa. Her empathy, wisdom and commitment to all those connected to the needs of transgender students is truly inspirational. Her presentation to the staff of Castleknock Community College in 2015 is still remembered to this day.
It was the poet Waldo Emerson who challenged us to leave a trail when he wrote;
Do not go where the path may lead.
Go instead where there is no path
And leave a trail
What lies before us and
What lies behind us
Are small matters compared to what lies within us.
And when we bring what is within
Out into the world,
For me Vanessa Lacey brings as the extraordinary gift of bringing out the best in all of us. She is transforming the mindset of an schools across Ireland and empowered us with the skills and confidence to provide for the world of transgender students in today’s schools. I look forward to building new beginnings with Vanessa and Gendercare Ireland in the years to come.
Principal Castleknock Community College
Dr Vanessa Lacey,
Wishing you all the best with the venture that is Gendercare Dr Lacey. It is a fantastic venture and a welcome development for those in Ireland. I first met Dr Lacey almost 10 years ago when I presented at the HSE Transgender Healthcare conference she organized in Carlow. It was an honor to meet a kindred spirit who was working so hard to develop resources and services for gender diverse people in Ireland. Dr Lacey has spearheaded and co-ordinated the annual roll out of Gender Identity Skills Training (GIST). It continues to be pleasure to work with Dr Lacey in delivery of this training. I am aware of the hard work and dedication that Dr Lacey has put into her work with young people, families, health service staff and for the past 10 years in her previous role as Health and Education Manager in Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI). Dr Lacey delivers training for the Clinical Psychology Trainees which is so well regarded in the department. We have also been involved together in a number of research projects in Ireland and is always a pleasure to work together.
---Dr Anne Kehoe, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Assistant Professor UCD, President Elect of the Psychological Society of Ireland.