Monthly Resources – November 2022
Published November 1, 2022
November is Transgender Awareness Month
November is Transgender Awareness month, a great time to review our responsibilities to youth who are transgender, and to seek expert advice about fulfilling these responsibilities. Here are a few key points quoted from the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Gender-Inclusive Schools webpage:
- “All students have the rights to be treated consistent with their gender identity at school.”
- “Washington public schools have a responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students, including transgender and gender-expansive students.”
- “In Washington public schools, students have the right to be addressed by their requested name, pronoun (e.g., he/him, she/her, they/them, etc.), and gender designation.”
- “School dress codes should be gender-neutral and should not restrict a student’s clothing choices on the basis of gender.”
- “Public schools must allow students to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.”
- “Public schools should provide access to the locker room that corresponds to a student’s gender identity.”
For greater explanation, please see OSPI’s Gender-Inclusive Schools: Resources for School Districts webpage.
The importance and opportunity in supporting our transgender youth cannot be understated – the risk of death by suicide for LGBTQ+ youth is four times higher than others to die by suicide if they do not have care and support from friends and school personnel. Without care and support from family, they are eight times more likely to die by suicide. These risks are even higher for transgender youth than for LGBTQ+ youth in aggregate.
To learn how educators and other school personnel can best support transgender youth, we consulted Light Estrada Gonzalez of Children’s Home Society. Light has been the facilitator of Triple Point NCW since its beginning in 2020. Light uses they and them pronouns.
We asked Light for recommendations from Triple Point NCW on how educators and other school personnel can best support youth who are transgender. Light recommends the following:
First, understand what “transgender” means: “Having a gender identity or expression that is different from a person’s biological sex or physical anatomy.” One should also learn what to ask and what not to ask in order to create safety for transgender youth. Creating Safe Spaces, a training offered by Triple Point NCW at no cost, would be immensely helpful to all school personnel.
School personnel need “the ability to listen with care, and to validate the experiences and self-identification of transgender youth.” Light tells us that youth do not require someone who knows everything, but our students do “need someone who believes and affirms them.” It is important for adults to know that a student sharing with you that they are transgender (“coming out”) has probably engaged in considerable self-reflection over a long period of time. Their disclosures should be accepted as given. They need safety from us.
School personnel should use the name and pronouns preferred by the student, depending on the situation. For example, the individual might prefer one name and set of pronouns privately, but another name and set of pronouns publicly. Failure to protect an individual’s privacy could result in unsafe, detrimental circumstances for the student. When in doubt, ask the student, privately. Ask the student to respectfully correct their name and pronoun usage.
Given the high reported incidence of bullying in restrooms and locker rooms, Light advocates, and hopes to see school personnel advocate, for transgender youth to be able to use gender-neutral restrooms and places to change clothing. Should youth desire to use spaces aligned with their gender identity, Light suggests that adults help them think through the consequences of requesting this. If the transgender student believes that their safety is best attained that way, then adults should support them through the process of trying it.
Teachers can use introduction forms, such as this About Me form, to give youth a chance to share details that they might not wish to share during class.
Lastly, it is very important for schools to have student-led organizations such as a Gay/Straight Alliance, Equity Club, Inclusivity Club, or Diversity Club. These demonstrate acceptance of diversity and create safe places for transgender students, and all students, to find peer support.