November is Transgender Awareness Month

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.

Triple Point NCW

Triple Point, a program of peer and professional support for LGBTQ+ youth, began in Vancouver, Washington, in 1996, and has been operating in Walla Walla since 2006. Just two years ago, in 2020, Triple Point became available in North Central Washington via Children’s Home Society.

Youth from ages 12 – 18, who reside in Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan Counties, and who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and more, can now attend Triple Point peer support groups and social events. These are available both virtually and in-person.

Participants can also receive resources and referrals well aligned with their needs. Light Estrada, whom we consulted about transgender awareness, has served as the Triple Point NCW Family Support Specialist since the program’s implementation.

Light tells us that Triple Point NCW serves from ten to fifteen youth each month. Services are free of charge. Parent permission is required for twelve-year-old children to participate. Virtual groups and social events are attended mostly by youth who live some distance from Wenatchee. In-person meetings are held at Wenatchee YMCA Teen Center in Wenatchee, and are attended mostly by youth who live in or near Wenatchee.

Once a student decides that they would like to participate in Triple Point NCW, they can contact Light via email: light.estrada@chs-wa.org or by phone: (509) 607-6547.

About Me, LGBTQ+ Inclusive

Many teachers ask students to introduce themselves both to their entire classes and, via a confidential form, privately to the teacher only.

Such confidential forms might ask, “Is there anything you want me, your teacher, to know about you?”

The answer may or may not have anything to do with gender identity or sexual orientation. But making the form inclusive will send the message that you and your classroom are safe and affirming. Include spaces for students to provide, if they choose, their:

  • Preferred name.
  • Preferred pronouns.
  • Gender identity (Provide a space to fill in rather than a checklist.)
  • Name and pronouns to use when speaking to your parent/guardian. This is for safety!

Creating Safe Spaces

Triple Point provides resources to LGBTQ+ school staff at no charge, and provides its Creating Safe Spaces training at no charge. Triple Point NCW can work together with schools and their staff to create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth. See the training description below.

Creating Safe Spaces: A LGBTQ+ Discussion. Training covers statistics, terms and definitions, difference between sex assigned at birth and gender, pronouns, misgendering, deadnaming, how to be a better ally, and Q&A.

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