An Educator’s Role in Affirming Transgender Children

A national survey by GLSEN has found that 75% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school.

The survey concludes that those who persevere have significantly lower GPAs.

These students are more likely to miss school out of concern for their safety,

They are less likely to continue furthering their education after high school. 

So, what do these statements mean for educators? 

Educators have a unique and prominent role in the lives of these children. For some, teachers are the only safe adults in their lives because their parents and siblings are non-affirming. Additionally, teachers are the first adults to see bullying and hostile treatment from other students. And as a result, they are the first people who can respond in a way that makes a transgender child feel validated and safe. Below are 5 simples ways to affirm transgender children in your classroom.

  1. Use preferred pronouns and names. This is a simple, yet impactful way to validate these children for who they are. When in doubt, have courageous conversations with the child about which pronouns they prefer.
  2. Acknowledge and react to mistreatment from other children. In short, it is no secret that mental health is a serious concern in the transgender community. One cause of depression and suicidal thoughts in transgender children is bullying. Do everything you can to prevent it. 
  3. Focus on the whole child. Ultimately, transgender children are so much more than a pronoun. Find out what gives them joy. Talk with them about books, hobbies, or other activities they enjoy. Praise them for the beautiful person they are. 
  4. Educate your colleagues. Sometimes, people’s bias is unintended and comes from a place of misunderstanding or the consumption of disinformation. Do what you can to educate your peers. For example, share resources and information that supports the affirmation of transgender children.
  5. Think of creative ways to divide your classroom activities. Even after she transitioned, my daughter was instructed to line up in the boys’ line in gym class. Her reaction was embarrassment and hurt feelings. The gym teacher publicly shamed my daughter in front of her peers. Despite a 504 instructing the teacher to come up with creative ways to divide the class, it persisted. Ideas can be anything from your favorite color or guess the number. Have fun with it. Dividing into the binary is so 2000.
  6. Don’t overthink everything. To conclude, transgender children want to be loved and accepted just like every other child in the class. Sticking to this basic principle will yield dividends in terms of a trusting, reciprocal, healthy relationship with your student. 

For more incredible suggestions subscribe to one of my favorite newsletters targeted towards educators. Time To Thrive is an annual conference held by the Human Rights Campaign. Their monthly newsletter is a bright spot in my day. In your classroom, make sure all are welcome.