Hi friends! Today I am going to introduce a new feature on the blog called “Dear Jan.” This blog was born out of the need to build a positive space for marginalized communities and to educate those who support these precious people. In order to best support and educate, I am going to be taking time each month to answer some reader questions.
Like many parents, the new school year is a time I look forward to. A time for fresh starts and new adventures. On the other hand, as a parent of a transgender child, this is also a time of heightened anxiety and worry. The protective bubble of summertime is about to burst and I am simply overcome with concern. Any advice on how to handle the back-to-school blues?
I sat in a parent meeting about this very subject two weeks ago. It was a small group of five parents. Kids entering different grades but all with the same concern. How are we going to do this?
The most important suggestion I can make is to identify a safe adult at your child’s school. In my experience it is vital. When my newly transitioned first grade daughter was in the first grade, the school administration brought me in for a 504 meeting. They slid Title IV across the wooden table and asked if I had questions (note: this was before DeVos destroyed Title IV). In any case, I asked that her teachers use appropriate pronouns and think about how students are divided up. That dividing by girls/boys is problematic at best, harmful to non-binary kids in reality. I gave many suggestions, counting off, favorite color or pet. They agreed and moved on to bathroom usage. They deemed it best that my child use the nurses’ bathroom so as not to “cause any issues.”
To make a very long story short, neither the gym teacher nor the school nurse were affirming. She was lined up in the boys line, misgendered throughout the school year, including when my mother was called to the school when we were out of town. It was April and the nurse left the handicapped seat on the toilet. My daughter was drenched in pee from her pants and underwear down to her shoes. When my mom (also a school nurse) arrived at the school the nurse told her that “he” peed his pants. My mom, God bless her, lost her mind.
She was never misgendered in her classroom nor by the art or music teacher. I do believe that the administration had her best interest at heart, even with the ignorant step of having her use the nurse’s bathroom. But my daughter needed someone she could go to who was safe. She did not want to disclose to everyone in the school that she was trans. She needed an affirming adult that she could go to should another adult or student hurt her.
All these years later she is in a private school that I believe is really affirming. She still does not want to be out to everyone but she has a very affirming, trusted adult who she can go to anytime without question, if she needs it. Out of this need for safe spaces was born our window cling. We have created small vinyl window clings to denote Safe Spaces. They can be placed in any window or on plexiglass and are a silent symbol that we are affirming.
If you need help in approaching your child’s school, or would prefer not to out your family please reach out to me through www.narwhalmagickindness.com We can send Safe Spaces program literature to your school so you can remain anonymous.
Remember: deep breaths and put your oxygen mask on first. Letting our children go back to school is especially difficult this year for many reasons. Layering a change in identity or facing bullying of the past is extra hard for our kids and hearts. You can do this!