Today we are going to talk about supporting transgender youth in schools.
To clarify, I know that school systems have varying policies ranging from mildly affirming to horrifically transphobic. You as a teacher have a choice. Do you love and let the child lead or dig in and cause psychological trauma?
In fostering a loving community in your classroom, we must simply make space for everyone. Children who perceive themselves to be different come in many shapes and sizes- literally. Teachers work hard to make space for children of different abilities, backgrounds, and affluence. Educators spend countless hours attending in-services on learning differences, children identified as neurodivergent (think ADD, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum). Adults and children come to school with different needs, trauma, and support systems. Why is gender identity such a hot-button topic?
Human beings have an innate desire for connectedness and community, to feel like they belong. So how do we support a student who is trans or gender diverse? What does this look like in your classroom?
Supporting Transgender Youth in Schools
- Do not tolerate racism, classism, transphobia, or any type of hate speech or action.
- Do not out the child who has shared the truth that is central to their being. Children who identify as trans or gender diverse do not have a reportable disease. Don’t treat them like they do.
- Do not lead with, do your parents know? Sharing your identity with a trusted adult is not a call to action, simply thanking the child for trusting you enough to share is all that is needed.
- Remember- even if you don’t have an openly out LGBTQ+ child in your classroom, they have parents, siblings, cousins, and friends who are part of the community- choose your words and actions with love.
- Never double down on a child’s identity publicly. If you need clarification, please pull the child aside and do not embarrass them in front of their peers.
- Create a warm environment by displaying signs of affirmation. Narwhal Magic Kindness has window clings, magnets, and stickers designed for classrooms.
The path forward is with community, kindness, and unconditional love. My heart hurts for the children whose parents are commenting on social media and screaming at board meetings. Those who are forcefully closeted or worse. Educators, consider these ways of supporting transgender youth in schools. I am asking you to be a soft place to land, for each of us has the human right to live authentically.