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An Educators Role In Affirming Transgender Youth

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. Moreover, teachers are the first adults to see bullying and hostile treatment from other students. And 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. 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. 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. So, do what you can to educate your peers. 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. Above all, transgender children want to be loved and accepted just like every other child in the class. Therefore, 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. Most important, in your classroom, make sure all are welcome.

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She Deserves To Play

She deserves to play. It is a fundamental right.

I am the mother of a young girl who enjoys moving her body, is an amazing teammate, and wants to play sports. In other words, she wants to do something that should be within her fundamental rights to do. She deserves to play.

The reality is that I am a mother of a ten-year-old transgender daughter and because of that simple fact, her right to play is being threatened. Unfortunately, because of a previous administration that has made my daughter the target of dangerous laws and policies, we will forever have to fight for her right to play. Sadly, we will have to challenge laws that threaten her right to run, high-five her teammates, lose, and maybe most importantly, be a good sport.

Fortunately, we have a new leader who is ushering in a kinder, more tolerant era of inclusivity. Thankfully, we have hope. Biden signed an executive order allowing students to compete in sports according to their gender identification. However, I challenge you to think about what happens when the administration changes again. Furthermore, people are challenging his order as we speak. This could forever impact my child’s right to play sports.  Perhaps, your child will be impacted as well.

To those who question my daughter’s right to play soccer, swim, play field hockey, or any other sport, I’m all in. I am ready for the fight. Please, consider the implications of this. Do we all line up for chromosomal and hormonal testing and physical exams? You can’t test one person without testing all athletes, right? After all, that is discrimination.

In short, to those who are discussing this over the water cooler or preaching it from the pulpit, think about how your vote affects these types of policies. Above all, I ask you to think about my daughter and the entire trans community. Please consider the fact that this discrimination and segregation are personally devastating to real humans. Humans with feelings, and hopes, and dreams. People who deserve the simple, basic right to play soccer, swim, or play field hockey, just like everyone else. To summarize, she deserves to play.