How Can You Make School Easier For A Transgender Child
Gender stereotypes are reinforced in many ways in school environments. Schools limiting activities based on preconceived notions of appropriate behavior, prevent all youth from reaching their full potential. Transgender students therefore are not the only students to benefit from creating gender-inclusive spaces. Every student should have the right to learn in a safe and accepting school environment.
Why Does Supporting Transgender Youth Matter?
Gender-based harassment and violence can be widespread in schools and affect all students, not just those who are transgender or gender-expansive. Dispelling harmful stereotypes and prejudices of all kinds creates spaces where every student has the opportunity to learn and thrive. Transgender students should be supported in their gender identities just as other students would have their needs met. Lots of risk arise when bullying occurs towards students based on their gender, or others' perceptions of their gender; learning halts, and students worry about which restroom they can use, or where they will be safe from their bully. Students who are harassed are also at higher risk for truancy, substance abuse, and emotional distress. These are not issues that go away by being ignored. These students who experience harassment are twice as likely to report not plan to attend post-secondary school. Even after the harassment has ceased, these individuals have more struggles with future success and with their mental health and wellbeing as young adults. These youth are being sent to school to learn and explore new skills. No environment should halt these experiences based on perceptions gender identity.
How Can We Support Transgender Students?
There is no one size fits all guide to supporting transgender students. Each student has different circumstances including; age, personality, emotional wellbeing, and the level of family support. While a student's desire to come out and transition is based off their need to become and be seen as their authentic self, the timing of this transition should be carefully balanced. Ideally, the student should not be in a high level of distress in the school environment. This allows the student, school faculty, and family (if appropriate) to work together for a smooth transition. This could include training for staff, students, and parents, as well as a plan for the student's identity to be shared with the school's community. This process should not take long, as delaying the student's transition could harm their well-being. Setting a date for the student to come out may help alleviate some of the stress but if that is not enough, expediency should be the primary goal.
Any decision to raise the topic with parents must be made very carefully and in consultation with the student. In some instances, a school may choose not to bring the subject up if there is a concern that parents or caregivers may react negatively.
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