Research tells us that LGBTQ students continue to experience harassment and discrimination at school, and these climates negatively affect health and educational outcomes. However, the narratives mean more coming directly from the students themselves. Below are the responses offered by three students when asked what they would like teachers to know about their experiences as gender-nonconforming students.
High school isn't an easy time for anyone. It’s stressful trying to balance school work, extra-curricular activities, work, and a social life. But for some of us there’s another thing we have to worry about. When you begin questioning your gender, it becomes the only thing on your mind. It causes anxiety, fear, depression, and dysphoria. It’s really hard to deal with, and there are students dealing with it right now all around you.
In order to help trans kids and give them support, there are a few things to remember:
- Pronouns and names mean more than you realize. Ask students for their pronoun and preferred name and do the best you can to use them.
- If you hear or see transphobia occurring, STOP IT! Do something! Most of the time, kids are too nervous to stop it themselves. Help them out. Correct others if they use incorrect names/pronouns, and if you hear transphobic comments, make it known that they won’t be tolerated.
- Bathrooms are scary. Going to either one is a risk for most of us, so try and work something out where we can use the nurse’s bathroom or a gender neutral space if it’s available. We just want to use the bathroom like everyone else.
- Some days are harder than others. Take notice of those days and let us know we’re not alone.
All we want is to live normally, and sometimes school is safer than home. Make us feel safe, happy, and valid. You, as a teacher, have the power to do this. Make sure you take action and support us trans kids no matter what. We'll appreciate it more than you'll ever know.
I'm a gay trans student in America. Not a very good combination if you add in the conservatively-minded general population of my area. It's also not a very safe choice to be out and proud, but I am regardless. At least I have the luxury of being able to wear very "masculine" clothing and have a chest binder that compresses my size C chest. The only thing I haven't done is use the boys' bathroom. That's the one problem I face the most.
Not only is it a massive blow to my perceived masculinity -- even on my most "passing" days -- but it makes me uncomfortable regardless. Walking into the women's bathroom I feel the need to appear more feminine so people don't stare and insult me... and they still stare. Especially with my binder on, because it makes it harder to breathe and my anxiety doesn't help matters at all.
I’ve had many struggles over the past two plus years since I found myself: a FTM (female to male) transgender. Since I found myself, there's been a lot of dysphoria and fear. I was mostly scared of discrimination. Luckily, I’ve only had one bad experience so far. I was kicked out of the boys’ room, even though I was told I could be in there. I’ve never received an apology, but I always think about that when I need to use the bathroom.
I want teachers to understand that all we want is to be accepted. We’re not bad people. We were born this way. Please, keep a look out for discrimination that occurs in the classroom, it makes us even more miserable.