Members of Spahr Center Q’d In Youth Advisory Committee presented a gender training at the Marin Office of Education. In attendance were teachers, principals, school counselors, parents of trans and gender expansive youth, psychologists, and other interested community members.
The committee members spoke from their own experiences and their words were powerful and potent. They shared information about gender and what transgender and gender non-conforming and gender questioning youth experience on a day to day basis. They also expressed what they need from family, schools, and peers.
Here are my main take-aways from this enriching experience.
Respect and believe Trans youth
Early Life Education about Gender is crucial
Teaching about gender in early education normalizes gender diversity and gives youth the words and ideas to understand what they may be feeling inside, or what their peers may be experiencing.
Many trans and gnc youth experience bullying. Some of it is overt, some of it is subtle. And yes, even here in our liberal Marin County, one youth who identifies as non-binary reported they were constantly bullied by others who called them “it” and was repeatedly taunted with “that’s so gay.”
Talking to young kids may seem developmentally inappropriate to some, but the speaker noted “this is when children are most “mold-able” and should be learning how to be kind and how to treat others, all others, from a loving place.”
Educators need to stand up for trans youth. All youth want to be seen, heard, safe, supported, and loved, and trans youth often do not feel they are.
While it is true youth are teaching us all the time, they should not have to carry that burden. They need parents and educators to speak up for them. And they want us to be proactive. Some suggestions:
Get educated and tell others
When doing introductions say your name and the pronouns you use. Invite others to share their pronouns if they want to.
Also provide a way for students to communicate with you privately, perhaps a form that asks for preferred name and pronouns. This empowers all students, not just trans students.
Make sure there are gender neutral restrooms and that they are easily accessible.
Let people know that the classroom/school/community is a safe space for all, and model that.
Call out misinformation and inappropriate jokes among students and other adults.
Set consequences and follow through for disrespect or bullying
Never “out” someone without their knowledge and consent
Know the rights of trans students and advocate for them. Teach all students these rights.
Weave transgender people’s stories, history, and cultural issues into all subjects at school. We were challenged:
“Why not include a book about a transgender character, or highlight a transgender scientist or artist?”
I'll end here, with this bold statement from one of the speakers:
“Trans people are not the problem, transphobic people are the problem.”