It was my pleasure and privilege to both attend and present at Gender Odyssey Seattle August 23-27 to bring Welcoming Schools materials and resources to more families and youth-serving professionals to create supportive learning environments for all students. My Welcoming Schools colleagues and I were delighted to participate in thought-provoking workshops and discussion groups on gender diversity while also introducing our national program for safe and inclusive schools.

The Gender Odyssey Conference, an international conference focused on the needs and interests of transgender and gender diverse people, their loved ones and professionals who serve them, is in its 16th year. Gender Odyssey offers two programs with a different target audience: the family program for families raising gender-diverse and/or transgender children and the professional program for those seeking to enhance their understanding of those they serve.

Aidan Key, the founder of the conference, leads the largest network of support groups in the nation for families raising transgender and gender-nonconforming children at Seattle Children's Hospital. He also happens to be one of our newest Welcoming Schools Facilitators, having attended our National Facilitator Certification Training in June.

I presented a session entitled “Welcoming Schools: Talking to Elementary Students about Gender” during day one of the professional program. We explored developmentally appropriate ways to respond to questions about gender and looked at lesson plans and books that can help educators to create gender-inclusive classrooms. Welcoming Schools Certified Facilitator Tracy Flynn presented the same workshop during the family program. On day two, I joined Key and Asaf Orr, an attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, for a robust question and answer session called “Gender Google for Schools.”

Every year I attend, Gender Odyssey is an invigorating time of learning and sharing, and the most powerful experience is always listening to transgender and non-binary youth speak their truths.  I attended an incredible youth panel and listened as dynamic youth shared their experiences, aspirations and ideas for change. As the young people shared their personal stories and vision for a culture that no longer embraces the gender binary, one member of the audience asked a panelist how they fight against stereotypical notions of gender and received a confident, one word response, “Feminism.”  The confidence and drive that the panelists displayed as they discussed their experiences with toxic masculinity in schools, their desires to be the changemakers that they already are, and gracefully offered suggestions for the adults in the room. only increased my drive to work with schools and districts to continually improve learning environments and outcomes for transgender and non-binary youth.

Gender Odyssey is an outstanding, informative conference, and I highly encourage interested educators, youth-serving professionals, and families to attend  in the future. We at Welcoming Schools certainly plan to be back.

HRC's Welcoming Schools is the nation's premier program dedicated to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools by embracing family diversity, creating LGBTQ- and gender-inclusive schools, preventing bias-based bullying, a supporting transgender and non-binary students.


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