Post submitted by former HRC Digital Media Manager Helen Parshall
This month, HRC asked members of our Parents for Transgender Equality Council to share reflections on how schools can support their young, transgender and non-binary family members as they head back to school.
For many children with marginalized identities, the first few days and weeks back to school can make or break their year -- and for trans and non-binary students, it can be doubly difficult to know where to turn to seek support for their unique needs.
HRC and the University of Connecticut’s recent 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report revealed that a majority of transgender youth don’t feel safe using the bathroom at school and are often not called by their chosen names or correct pronouns.
That’s why it’s not only critical that educators continue learning how to create safe and supportive schools for transgender and non-binary students, but that these young people -- who might not feel safe speaking up -- have their own strategies as well when they return to school.
Here are some of our parents’ hopes for the new school year:
“I wonder if schools will be ready for my son, for our family and for all that we represent. I’m proud that his teachers take the lead setting a tone of acceptance and support. In our school support looks like advocacy, honesty and love. Students learn about protecting the rights of others, and they are asked to be their honest, authentic selves each day.”
-- Jodie Patterson, New York
“We wanted the staff and students at our school to have the knowledge, compassion and vision to understand the challenges Nicole faced on a daily basis. Nicole just wants to be able to fit in -- just like her brother. We worked with the school team to learn together how best to support all students. It was about working together to make simple changes to help everyone learn about new things at a comfortable pace.”
-- Wayne and Kelly Maines, Texas
“Please learn how to correctly pronounce our child’s name and call them by their chosen name. Please don’t tell them that names perceived as culturally different are difficult and decide that you are going to call them a nickname. Please don’t ask our child to ‘explain’ their clothes, hairstyle or the meaning of their name. Please speak up when there is name-calling or gender-based slurs in the classroom -- and don’t always divide the class into groups by gender. You never know when a child may not identify with the binary.”
-- Ea M. Porter, Minnesota
“We have the same hopes and aspirations for our transgender son as we do our cisgender daughter for this school year. We ask simply that our educators and schools offer a safe and supportive environment for each of them so they can learn and thrive in peace.”
-- Pete and Sarah Tchoryk, Michigan
"My child thrives in school because her administrators have been so supportive in creating a safe and welcoming environment for learning. They use her pronouns and chosen name. They allow her to use the facilities she identifies with. She can participate in activities based on her gender identity. And they created a very inclusive, comprehensive non-discrimination policy."
-- Amy D’Arpino, Arizona
“When Max went back to school with a new name, new pronouns and a new bathroom that aligned with his gender identity, his reading scores jumped three levels in just three weeks -- and he didn't lose a single friend. When parents and teachers embrace trans and non-binary kids, it actually IMPROVES their lives. This tiny example of acceptance should be applied for every LGBTQ student, all the time.”
-- Amber and Adam Briggle, Texas
“As we head back to middle school, we ask that our teachers, staff and administrators embrace the full spectrum of gender identity and expression in their language. Our kids are more than simply "boys" and "girls." They are students, artists, singers, mathematicians, scientists and more. They are busting beyond binary pronouns, and schools need to recognize and celebrate that all students are on a gender spectrum.”
-- Sarah and Brian Watson, Maryland
Housed by the HRC Foundation, Welcoming Schools and Time to THRIVE are national programs designed to help LGBTQ youth succeed. Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier professional development program providing LGBTQ and gender inclusive resources to schools to reduce bullying behavior and establish a positive school climate. Time to THRIVE is an annual national conference that brings together K-12 educators, counselors and other youth-serving professionals to build awareness and cultural competency to better support LGBTQ youth.