By Grace Manger
As you may know, last month the White House rescinded protections for trans students that were put in place by the Obama Administration. This blatantly transphobic decision rattled many of us in the LGBTQIA community, but it also incited a rallying call to take the protection of trans kids into our own hands. It has been made clear that it is up to us to ensure trans kids are safe and respected—not only at school, but everywhere.
If you’re the parent of a trans kid right now: I can only imagine you’re feeling scared, worried, and uncertain for your child’s safety. Education is a human right, and feeling safe and respected at school is an incredibly important part of that right. So, while there are many unknowns in our world right now, there are also many ways to be proactive for your child. Here are some ideas for questions you can ask your child’s school to ensure they are respected and prepared.
1. What kind of LGBTQ competency training do your teachers and staff receive?
First and foremost, you need to assess where the school is starting from. There are still plenty of people who don’t understand what it means to be trans or gender nonconforming, and not all schools include training on LGBTQ topics for their staff. This includes the school nurse, guidance counselors, and office secretaries, too! Equip your child’s school with resources to learn about gender identity if need be—You can even point them to My Kid Is Gay, especially our Defining Series and our information specifically for teachers.
2. Will my child be allowed to use the restroom of their choice?
The topic of bathrooms is on the forefront of a lot of people’s minds right now amidst a wave of “bathroom bills,” and for good reason. Bathrooms can be a very anxiety inducing experience for trans and gender nonconforming people; Prohibiting them from using the restroom that aligns with their gender identity is not only dangerous, but a road block from attending school in the first place. Think about it: If your kid can’t go to the bathroom at school, they can’t go to school (at least not without risking health problems like dehydration and urinary tract infections). Make sure your child will have access to a safe restroom.
3. What is your bullying policy, specifically in regards to gender identity and expression?
Get your hands on a physical copy of their bullying policy that you can refer back to in the future. If your child’s school does not include gender identity and expression in their anti-bullying policy, then you have a task ahead of you. Talk with the Principal, attend some school board meetings, and make your case that, just like race or religion, kids deserve respect regardless of their gender identity or expression.
Moreover, you should not only make sure your kid understands that being bullied isn’t their fault, but also put a practical plan in place should they find themselves being bullied at school: Where should they go, and who can they tell? Hopefully your kid will never have to use this plan, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
4. How will my child’s gender identity be explained to their peers?
A huge part of bullying prevention is education, and your school has an amazing opportunity to teach its students a lesson about celebrating differences. Make sure your child feels comfortable with how their identity is explained to their peers, both in the language used and the setting. Does your kid want to be in the room, do they want to tell their classmates on their own, or would they rather not be there at all? This is also a great time to work on incorporating LGBTQ themes into the school’s curriculum: Check out our Resources page for book suggestions for both young children and teens!
5. What will you do to ensure that everyone at school uses my child’s correct name and pronouns?
Using correct names and pronouns is crucial, and arguably one of the easiest ways to show up and respect trans youth. Will your school change your child’s name on attendance sheets, nametags, and paperwork? If your kid has a substitute teacher, will the Principal inform them of your child’s name and pronouns beforehand?
6. Have you had a trans or gender nonconforming student in the past?
If so, ask them what that process looked like, and what they will try to do differently/better this time. You could even get in touch with that other child’s family to see if they have any advice or words of wisdom for navigating your particular school system.
7. Who are my child’s active allies?
Is there a GSA in place that your child could join? Are there any out teachers at the school, or any vocal allies that you can talk to? You never know—maybe that second grade teacher has a gay sister and would love nothing more than to take your child under their wing and advocate for them when you’re not there.
Above all, make sure your kid understands their worth and that they deserve respect everywhere they go. Your child is brave beyond measure to be living authentically, and, just by reading this article, you have proven yourself to be a kind and courageous parent. Thank you, thank you, thank you <3
Grace is the Senior Managing Editor here at My Kid Is Gay. A graduate of Kalamazoo College in Michigan, she now lives in Portland, Oregon. In her spare time, she can be found reading feminist theory, writing letters, and doing handstands around the world. Follow her on Twitter @gracemanger