What gets in the way of supporting and including transgender students? See some of the common barriers to transgender inclusion in schools.
Lack of knowledge.
Most educators and parents do not understand gender identity and, as a result, harbor stereotypes and misconceptions about what it means to be transgender. These misconceptions can lead to the adoption of policies and practices that are based on unwarranted fears and concerns rather than on the accurate information that should guide policy development. Such policy includes unnecessary surgical procedures, official identity document changes, hormone treatments, or case-by-case reviews that can restrict or preclude the opportunity for transgender students to play sports according to their gender identity.
Education and factual information is the key. All members of the school community should receive information and education about gender identities, school or district non-discrimination policies, the use of preferred names and pronouns, and expectations for creating a respectful school climate for all students. Try:
- Providing training for school staff
- Developing lesson plans/activities within the classroom
- Creating district policies that support all students and are enforced in every school
Legislators and outside community groups in some states have objected to schools adopting inclusive transgender student-participation policies. These groups base their objections on fears about the participation of transgender students that are rooted in misinformation and, in some cases, political controversy. These fears include claims that transgender girls pose a threat to the safety of non-transgender girls in the locker room, or that transgender girls on a team will always upset a competitive balance that disadvantages non-transgender girls. When policy or laws are based on these fears rather than on good information, transgender students are excluded, and dysfunctional, potentially illegal and unenforceable state laws create controversy and confusion.
Laws surrounding transgender students and adults are ever evolving. They may vary from city to state to federal, as we have noted of late. However, factual information that underscores safety and dignity for all individuals is again paramount to policy decisions. Schools may wish to consider information sessions during a “parent night” or sending home educational materials in a school newsletter as an option. Try:
Lack of preparation/education.
- Conducting meeting with parents
- Sharing information via a newsletter
- Identifying and enlisting parent allies
Even when schools adopt an inclusive policy that is consistent with Title IX
and based on accurate information, failing to provide education about transgender identity and those policies and practices can sabotage enforcement. Educating parents and community members, as well as coaches and other school staff responsible for enacting policies and practices, is a foundational precondition to effective implementation of inclusive policies and practices.
Human Rights Campaign — Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools: http://www.hrc.org/resources/schools-in-transition-a-guide-for-supporting-transgender-students-in-k-12-s
National Center for Transgender Equality — Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students: Your Rights at School: http://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/kyr/KYR-Schools-May-2016.pdf