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Transgender for Schools

A transgender student who chooses to affirm their gender can experience a unique set of challenges within the school environment. It is very important to work with the parents of the student and the student themselves to figure out the best way to support them. This can include updating student records to their new name, action around what uniform the student wishes to wear and which facilities they wish to use. It can also include helping teachers and students understand the process. Often it can mean setting a date when the student will start going by a new name and pronoun and wearing a new uniform. It is also be helpful to seek out training for staff to make sure all staff are equipped to support the student.

A lot of the controversy around students transitioning at school is focused on medical transition and whether or not a minor can make decisions about hormones and surgery. It is important to remember that these options are only made available under medical supervision, and that minors require the consent of their parents or a competency test. These are not decisions that are made lightly, and largely do not require the supervision or input of the school. It is important that the school supports and respects the decisions made by the student, parents, and medical practitioners supporting the trans young person.

Another common issue with trans students at school is privacy. When a student identifies as trans, it is important to let them come out to others in their own time. The student alone has the right to tell other people, including staff, if and/or when they want. In the meantime, ensure they are emotionally supported at school. If the school has access to a counsellor, it might be worth referring the student to them. Not all trans students will have a supportive enough home environment to tell their family or to be able to be themselves in the family home.  A supportive school environment can open up a crucial space in which they can process their feelings and experiences.

The trans community faces disproportionately high rates of mental illness, self harm and suicidality. It is important to acknowledge that poorer mental health outcomes are not inherently caused by being trans, but are typically the result of bullying, shame and isolation. Some of the more alarming statistics show that nearly half of all trans people have attempted suicide. The best way to combat this is to ensure that trans students have an environment that supports them, and there are crisis services that students can be referred to if needed. Furthermore, the opportunity to join peer support groups can give young trans people access to positive reinforcement and safe environments in which to express themselves. AGA offers such services.

Key Points

  • Transgender students need extra support at school, but what that support looks like can be different from student to student and starts with a conversation with the student in question.
  • It is important that school systems are up to date and that staff are conscious of transgender students. Workplace training can ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Not all trans students will have a supportive home environment, so it is extra important that school is a supportive place for these students.