A childhood friend past on to me a blog about a young child out in Nashua, New Hampshire and the efforts being taken to make that child feel accepted in the classroom. You would think that every school and sensible caring adults in America would want every single child to feel welcome, to be able to express his or her self and feel good about themselves, but after reading just a sampling of the short sighted comments left on that blog, I can see there is a great deal of work and education that still needs to be done.
“Children often have difficulty having schools respect them for who they believe they are. If a transgender girl wants to be able to wear feminine clothes to school and be addressed as a girl, often times we see schools feeling a fair amount of discomfort around that.” Janson Wu, an attorney with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.
Wu is the lawyer representing a transgender third grade girl in a Nashua elementary school. Born with male anatomy, this child will now be allowed to attend school as a girl and be treated as a girl in every way, including the use of the restroom.
Many schools across this country have faced a similar challenge. I applaud this school system for working towards the best interest of this young lady. Though I do not have first hand knowledge, I am sure that is took a bit of educating the superintendents and school administrators about what it means to be transgender.
Superintendent Mark Conrad stated, “We don’t have a specific policy on transgender students, but we do have policies in place that prevent discrimination against students and bullying, and we regularly review those policies.”
(I want to note before continuing that one of the unspoken benefits for the other children in her class is the lesson of accepting individuals regardless of identity or orientation. These children will grow up with a much wider view of their world than many of us did.)
By allowing this girl to attend school, use the girl’s restroom and be herself in all parts of her life, the school is going a long way in helping this young lady maintain a healthy life. As I have stated in previous blogs, transgender youth are extremely prone to depression and self-bodily harm (ie, cutting, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide) if they are not living in an accepting environment even at a young age. When transgender youths are growing up in a non-accepting or hostile environment, they are 5 times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-transgender counter parts. Over 60% of all homeless youth in America identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. The majority of those youths state that the reason they left home or were kicked out was they were living in a hostile environment whether it was at home or at school.
First thing is the parents of this young lady in New Hampshire have created a home where their child feels safe and free to be the person she knows she is. That is not an easy task for many parents when their child is struggling with who they are. It takes countless sessions with a qualified therapist, if you can even find one in your area that handles transgender issues let alone transgender children. It will take doctor visits and blood work for years to come and the struggle when to start with hormone blockers to prevent the body's natural progression to puberty. Trust me, there is nearly nothing that I hated more growing up than when I started growing facial and body hair and my voice deepened. For transgender boys, the idea of growing breasts is absolutely hideous. These are just some of the issues these kids and parents will have to face together. One of the best examples is Josie Romero and her parent's. In an ABC interview, their journey, from Josie's announcement that she wanted to be a girl, through all the doctor visits to dealings with friends and family, is revealed for all to learn from.
Examples such as Josie, Amber who was featured in the Los Angeles Times, Tammy who was featured on CNN, are just a few stories popping up across the country and the world of transgender children and their struggles to be accepted. Nashua school system has taken a great step forward and hopefully will stand out as an example for other schools across the country. Parents, teachers and administrators need to prepare themselves, educate themselves and to have an understanding of what it means to be transgender. These children just want to feel accepted in the gender their brains are telling them they are. These children are not perverts. They are not mentally ill. They are not confused. Gender Identity is established at a very young age. I knew when I was 3 or 4 years old, but I grew up in a time when even the word transgender or transsexual wasn't a word the average American knew, let alone knew how to treat a transgender child.
It is going to take teachers working with professionals that are knowledgeable on transgender child issues to create a class room environment that is safe and nurturing for all their students and not just the ones that fall into a perceived social norm. Every school system should be prepared with transgender inclusion guidelines. Once teachers and administrators are aware of the issues surrounding a transgender child in their class room, they will realize that once these kids are allowed to be themselves in all aspects of their life, they are just as normal as any other kid.
Kids today have the ever so slight advantage of growing up in a more accepting time. Information is readily available for parents and teachers on this subject.
“I think that as the environments become more and more welcoming to transgender and gender variant youth, we’re going to see a lot more students coming out. And that’s something that schools and parents will need to be prepared to deal with.” Janson Wu.
As a teacher, are you prepared if a transgender child is enrolled in your class room?
As a parent, how would you feel if a transgender child was in the same class as your child?
Would you feel prepared to answer questions from your child on the subject?