Resources To Support Transgender And Gender-Expansive Students
Creating an affirming learning environment for transgender and gender-expansive youth requires both individual and school-wide initiatives. Here are some starting places to allow all students to feel welcome:
In the classroom:
- Avoid addressing students with gendered language. Opt for inclusive language such as “good morning, friends,” or “hello, scholars,” rather than saying “ladies and gentlemen” or “boys and girls,” or “you guys.”
- Avoid grouping students by gender to allow students to bring more parts of their identities into the classroom. Instead of asking for students to make a “boys’ line” and a “girls’ line,” consider asking students to line up by birthday month. Some teachers create classroom teams at the beginning of the year, such as the Birds and the Fish, so that the class can separate quickly and evenly.
- Challenge gender stereotypes in everyday activities such as math class. Include word problems that ask questions about a boy who likes ballet, or a girl who plays football.
- Develop a classroom community that allows all students to pursue their interests by engaging students in discussions about men who are dancers or musicians and women who are carpenters.
Steps for school-wide action:
- Provide professional development for school staff on creating welcoming and gender-inclusive spaces for all youth.
- Discuss how staff will affirm and allow space for students who express their gender differently on different days.
- Ensure that all school community members feel supported in working with transgender and gender-expansive students and have appropriate and accurate resources to answer questions and concerns.
- Engage the whole school community in discussions of gender inclusion, not just teachers and administration. Like teachers, bus drivers should work to avoid saying “boys” and “girls” to students. Cafeteria workers should ensure that all students are addressed by their preferred names, especially for transgender students whose legal names may not match what they like to be called.
- Create a framework for the school in preparation for student transitions. How will teachers address a student’s change in appearance within their classrooms? Is there a way to ensure that a student’s old name won’t be called by a substitute teacher during roll call? Proactively anticipating challenges that transgender and gender-expansive students may face can help to address potential problems before they arise.
- Host an evening event at the school for families and caregivers to discuss gender diversity to help families to be affirming and inclusive, and to support their children in developmentally appropriate ways.
- Review school and district dress code policy to be sure that students are not restricted to clothing based upon gender. Are girls required to wear skirts or dresses in choral concerts? In graduation ceremonies are students required to wear differently colored robes based upon gender? Create policies that allow students to make their own choices regarding how they want to express themselves.
- Ensure that anti-bullying policies specifically address gender-based identities, and work with staff to prepare them to appropriately address all bias-based bullying.