Most children and youth spend many of their waking hours at school. Schools can be affirming places with positive staff and peer relationships. Increasingly, schools are providing staff training, supporting GSAs (Gender and Sexuality Alliances), and putting policies into place to ensure equitable access to education for gender creative and trans students. Many preschools and daycares provide staff training and create environments that are supportive of gender exploration and creativity. Unfortunately, schools can also be a place where children and youth of all ages experience bullying, harassment, and discrimination based on their gender expressions or identities.
Whether your child attends a school with a strong history of providing an affirming environment for gender creative and trans students, or one that has no experience with this, you may need to become an advocate for your child. Fortunately, many organizations have created resources for teachers, administrators, and other school staff to help everyone through the process of planning to meet the needs of gender creative and trans students.
If you will be approaching your child’s school to discuss how they can provide support during a time of gender exploration or transition, here are some suggestions:
- Talk with your child about what kinds of support they would like from the school. Find out if there any issues they are currently dealing with or anticipate will be a problem in the future. Discuss whether or not they would like to be part of the school meeting.
- Find out if the school or district has a policy or procedure in place to support gender creative and trans students.
- Connect with other parents of gender creative and trans students who are part of your school district.
- Identify a contact person you trust who can provide you with guidance about how systems work in your child’s school or district. This might be a teacher, counsellor, administrator, or GSA sponsor.
- Write down what supports you would like to have put in place and be prepared to explain why they are important for your child.
- If your child is connected with any professionals (e.g. counsellor or physician), consider having them write a letter detailing the kinds of support your child requires.
- Consider bringing a support person with you to the meeting.
Your child’s plan should address your child’s unique needs. However, there are several issues that commonly come up in school plans, which we have included here:
- Establish who will be aware of your child’s gender creative or trans identity and how their privacy will be protected.
- Ensure correct names and pronouns are respected within the school community, and used on school records.
- Ensure access to washrooms and change rooms where your child feels most comfortable.
- Establish how your child will participate in any gender segregated activities.
- Identify one or more contact people within the school your child can go to in case they feel unsafe
- Have a plan in place to provide education for school community members.
In Peer and Professional Support we will explore opportunities for peer support, as well as when it is appropriate to involve professionals in the care of your child.
Ideally, your school will be affirming, already have policies and procedures in place, and be experienced in providing support to gender creative and trans students. However, it is good to be prepared to provide some education and resources to the school staff. The following resources are intended for school staff, but they may be helpful for you to review as well.
School support guides
Supporting Transgender and Transsexual Students in K-12 Schools: A Guide for Educators – Canadian Teacher’s Federation
Schools in Transition – Gender Spectrum
Affirming Gender in Elementary Schools: Social Transitioning