Since its formation last year, the Transgender Student Union has been a safe haven for students here at Eagle Rock. Being transgender is never easy, especially right now. But, creating spaces where people feel welcome and share a common feeling can turn this into a joy.
In a recent meeting, the trans students of Eagle Rock held a meeting, discussing the injustices they have faced as trans youth at school. They devised a list of changes they would like to see in school policy and interpersonal treatment.
1. Don’t ask about deadnames
This is a matter of respect. If a student wishes to no longer go by their previous name/names, the respectful thing to do is to not bring it up and definitely not use it. It’s called a dead name because it is a name that this person no longer feels represents them and makes them uncomfortable. Let the dead rest.
2. Send out a Google Form at the beginning of the year
Many teachers have started a trend of sending out a form at the beginning of the school year that concerns students’ identities and how to incorporate that when speaking about or with a student. TSU outlined that this form should survey for preferred names, pronouns, who you can and cannot use these pronouns/preferred names around, and any accommodations the student might need to feel more comfortable in the classroom.
3. Actually listen to the Google Form!
Many students pointed out that despite filling out the form, their teachers neglected to listen to what they repeated time and time again. Whether that be pronouns or preferred names, students felt very ignored. If you want to know more about your students, listen to what they are saying.
4. Learn to use they/them pronouns
While non-binary is not a new identity, the terminology is. Trans students understand that it takes adjusting. However, it is important that you put in the effort. Stop seeing your non-binary students as “boys” or “girls”. Change your perspective and the terminology will soon follow.
5. Gender Neutral bathroom accessibility
Many transgender students feel uncomfortable going into gendered bathrooms for one reason or another. As a result, many students will avoid school bathrooms altogether. A healthy way to combat this is to make sure that students are aware of the existence of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. Make them aware of the resources that the school provides. In addition to this, understand that these resources (while they exist) are limited. Gender-neutral bathrooms do not exist in abundance (but that’s an entirely different issue), so realize that it may take longer for students to commute to and from these bathrooms.
6. Be comfortable with being corrected
As teachers, you know that making mistakes is a massive part of learning. When a student is educating you by correcting a mistake they might have made, do not be offended. It is not a personal attack. Don’t take it too seriously, it’s all good. Anytime a student corrects you, it is simply to further a mutual understanding of each other as people. Also, if you don’t know something, feel free to ask!
7. Tell the substitute what name a student prefers to go by
By simply leaving a note by the attendance roster, or sending an email, you can save a student a lot of time and potential humiliation when they have to go up to a substitute and explain themself, or just hide their identity and answer to a name that is not their own. In addition to this, you can also let students know that it is possible to change your name in the system and there are steps to doing it.
8. Terminology matters
Starting class by saying “ladies and gentlemen” or “boys and girls” can feel exclusionary to students who don’t identify as such. Simply using a gender-neutral term like “class”, “students”, or “everyone” to get the attention of/address the room, can make students feel more included.
9. Check-in with your trans students
If you see a transgender student in your class get repeatedly harassed or bullied, take action. Consult privately with the student first, and together decide the best course of action. Please note that that first step is very important. If a trans student is not standing up for themself or correcting another student, they likely feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Make sure you talk privately with the student about what THEY WANT to do about it.
10. Foster a kind and understanding environment
By being kind, outwardly supportive, and thoughtful with your actions, you can create a space that is welcoming to all students. Avoid separating students based on gender, respect students and their identities, and treat them like you would any other student!
These are a few of the many ways that we can make Eagle Rock a friendlier environment for transgender people. Trans people are human beings and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity as much as anyone else. Times are changing, but is it not human nature to evolve and adapt? As a general rule of thumb, always treat people with kindness.