Transgender and gender-nonconforming youths have become the focus of conversations across the country. According to a 2016 report by the international organization Human Rights Watch, eight states have laws at the state and local levels that prohibit or limit teachers from discussing LGBT issues in public schools. In other states, parents or administrators who fear repercussions from the community may informally pressure teachers to avoid talking about LGBT issues, and some educators are themselves uncomfortable with the topic. Educators who are able to discuss gender may rely on myths or outdated information to make decisions about their approach.
Such complications arise because teachers and school administrators receive broader mixed messages about how to handle gender-related issues in schools. In 2016, the Obama administration issued guidance requiring schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities. However, when President Donald Trump took office, he quickly reversed the guidelines. LGBT advocates pinned their hopes on the potential U.S. Supreme Court case of Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old transgender boy from Virginia who last year sued his district’s school board over his right to use the boys’ bathroom. But in March, the case was sent back to the lower courts after the court declined to hear it.
These political fights have occurred in the context of overwhelming evidence that LGBT youths are victimized every day in America’s schools. In a 2015 survey by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), 75.8 percent of transgender students reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender identity. Transgender students were also more likely than cisgender lesbian, gay, and bisexual students to be targeted for bullying. Sixty-nine percent of transgender students avoided school bathrooms; 64 percent were verbally harassed; 24.9 percent physically harassed; and 12 percent physically assaulted because of their gender in the 2014-15 school year. Silence on the part of teachers and administrators about LGBT identities can lead to even more stigmatization.
As a psychiatrist working with LGBT teens and adults, this discrimination is especially concerning. Active work by school staff to educate themselves and their students can decrease reliance on misinformation, leading to a more welcoming school culture. To improve how they discuss gender with students, it’s important for educators to be aware of five common myths about transgender and gender-nonconforming people. Read more via Education Week