5 things trans students want educators to know
When President Obama issued a directive last May protecting the right of transgender students to use the restrooms and lockers that match their gender identities, many students and their allies felt some sense of relief and acknowledgement. MSDE followed that up with guidelines that allow students to use the facilities they choose and that policy remains in place even after President Trump rescinded the directive in February.
While most districts follow MSDE’s guidance — on paper — there is a lack of consistency across the state in ease of access and comfort for trans students. At one Frederick County school, says student James van Kuilenburg, “trans students are able to use the bathroom of their choice, but most of them don’t know that’s their right.”
“People seem freer with their opinions and often those opinions reflect fear and misunderstanding,” says Elizabeth Daum, an adviser for the Gay Straight Alliance at Westminster High School in Carroll County.
Since the election in November some LGBTQ students and their allies have noticed an uptick in intolerance. “People seem freer with their opinions and often those opinions reflect fear and misunderstanding,” says Elizabeth Daum, an adviser for the Gay Straight Alliance at Westminster High School in Carroll County. “There are significant groups in our county who now feel empowered to speak out against inclusion and acceptance. Many of these still view our LGBTQ students as having ‘chosen’ to live this way.”
There remains a lack of confidence among some educators about role modeling empathy and leadership supporting the struggles of LGBTQ students.
At school, it’s not only the restroom issue that causes trans students worry and concern. There remains a lack of confidence among some educators about role modeling empathy and leadership supporting their struggles, which are specific and relatively uncomplicated when it comes to accommodating them at school.
“While many students have always gone by initials or middle names, name changes and pronouns force many staff to acknowledge ideas that are quite new to them,” Daum says. “I would like to see my education colleagues everywhere offer LGBTQ students the same respect as other students. I would reinforce the idea that the students are here to learn. By changing their names and pronouns, they are expressing who they really are, and when they are safe and acknowledged, they are better ready to learn.”