Updated: Sep 5, 2018
For the hundreds of thousands of invisible gender diverse children across Canada and in North America, acceptance needs to begin in elementary school. It's time schools get behind a very vulnerable population of children.
Your child may be sitting next to a gender creative friend in school and they're not even aware of it. They play together. They share erasers. And they wouldn't even know. And they don't need to know.
But if you want to help support these children; we need to include them in the conversation.
Unless schools foster lessons which support the fact that not all children identify as the sex they were assigned at birth; the stigma and fear of what being gender diverse really means, will continue along with the potential for discrimination, bullying and isolation.
“For the longest time, transgender kids hid in the shadows, if they were able to,”
said AnnTravers, a transgender professor in sociology and anthropology who spent five years researching this issue, details the new findings in a book called The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution.
In a recent article in Today's Parent, Pediatric gender identity specialists recommend following your child’s lead when they come out to you, "and allow them to explore that possibility, from letting them express their gender in a way that’s more comfortable to them to socially transitioning with new names and pronouns."
The alternative—to try and convince them to live as the gender we thought they were—has been proven extremely harmful.
While human rights laws and school policies in Canada have come a long way in protecting the rights of transgender children in recent years, the lives of those kids are still often exceedingly challenging.
Research also shows that the majority of trans children hide their gender because of societal pressures they encounter at school and in their communities, said Travers.
She also noted that some visibly non-gender-conforming trans kids were never able to hide. Read more here, in the Vancouver Star article, Supportive parents of transgender kids are sparking a ‘gender revolution,’ research says
"Their families, communities and schools can be such dangerous places for people who don't conform to gender norms," said Travers.
If you're an administrator at a school and you know you've a gender diverse student, it should become the school's top priority to foster an understanding;
through letters to the parents that educate;
letters outlining a zero-tolerance for gender-based bullying;
educational links and tools to help their community grow in understanding.
mixed gender sports teams and gender neutral bathroom options
For School-based supports, SOGI in Canada's Western provinces is really leading the way. SOGI 1 2 3 helps educators make schools inclusive and safe for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities (SOGI).
A base-line tolerance is simply not good enough.
It's time to do more. It's time to be proactive.