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Philosophy of Education Society Commi7ee on Professional A airs TRANSGENDER STUDENT ADVOCACY AND SUPPORT EVOLVING ETHICS IN A TIME OF DEVOLVING POLICY Cris Mayo Sco7 Gust and Aidan Key Like any other students transgender and gender diverse students need to have equitable educational and education related facilities While some issues related to trans and gender diverse students may seem new and challenging this basic ethical commitment to equity needs to remain foremost in the practices of educators as legal issues continue to develop Until recently legal decisions and inclusive policy protections for transgender students appeared to be gaining momentum At times like the present when educators are faced with seemingly new needs to be a entive to student diversity policies and laws providing rm guidance can help keep the goal of educational equity clear Now that we have seen the executive branch withdraw its protections for trans youth we are seeing districts renewing their commitment to the principles behind federal protections even in the absence of executive branch guidance That commitment to equitable education is laudable and shows that the necessity to care for students and teach equitably should not rely on policy alone Court decisions laws and policies have encouraged educators to understand a transgender identity as rst and foremost directly correlated to gender Multiple courts have ruled that transgender people that is people whose sex assigned at birth is not the same as their gender identity are best understood as having gender based rights to equitable treatment in schools These rulings indicate that Title IX requires that students in school receiving federal assistance may not be excluded from participation in be denied the bene ts of or be subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex a category the rulings indicate that includes gender identity Because bias and even school architecture can complicate equitable access to education court rulings further indicate that Title IX requires equitable treatment for trans students in public school This equitable treatment includes prevention of bullying and provision of equitable access to restrooms 1 These rulings and the Obama administration s O ce of Civil Rights Dear Colleague le er 2 sought to provide more de nitive federal protections for trans students but legal protections still remain a patchwork across states regions cities and districts When the Fourth Circuit court ruled that Gavin Grimm could use school restrooms that matched his gender identity a case that was initially supported by the See among others Doe v Brim eld Grade Sch 552 F Supp 2d 816 823 C D Ill 2008 U S Department of Justice Civil Rights Division U S Department of Education O ce for Civil Rights Dear Colleague Le er on Transgender Students May 13 2016 accessed at h ps www2 ed gov about o ces list ocr lgbt html 1 2 1
Philosophy of Education Society, Commi7ee on Professional A   airs  TRANSGENDER STUDENT ADVOCACY AND SUPPORT  EVOLVING ETH...
Philosophy of Education Society Commi7ee on Professional A airs Department of Justice many thought there would be a de nitive national ruling in favor of the extension of Title IX to gender identity The school district appealed and the Supreme Court has referred the case back to the lower court It is di cult at this point in time to predict what the outcome will be The new administration has signaled that Title IX issues are unlikely to be a priority and while there appears to be some disagreement in the current administration the guidance in the Dear Colleague le er already under an injunction staying their implementation since Aug 2016 has now been rescinded While de nitive federal policy seems to be devolving state local and school based approaches to transgender students rights and increasing public and educational support for trans youth may provide a new way to extend protections The advice teachers need now is how to do right by trans and gender non conforming students This requires that schools ensure students safety privacy and inclusion The challenge for teachers and administrators is to build school policy that respects and serves people without consistently recognized rights and persistently advocate for them to have those rights Ethical Schools and Transgender Diversities We argue that a ention to transrelated rights recognition and accommodations provide a good opportunity to connect various justi cations for equitable education reminding educators that they need to care and advocate for students Transrelated issues also provide an occasion to encourage educators to understand students as complex and embodied learners Trans and gender diverse students interactions with curricula policy and even school buildings and data systems require a robustly equitable approach to learning Trans students also share interests with students who face other gender based inequities students of color seeking greater representation in curricula and broader respect in schools a n d s t u d e n t s w h o n e e d va r i o u s accommodations in order access their education including disability related accessibility and accommodations for expression of religion The rights of transgender and gender diverse students connect to schools larger project of working towards an already agreed upon goal equity and inclusion for all students The rest of this paper explains how schools might be restructured in order to be more gender equitable while continuing to honor di erences among students Education is an endeavor that respects the diversity of students and teachers sta and community as well It encourages critical analysis of knowledge and social categories and it respects the creativity and self determination of all involved Educational institutions ought to create communities for learning that embrace students and sta and community members distinctiveness and di erence Institutions can start by recognizing that categories like gender are not as simple as once believed All students not only those who identify as transgender work with and against gender norms Support for creativity and exploration is key Educators know that di erent learners need di erent kinds of support 2
Philosophy of Education Society, Commi7ee on Professional A   airs Department of Justice, many thought there would be a de...
Philosophy of Education Society Commi7ee on Professional A airs in order to have an equal chance at learning Schools therefore need to understand and address particular challenges that trans students face in navigating the school day They face misgendering and misnaming from teachers and students They are unable to access restrooms without controversy Most trans students report hearing disparaging comments or experiencing harassment from other students and even from teachers often to the point where they no longer want to go to school Trans students are shouldering the distress of a society still largely unfamiliar with and intimidated by the newer visible presence of gender diverse children and the subsequent implications real or more often imagined That this is unacknowledged and unrecognized by most makes their school experiences all the more di cult for trans and gender diverse children Trans students may face distinctive challenges to their education but they share a need with all students to be recognized for who they are to have access to necessary services and to learn without fear of bias violence and privacy violations While trans related issues may seem relatively new the history of trans people advocating for equity in fact is long Their struggle emerged publicly as civil rights movements encouraged a demand for equity and recognized the need for self determination and the creation of alternative social institutions From the uprising of trans people against police repression at the Compton s Cafeteria in 1966 which led to transcommunities creating support services necessary for trans people to ourish to the uprising of LGBT people at Stonewall in 1969 that began the movements for LGBT rights and led to the organization of services for homeless trans youth trans people have been at the forefront of understanding a need to change laws and the more immediate need to organize their own social and political institutions Such activism continues today and transgender advocacy groups like the National Center for Transgender Equality3 and the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network can help provide schools with guidance on best practices Families of transgender youth too are increasingly becoming advocates Support programs like the Gender Odyssey conference4 provide spaces for youth and families to learn more about one another and gender diversity Organizations like Gender Diversity throughout the U S also provide help with counseling medical advice and family support and are more than willing to help schools strategize for how to best support trans students Much in the same way that families have helped push for gender equity racial justice and accessibility for young people with disabilities families with trans children can be an additional bene cial resource for schools seeking to become more equitable Families have also been a driving force behind legal actions when National Center for Transgender Equality www transequality org Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network www glsen org 4 Gender Odyssey www genderodyssey org 3 3
Philosophy of Education Society, Commi7ee on Professional A   airs in order to have an equal chance at learning. Schools, ...
Philosophy of Education Society Commi7ee on Professional A airs their children s schools were uncooperative It is crucial to recognize however that schools should not rely on parents of trans children to be the sole source of learning for teachers administrators and other sta Just as a school would not task the parent of a child with a di erence in ability culture or faith with providing the comprehensive education needed for the school to meet its obligations for equity and safety parents of trans children should not be expected to shoulder this entire responsibility Similar to the work schools have done in response to families with children with autism or ADHD the steps schools have taken towards equity have been helped by developing constructive relationships with medical and mental health professionals Ensuring equitable education for transgender youth who transition into their gender identity also expands educational possibilities for the di erent ways students live their gender There are many di erent ways in which youth do not conform to gender norms Gender nonconforming and nonbinary youth work against the easy division of male and female Other young people emphasize their desire to be innovative by identifying as gender creative gender diverse or gender nonbinary Some young people who are agender refuse gender altogether Gender diverse youth can be helped by schools that teach about gender and gender equity in exible and expansive ways providing recognition to their critical work against the restrictions of gender binaries or creative reworkings of those binaries Age appropriate conversations with children about equity in relationship to gender identity and gender expression can be had at every grade level and in a manner that is respectful of the diversity within any student population E x p a n s i ve understanding of gender norms helps all students encouraging cisgender boys and girls that is students whose assigned gender at birth matches their gender identity to pursue their own academic and creative interests without pressure to conform to gender norms and is consistent with decades long discussions of gender equity in the U S For many trans young people recognition of their particular need to transition to their gender identity may require collaboration among schools families and sometimes medical or mental health professionals although medical validation is not necessary for every approach to transitioning gender For those trans students who want to begin a medical transition educators need to know that professional counselors and doctors will be providing support to that student and that such decisions are made with care and consideration by the student Puberty delay medication often referred to as hormone blockers enable young trans people to stall the onset of secondary sexual characteristics of their birth gender By delaying the pubertal changes associated with their birth sex the student their parents and providers are often more able to con dently determine any course of action with respect to a medical transition including the more permanent changes that come with any future hormonal or surgical intervention to gain further congruence with their gender identity 4
Philosophy of Education Society, Commi7ee on Professional A   airs their children   s schools were uncooperative. It is cr...
Philosophy of Education Society Commi7ee on Professional A airs Trans people are a diverse group Some seek surgical and or hormonal gender reassignment in order to live fully recognized in their gender identity Some combine medical interventions with social gender identity innovations to live outside of gender binaries Because young people are rarely able to access or may not want irreversible surgeries that are required in order change federal documents schools can provide crucial recognition by using students chosen names and appropriate pronouns A common error on the part of educators is to assume that medical and legal validation are necessary in order to provide gender identity recognition This is not the case Best practices recognized by health care professionals include honoring a student s gender identi cation and personal identi ers including names and pronouns and accommodations consistent with that gender identi cation Ensuring equitable education for transgender youth who transition into their gender identity also expands educational possibilities for gender nonconforming gender nonbinary gender creative and other gender diverse youth Gender diverse youth can be helped by schools that teach about gender and gender equity in exible and expansive ways providing recognition to their critical work against gender binaries Age appropriate conversations with children about equity in relationship to gender identity and gender expression can be had at every grade level These conversations can be held in a manner that is respectful of the diversity within any student population Challenging Prejudice Emphasizing Care A teacher or administrator may feel be er able to assess the needs of trans and gender diverse students than the students themselves or those caring for these students Educators should comprehend that they likely have signi cantly less understanding of the situation than they need to make such judgments or determinations As with any form of identity or culture new to a district educators need to learn more about trans issues before repeating commonplace prejudices Such prejudices include the presumed inability of students to understand their gender or the supposedly tactical reasons a nontrans boy may want to use girls rooms These ideas have been circulating broadly since the so called bathroom bill in North Carolina We recommend educators make use of national and local resources to make their own considered responses to creating a caring and supportive educational environment In some cases trans students will already be living in their gender identity and not pass notice as trans few in school may even be aware of their identity In other situations students may transition while in school In such cases having a plan for maintaining age appropriate lessons for peers and training for teachers and administrators will be necessary It is worth noting that using the term transition has the potential to set in motion a discourse that can be helpful but also problematic For many teachers seeking to support trans and gender nonconforming students the idea of a transition is helpful because it opens possibilities for thinking about how a 5
Philosophy of Education Society, Commi7ee on Professional A   airs Trans people are a diverse group. Some seek surgical an...
Philosophy of Education Society Commi7ee on Professional A airs gender identity that has been previously taken for granted is be er understood as open to change and growth However the idea of a transition can also be problematic if it fosters expectations of linear progression through predetermined developmental milestones along a predictable and stable timeline On the contrary what the trans and gender non conforming community knows and is thoroughly prepared to teach others is how to see individuals in transition and beyond on their own terms and as fully self actualizing persons who are di erentially negotiating opportunities and challenges both personally and in their relationships with others What ma ers most is that the conditions and timeline for transition are managed by the person who is transitioning with that person s sense of autonomy and decision making prioritized over the predictable institutional tendency for schools to lean toward inertia In addition to caring and understanding student di erence legal guidance may also be helpful in some areas We encourage schools no ma er the laws in their area to enact nondiscrimination policies that include gender identity but more importantly remain commi ed to treating all students with respect School policies set an expectation for an inclusive community They may help encourage a broader understanding of gender identity related issues Without a robust commitment to an inclusive and respectful school community policies do not function Nor are they su cient Still they provide students with an indication that the school knows enough about trans issues to think it is worth making that commitment clear Furthermore policies and laws give trans students o cial recourse to complaint if something goes wrong Currently 17 states and Washington D C 5 have laws protecting gender identity Even where there are state level laws in place to protect gender identity in education coverage varies Five states6 and Washington D C extend trans rights in education to private secular schools Some states have bolstered their general protections for gender identity related rights to include speci c guidance requiring schools to allow trans students to use restrooms and locker rooms appropriate to their gender 7 Twenty states have laws protecting students against bullying that include The states are Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware Hawaii Illinois Iowa Maine Maryland Minnesota New Jersey New York North Carolina Oregon Vermont Washington and the District of Columbia h ps www aclu org know your rights transgenderpeople and law 6 Colorado Illinois Maine Nevada and New Jersey h ps www aclu org know your rights transgender people and law 5 California Colorado Connecticut and Massachuse s h ps www aclu org know your rights transgender people and law 7 6
Philosophy of Education Society, Commi7ee on Professional A   airs gender identity that has been previously taken for gran...
Philosophy of Education Society Commi7ee on Professional A airs bullying on the grounds of LGBT identity 8 As schools work to be inclusive of trans issues they also should guard against exacerbating exclusions through tactics that appear to provide accommodation Gender inclusive and gender neutral restrooms are one way that schools have a empted to create safe space for trans and gender creative youth But if those restrooms are the only restrooms open to trans and gender diverse youth schools create a new form of segregation as trans students are still excluded from all other bathrooms Further youth who have transitioned need to be recognized as full members of that gender not recognized as di erent from cisgender members of that same gender This is both an ethical issue and a medical one doctors have now testi ed in repeated cases that continuing to treat students who have con rmed their gender identity as if they are not really that gender puts them in situations where depression and anxiety are likely In addition such segregation can force unwanted disclosure for trans youth who might have otherwise been able to maintain their privacy guaranteed under Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Understanding the di erences among trans students and the potentially problematic outcome of a empting one size ts all protections that create more di culties for some are key to ensuring their equitable education Schools that have included a support plan for their trans students in order to address their unique needs with respect to names pronouns privacy parental support or lack thereof and available community resources have found that this is highly bene cial and appreciated by the student It also has two added bene ts It allows the school time to prepare their sta for any transition related steps and it presents an added barrier for the often feared specter of cisgender male students accessing the girls restroom or the locker room as a practical joke or for even more nefarious reasons For many schools the area of greatest distress is not the trans or gender diverse student themselves but educators sta and other students feeling ill equipped to address concerns questions and resistance from others This distress manifests primarily in three di erent ways The rst is the common misunderstanding that gender identity and sexual orientation are related they are not This confusion makes it di cult for educators adequately to address questions from other students especially from younger students When educators worry that these conversations would be deemed too mature they neglect to have any conversation although there are ageappropriate ways to talk about gender with children who may well be aware of di erences and eager to understand Secondly for some di erences in faith culture and politics are felt to be in direct See Maps of State Laws and Policies accessed at www hrc org state maps The states are Maine New Hampshire Vermont Rhode Island Massachuse s Connecticut New York Delaware Maryland North Carolina Arkansas Illinois Iowa Minnesota Colorado Nevada California Oregon Washington 8 7
Philosophy of Education Society, Commi7ee on Professional A   airs bullying on the grounds of LGBT identity.8 As schools w...
Philosophy of Education Society Commi7ee on Professional A airs con ict with o ering support and validation to a trans student Schools have responsibilities to all their students and cannot trade away care for one group of students because another group does not believe they should be respect Lastly as a result of a rapidly growing presence of trans students of all ages there are few resources available to guide schools through the complex distress and confusion inspired by a barelyunderstood gender experience of a trans or gender diverse student We have included a resource list at the end Schools that have successfully navigated this terrain have recognized the need to shift the emphasis from a particular student s needs to an understanding of their own need for further education and conversation A dual approach of incorporating gender di erences into the framework of human diversity and discovering age appropriate language and tools to discuss gender di erences while simultaneously honoring those with cultural political and faith di erences has provided these schools with a positive pathway In these schools all increase their learning feel validated and are respected Terms related to gender and gender identity are themselves evolving and changing We also encourage educators to listen to how students want to be addressed to learn from students about gender complexity and to encourage all in the school community to think about gender as a concept that requires more critical education Teachers know that students come into their own in a wide variety of ways They learn to enjoy or excel at particular subjects they understand family and cultural traditions in their own ways and often even cisgender students rework gender meanings to help express themselves and nd their place in the world Transgender and gender diverse students may seem to be pushing gender beyond the comfort of some but they are doing so to be able to live in congruence with their innate gender identi cation An optimal learning environment for all students is any school s legal mandate T h e p a t h wa y t o t h i s environment requires a proactive approach pursuing education whenever possible When educators sta families and students understand each other be er the con dence and relief felt by all makes it evident that educators have the tools they need to honor diversity provide respect for all and create inclusive learning environments Resources For help with discrimination cases contact your local state Human Rights O ce or American Civil Liberties Association aclu org Lambda Legal Defense lambdalegal org Human Rights Campaign hrc org For school resources and or climate studies contact Gay Lesbian and Straight Educators Network glsen org National Center for Transgender Equality transequality org Gender Diversity genderdiversity org 8
Philosophy of Education Society, Commi7ee on Professional A   airs con   ict with o   ering support and validation to a tr...