The Classroom Environment
Harassment doesn't occur in a vacuum: There has to be someone leading the pack, designating targets, and offering protection from punishment. In elementary school, that leader is the classroom teacher.
-- 87% of transsexual youth endure harassment from their classmates. 39% of the harassment has been prompted by the teacher.
-- Only 11% of the time do school officials make an attempt to stop the teasing. Instead, they protect the attacker while scolding the victim for "provoking" the attack.
The harassment culture prevails because teachers have been given the responsibility of instilling social standards and moral values in their students. That responsibility includes enforcing proper gender roles. It's widely believed that harassment is the best way to compel orthodoxy & conformity. Youth are particularly vulnerable to rejection by their peers. Authorities reason that surely the unbearable emotional trauma will make the trans youth give up their silly ideas about "changing genders". (For more details, go HERE. and HERE.)
In fact, researchers have discovered that what teachers fear most about trans students is encouraging the "non-conforming" behavior in some way. ...And that hesitance includes offering any hint of kindness or support for the youth.
The second most common fear was what would happen to the teacher if they were caught showing kindness. That is, not living up to the moral-enforcement expectations of the other students' parents, the school administration, religious leaders, and so on. Medical experts like Michael Bailey have warned that transitioning success in one student will provoke others to do the same -- leading to an epidemic of transsexuality. ...All because a teacher showed mercy & kindness.
How can any compassionate & educated person believe such superstitions? Well, many of them don't, but they lack the courage to confront society's hostility.
Ignorance is the core of why trans students fare so badly in school. So many myths have been invented. It's time to challenge the fiction. Every teacher has at least one trans student in their classes. To reach that student, the teacher must have at least a minimal understanding of transsexual reality:
1. The Biologic Cause. A youth is either trans or they're not trans. It's not a choice, an "identity", a sin, or a mental illness. It's present at birth and continues for an entire lifetime. It's not contagious.
2. Transsexual Stages. Trans people face different challenges and have different needs as they evolve.
3. Trans Distress. Teachers must have empathy for what trans students are going through.
5. Restroom Policies. Strangely, transphobes have chosen restrooms for the site of their attack.
6. Athletic Policies. In most schools, trans students are excluded from athletic participation (often done quietly, on a "case-by-case basis".) A knowlegeable trans advocate can cut through the web of deception. Athletic participation is a medical decision; take it out of the hands of the bureaucrats
Everyone carries fond memories of teachers who changed their lives; who gave them confidence to overcome challenges and to achieve difficult goals. After all, it's natural for youth to look up to their teachers: They're the symbol of authority and they seem to know everything. Youth spend more time each day with teachers than they do with their parents.
On the other hand, everyone can remember nightmare teachers who used their power to hurt and demean.
Youth are particularly inspired by seeing successful examples that come from a simiier background. Living heroes offer hope: They prove that obstacles can be overcome. They mark the path to success. They know what students are going through. The advice they offer is credible.
Mainstream students meet role models in the media & everywhere they go. The smaller the minority, the greater the need for a school to seek out representatives from the group, so the school can offer an experience not available anywhere else.
A minority faculty member is living proof of acceptance, inclusion and empathy -- it speaks louder than a few words in a policy statement. On the other hand, the glaring absence of a minority shows that such people have no place in society.
Transsexuals Need Not Apply
School districts don't hire transsexuals. If you don't believe it, just ask your local school board how many post-op trans people they have on staff. Statistically speaking, there should be at least 1 for every 500 - 1000 employees. But they'll evade the question. Obviously they can't admit violation of their own non-discrimination policies. At most, they may spotlight a gay janitor somewhere (ie, a token "transgender" employee.) ...But transsexual needs & experiences are completely different from those of gays, lesbians & bisexuals. In fact, many LGB's disapprove of transsexuals. They're NOT role models.
Although new-hires are forbidden, it's estimated that about 20 teachers nationwide have transitioned during their tenure and survived. Whenever that happens, school boards face a riot at their next meeting (see HERE). However, it's almost always the parents -- not the students -- who complain. They fear that a transsexual teacher will advance the "LGBT Agenda" (whatever that is) and encourage impressionable classmates to "question their gender."
It doesn't help that medical experts call transsexuals sexual deviants. Even worse, no one challenges that absurd claim. Instead, LGB advocacy groups maintain that even perverts have civil rights. ...It's not a very convincing argument, as demonstrated by the universal exclusion of trans teachers & staff.
The New Gender Paradigm
The Family Portal
A Safe Space
The single most important action a teacher can take is to create a Safe Zone -- in their classroom, at least.
-- Declaration of a Safe Zone requires a zero tolerance for harassment at the designated location. Instead, use generous praise for acts of kindness, and occasional time-out to discourage intolerance.
-- A Safe Zone for LGBT students requires a teacher to have at least a minimal understanding of the issues involved (see above).
-- Have an open-door policy, so trans students can express themselves privately: They must feel safe to ask questions, obtain support & encouragement, to lodge complaints, to report violence, and to find an advocate in a hostile world. A small gender library can help students do research at their own pace.
...Sometimes a student needs to sit quietly without the weight of constant fear.
Somehow trans students need to become aware of the Safe Zone's existence. The best method is by having a small unobtrusive symbol prominently displayed -- often something involving a rainbow. Many schools frown on public statements of support or obvious signs that announce, Trans students welcome here! Students often shy away from a designated time & place in fear of outing themselves.
Good teachers are fully aware of the trans students in their classes, even without the youth making a formal declaration. But because of the student's guilt & secrecy, a direct confrontation will usually cause panic. Endangered youth must be allowed to come out on their own terms (see Trans Stages.) An indirect offer of support may begin with a casual mention of current events involving trans people (eg, something that showed up on the Caitlyn Jenner show), or a reference to famous trans historical figures (eg, Pharaoh Hatshepsut, Joan of Arc or Governor Cornbury of New York).
Trans youth are desperate to hear something positive about their condition. They need hope.
...Are YOU aware of any good post-transition role models?
Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA)
GSA's are school "clubs" for LGB students. The idea originated with the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN, http://www.glsen.org/) and has been extremely successful in improving the lives of LGB students. The GLSEN website offers a wide variety of tools to help create a GSA in any school.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of GSA's tell fellow trans students to take their mental illness elsewhere. GLSEN offers handbooks on "Make Your GSA Transgender Inclusive" and "Expand Awareness of Transgender Issues." However, the "transgenders" they want to welcome are effeminate LGB's, not people who want to transition. In fact, neither handbook contains the words transition, crossdresser or athletic participation.
"Transgender Inclusion" means unisex restrooms and how to play games like Guess what my pronoun is today? These are NOT the important issues faced by transsexuals. In fact, they undermine a trans student's struggle for self-discovery by outing them and indoctrinating them to be "gender fluid". Instead of liberating a transsexual from wrong-gender expression GLSEN demands that she pretend to be androgynous.
LGB advocates are often not effective trans advocates.
About half of schools have added "gender identity" to the protection list in their No Bullying Policies -- without any details about how the policy will actually be implemented. What's missing are key issues such as:
-- Reporting instances of harassment or bullying. How and to whom? How do reports go up the chain of command? Parental involvement?
-- Evaluation procedures. Who investigates? How will the investigation take place? Parental involvement?
-- Victim protection. Reprisal protection? Blame the victim? Privacy issues? (including Outing)
-- Consistent, standardized forms of punishment, reform & recompense
Without procedural details, it's no surprise that no action is taken in 89% of reported violence against transsexuals. Instead, the targeted individuals drop out of school. The sad fact is, doing drugs & sex work while living under a bridge is safer than attending school.
A designated Safe Zone can be a place where transsexuals can feel secure enough to report violence & discrimination. An experienced teacher can understand the ramifications of the incident. They can track the report to be sure that appropriate action is taken. They can suggest policy changes that can make the school less hostile in the future.
Teachers Can Make A Difference
-- They're role models
-- They have control over classroom harassment
-- They can offer a student safety & protection
-- They can offer support to a student
-- They can advocate for an individual student
-- They can influence school policy
Gender Basics Portal
In a reecent Huffington Post article (31 Aug 2012), authors Elizabeth Payne & Melissa Smith described the utter panic experienced in schools whenever a transsexual tries to enroll:
"For most of the school professionals we interviewed, the initial reaction to finding out a transgender elementary student would be in their school was fear. The words they most frequently used to talk about it were "freak out," "panic," "crisis," "fear," and "unprepared."
Often the school's response is to just say No. ...Transsexuals are simply not welcome in most American schools, public or private.
Of course, no one keeps track of how many students are excluded, or how many parents find alternative solutions without even trying to confront the establishment. For those students who do get in, the statistics are frightening:
-- 87% are teased by other students; for 39% the teasing began with the teacher
-- Only 11% of the time do school officials try to stop the teasing
-- 26% of transsexuals have been physically assaulted at school
-- 82% don't feel safe at school
-- 47% skip school due to fear
-- 63% of elementary school teachers admit not being aware of the issues faced by transsexual students
Ask about a school's policies regarding transsexuals, 43.8% will tell you that they have no policies. (They claim to handle trans students on a case-by-case basis.) If there is a policy, it usually means gender identity has been added to the laundry-list of non-discrimination groups -- without any practical plan for reporting or enforcement.
The usual excuse is We don't have any transsexuals, Trans students are so rare they don't need a special policy, or That's a high school issue. In reality, one student out of every hundred is trans -- one in every 3 classrooms; a handful in every grade. The trans students are there; they're too frightened to let anyone know.
Transsexuality is present from birth. Delaying transitioning until high school is a systemic failure; serious lifelong injury has been inflicted on the youth:
-- 21% of LGBT students attempt suicide each year (compared to 5% in the general population)
-- 30% of all adolescent suicides involve LGBT issues
-- 12.4% of transsexual students drop out (compared to 6.6% in the general population). The number is larger in high-harassment schools
-- About one-third of all high school (grades 9-12) dropouts are fleeing harassment over their gender status
-- 19% of homeless youth are transsexuals who dropped out of school