When your child is different in any shape or form at school – learning issues, physical limitations, etc – it can cause stress. Due to anxiety issues, we were very involved with TN’s school since kindergarten. We went to a 3rd party psychologist (twice over 6 years) to have full neuropsych testing done since it took a lot longer for the school system to do those types of things. When we got our results, and met with the schools, they were great. But since our schools have limited resources, we quickly learned you have to take some matters into your own hands.
In 10th grade TN made it clear he wanted to officially be called by his male name and pronouns. Up until then, in previous years, he would socially go by the male name and one teacher reached out to him, understood his need, and called him by the male name in class before 10th grade. When it came to finally meeting with the school before the 10th grade year started, I worked closely with the counselor and the assistant principal to setup a meeting with all of TN’s upcoming teachers. I collected some information to share with them in the meeting since many people don’t understand what it means to be transgender, some have moral issues against it, and I figured it’s good to provide as much information to try to help the teachers with this process.
This is the guide I shared with the teachers and administration. https://www.genderspectrum.org/staging/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Schools-in-Transition-2015.pdf Some thanked me for it. Some didn’t say much of anything. Fortunately, none said anything negative. During that meeting, I made a point to acknowledge that some in that room may not understand or agree with being transgender. I told them that I respect all opinions and did not want this to be TN’s primary focus – he was in school to learn, grow, graduate, and go to college. So as long as the teachers would simply agree to call him by a male name and pronouns, that would be the end of any discussions about the topic.
I’m sure some of the teachers didn’t agree, but the great thing about our school is they focus on teaching and ensuring each kid is respected and that was the end result of our meeting. We did not have to have any additional meetings after that. Everything jumped on board and no issues arose.
Let me acknowledge one incredibly cool teacher. TN’s 9th grade English teacher was the one who reached out to him proactively and called him by his male name in class a year before we officially requested it. That teacher took the time to call me that year and explain to me that she was so impressed by him, proud that he knew who he was, and wanted to be supportive in any possible way. TN was lucky to end up with that same English teacher for 12th grade as well. She has certainly earned her teacher gold star in my mind!
Now I’m sure one question you have is – so which bathroom did TN use? Our county’s official policy is that students use the bathroom of the gender which corresponds to their birth certificate. Until our state changes the rules, the county will continue that way. I have a few parent friends who have transgender kids in our county, and those parents are fighting their schools to have their kids use the bathroom of the gender in which they identify. This has made it somewhat contentious for those parents and kids with the school. TN had been using the nurse’s bathroom since 9th grade (because he looked like a boy and sometimes got odd looks in the girls’ room) and did not feel totally comfortable in the boys’ bathroom since he grew up with most of those boys and didn’t want an awkward situation. He was fine continuing to use the nurse’s bathroom – and the assistant principal made sure all the teachers understood that if he were to go to the restroom, he would need more time since the nurse’s office was a bit out of the way.
If TN really wanted to use the boys’ bathroom, I’m not sure I would fight for it. I know many of the high school boys and am not sure how they’d react seeing TN in there since they new TN as a “her” for many years. And to be totally frank, as a mom, I was scared shitless something violent might happen in there. The majority of high school kids are pretty tolerant and open, but some aren’t. And you don’t know who is and who isn’t. So for me, it just wasn’t worth the risk. TN uses the mens’ restrooms everywhere else he goes. Just not in school. He graduates in 2 months so it’ll be a non-issue soon enough.
Thinking back to our experience with the school, my primary piece of advice I would share with other parents is to address issues in a respectful manner. Try to understand that the administrators are sometimes stuck between a rock and a hard place. Also understand that all of the teachers have varying beliefs and you will NOT change their mind or their belief system overnight. If you are disrespectful or rude, you will lose support of that teacher. Show the teachers and administration your appreciation with everything they do to help and that’ll show them that not everything is a fight when it comes to supporting transgender kids.