The Twinadoes started fifth grade yesterday! It was with a 60/40 blend of trepidation and joy that I dropped them off at the door of another new school. While homeschooling was easier than I expected, I was pretty excited to have the house to myself for the first time in 6 months. The kids were both really pumped to spend the day making friends, having recess, checking out a new school, and oh yeah, maybe learning some stuff.
As it has been in every school, the Little Miss was the first transgender student they’d interacted with. Mike and I met with the principal almost two weeks prior to the start of school to share our story and meet with someone who would become an important part of our lives. We shared our journey and some of the concerns we had for the upcoming year. Our principal is a wonderful person and I’m really relieved to be with yet another understanding educator who is eager to learn and create a safe space for all children.
Unfortunately, for the first time in her school history, our daughter will have to use the unisex bathroom. The school system has a policy in place that dictates that all transgender kids will use a unisex bathroom. My heart sank when I was given this information, but it was paired with the statement that we would work together to get the right people the information they needed to make positive changes for this population of children.
I watched as Conner’s little shoulders, so high with expectation, slumped in shock when she heard that she wouldn’t be able to use the girl’s bathroom. For her, being forced to use the unisex bathroom indicated that the school didn’t believe her. It told her that the school thought she wasn’t really a girl as she would be denied the very basic right to use the bathroom with all the rest of the girls. By telling her to use a unisex bathroom, it set her up for questions from her peers, it put focus on an area of her body that already caused her distress, highlighted her difference from her peers, and set up the school as her largest source of stress instead of a safe haven for learning.
For a child who has always identified as female, this was both confusing and embarrassing. We explained how her hero, Jazz Jennings, went through similar struggles and helped pave the way for Conner to use the girl’s bathroom at her previous school in Florida. Though it will be hard, Conner now has the opportunity to help create change in her current school system.
I want to be positive and see the tremendous potential that Conner has to help create change here in our town. It was with mixed feelings that I gave her the positive spin of, “Go, be a trailblazer, young one.”
But, my heart hurts that the responsibility falls on her shoulders. It would have been wonderful to show up to a school system that was ready for a child like ours. I will say this, the hearts of the teachers in our school seem to be ready for Conner. It would be the expectation I guess, for the next line to say, “And the rest is just paperwork.”
But, it isn’t that simple. I foolishly thought that we’d be able to share our story, everyone would see how silly it is to keep Conner (and kids like her) out of the bathroom of their affirmed gender, that I might have to point out the Department of Justice’s opinion on the matter, and that would be the end of it. But, no. There will be meetings, and education, and calling in reinforcements to help with the education, and making ourselves available to answer questions, and these things take time.
If you don’t already know this about me, I’m impatient on a good day. It’s not uncommon for my family to see me fuming at my computer as I wait for the little round spinning rainbow image to do what I’ve asked the computer to do.
I’m even more impatient when it involves a process change which is why my doctoral capstone project was such a trying event for
me my family. When the issue causes my daughter to feel shame and makes her feel different, then the slow process of change is likely going to drive me insane.
I know that other families are going through this process too. So, I’m going to share the links to everything I had posted in the Purple Transgender Binder of Awesomeness which I gave to the administration of our school district. I’m also going to be updating my resources link to include this information though that won’t happen for a day or two. And, because I write when I’m agitated, frustrated, happy, and bored, I’m sure I’ll be giving updates along the way. I won’t be sharing the name of our school system or the individuals involved out of respect and privacy for this process. There are some really great people trying to make positive changes and I want this to be as smooth as possible for the school system, our advocates, and the families as we all partner together.
Department of Justice Statements
Resolution Agreement between the Arcadia School District, the US DOE, and the US DOJ
Statements from the American Psychological Association
Fact Sheet: Gender Diversity and Transgender Identity in Adolescents
Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (I just gave a copy of the Executive Summary)
Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 schools (Every school needs this, every parent needs to read it. If you are a parent, print this out and physically hand it to your child’s principal).
Welcoming Schools Information
Welcoming Schools Main Page
Research Basis for Safe and Welcoming Schools
Gender and Children: A Place to Begin
Gender Expansive Children: Books to Help Adults Understand
Be Prepared for Questions and Put-Downs about Gender
An Overview of Laws and Policies that Support Safe and Welcoming Schools