The first few weeks of back to school season can be very overwhelming for students, parents, and educators. Children are trying to sort out new schedules, new friends, and new expectations. Parents are trying to juggle before and after school activities, navigate emotional rollercoasters (their children’s and their own). Educators are working to ensure that the needs of each student are met while trying to build an inclusive and caring classroom environment.
As the parent of a transgender child, those first few weeks of school can feel even more challenging. Trying to ensure that your child is being treated appropriately, called by the correct name and pronouns, and given every opportunity to thrive that their peers are, in a fair and just manner can be exhausting. There are letters to write, calls to make, and battles to fight over items such as dress codes, seating charts, and changing rooms. And that doesn’t even include the bathroom debates.
One step you can take to make this transition easier is to meet with your child’s teacher and the school counselor before the start of school. It’s even better if you can get the school administration to join. Remember, you are your child’s best advocate and their voice at the table. Your child’s school might want to be accommodating, but they may not be sure where to start or what steps to take. Show up prepared with suggestions, action steps, and resources, and the odds are in your favor for a smoother meeting.
Here are some resources you might find helpful:
GLSEN: Educator resources page: terminology guide, FAQs, a quick guide to meeting with administrators, school board members, and other decision-makers, etc.
Human Rights Campaign: Schools in Transitions Guide – a blueprint to support students in grades K-12, specific to transgender youth
Welcoming Schools: LGBTQ and gender-inclusive resources for schools
Trans Student Educational Resources: infographics to print and use (free to use)
Teach.com: Bullying resources for educators and parents
Additionally, if your child is old enough, consider having them write a letter or email directly to their teacher or professor, indicating who they are and how they wish to be addressed. A personal touch can go a long way in making a connection that is honored. Here is a model you or your child can use if they haven’t legally changed their name yet. If you are writing this for a younger student, change the wording, but the idea remains the same.
Ideally, the correspondence should arrive before the course begins, or the new school year starts. However, if your child decides to socially transition during the school year, this isn’t always possible. The key is good communication between you and/or your child and the school.