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Monday, June 18, 2018

An Open Letter to The Teacher Who Refused To Correctly Gender a Trans Student

Educator and advocate Vanessa Ford shares her thoughts on the importance of pronouns and names for transgender students
A rainbow flag flies outside of a school building (Photo Credit: Megan Long Photography)

One thing has remained true each year I’ve worked in education: Every student has an abundance of unique beliefs, experiences, cultures, passions and fears that lay just below the surface. Valuing, honoring and respecting these pieces that make my students who they are have always been the most critical factor to building a trusting relationship that ensures they can be successful in my class.

When I read an Indiana music teacher refused to use a transgender student’s name and pronoun — as mandated by his school’s policy — I was furious. He claimed doing so violated his religious beliefs and would “encourage harm to the students in my care and provide a poor example for others.”

In truth, he’s likely doing more harm to his students than good. Not only is he denying transgender students a welcoming classroom, but he’s signaling a lack of respect for transgender students to every other student. Many transgender children will spend far too long ashamed of their own selves and who they know themselves to be. Each time that fear is reinforced — especially by educators — it gashes their youth wide open, leaving painful scars.

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