Trans Students Meet with Ed Secretary, Call for Stronger Guidance for Schools
Last month, transgender and gender non-confirming students were invited to a student roundtable with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) applauds Secretary Duncan’s commitment to hearing the voices of transgender youth. NCTE Board member Bryce Celotto and NCTE intern Romeo Jackson were among the students participating.
Many of the students—who are in both high school and college—shared an all too common experience of bullying and harassment. Research from GLSEN, 80% of transgender middle and high school students report feeling unsafe at school. Transgender college students in the 2010 Campus Pride’s State of Higher Education for LGBTQ people report: respondents who identified as transfeminine were most likely to feel deliberately ignored or excluded (69%) and isolated or left out (62%), while respondents who identified as transmasculine were most likely to be stared at (59%) or singled out as resident authority due to their identity (54%).”
One student, a transgender girl of color, shared her experience of being assaulted in school. She recalled a boy running up to her in the hallway, punching her in the face and saying, “that’s a man.” She went on to say that her school did not respond effectively, a common theme of the conversation. Later, this same student, also shared resources with the Sec. Duncan about ending the school –to-prison pipeline which affects LGBT youth of color disproportionately.
Several students stressed that not having the same access as other students to restrooms consistent with their gender identity was a source of stress, humiliation, and fear. Others spoke to how much having affirming parents and school staff has meant for them. Another student, who self-identified as Black, non-binary and queer, shared experiences of not knowing which box to check when filling out forms as they did not have a gender. When asked for a solution the student simply said, “fill in the blank is the best option.”
These are only a few stories shared in the hour conversation. However, every student at the table had a story filled with resilient and a dedication to making schools a safer space for all students.
Last year, The Department of Education released guidance making clear for the first time that the federal Title IX sex discrimination law prohibits gender identity discrimination. Though a step in the right direction, NCTE joins serval students in attendance in their call for more robust Title IX guidance for schools, outlining requirements for equal educational opportunity in key areas such as restrooms, name and pronoun use, privacy, and athletic participation.
We encourage anyone who have faced discrimination act school to consult our Know Your Rights at School resource. Students, parents, staff, and allies can also use the Model School District Policy developed by NCTE and GLSEN to advocate with your school or school district for better policies.