Making school safer and comfortable for trans students

Making school safer and comfortable for trans students

Beck Iannucci

TW: assault, sexual assault, rape, harassment, deadnaming, misgendering

A 2015 survey by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation reported that 75% of trans students feel unsafe at school. 60% of trans students were denied access to bathrooms and locker rooms. 51% of trans students didn’t have their names and pronouns respected. 28% of trans students were prevented from wearing affirming clothing. 64.5% of  trans students are verbally abused, 24.9% are physically harassed, and 12% are physically assaulted.

So how do we fix these alarming numbers? There are some simple solutions. One way is to be aware of the language we are using. When separating students into groups you can use  numbers instead of separating by gender. You can give students a number and then they form groups or you can even have determined groups that you use all semester or quarter. 

Don’t answer questions about a student’s name for them. This seems straightforward enough but I can’t tell you how many times teachers have said that Beck is just a nickname or not my real name. You don’t always know what’s a nickname or not because not everyone feels comfortable to come out yet. Don’t bring up legal names. It’s not relevant. If a student seems uncomfortable you can always use their last name to refer to them.

Keep in mind that there are kind ways to ask questions. Having a teacher ask if I’m a boy or a girl in the middle of class was horrifying. You can ask: “What are your pronouns?” or “What do you go by?” That’s a lot nicer and doesn’t put the student on the spot or make things awkward. 

If someone is using neutral language, don’t question them on it. A good example is when I was talking about scouts and got asked if I was in boy scouts or girl scouts. I would have said so if I was comfortable. You need to realize that someone might not want to talk and not take that personally. Trans students are still students. Be gentle with us like you would with every other student.

Students should have access to a name change if they’re comfortable with it! For me, it was a big deal  to ask, but I’m happy my accounts were changed. There is also the issue of attendance. Attendance can be extremely painful because they are not often updated with email accounts. That means a painful first day and substitute teachers always using the wrong name. This isn’t just an issue of a student being uncomfortable. It’s at the point now where I only respond to Beck because that’s my real name. If you call me something else you won’t get my attention. I won’t understand what you’re trying to say. That goes for gendered words too. Call me ma’am and I won’t even gaze in your direction. I’m not a woman so I have a reason to.

These are some things to keep in mind when speaking to others. It may require some practice because more often than not, we aren’t aware of how we talk to others or how we phrase things. You have to get used to correcting yourself and acknowledging when you make a mistake.

Make bathrooms accessible! I don’t think some people realize that trans people can be disabled too. Your gender neutral bathrooms should be wheelchair accessible too and there should be more than one. If there is only one bathroom then a student is likely to miss too much of class waiting or not make it in time. I know that this can be awkward to talk about, but I literally just want a place to pee like everyone else. Let’s be adults about this and discuss that it’s an issue.

Locker rooms have made me feel unsafe all my life. If I have to change in the neutral bathroom then don’t mark me tardy. The one neutral bathroom is all the way upstairs so I need to go up a flight of stairs and then it might be occupied because it’s only one stall now. Then gym teachers want to take points off for not changing. They don’t understand how scary it is to be out of the closet and be in a locker room. The students around you stare daggers at you and it doesn’t matter that your eyes are always to the floor. They watch you as if to say, don’t act up. As someone that can’t stand the sight of my own body, it’s the worst. Plus, I can’t run in a binder and I refuse to take it off in front of everyone. 

Another thing that we can do is fight against anti-trans laws that the US has been trying to push. Trans students belong in sports like every other student. They shouldn’t be kicked out or excluded. The idea that’s bouncing around about checks is disgusting. If I asked you if a student should be forced to strip down, you’d of course tell me no. Then why should that have to happen to trans students? Having an adult check if a student is trans by looking at them naked will lead to assault and rape. This will affect all students — trans or not. A creepy adult can claim suspicion to prey on kids. Your kid may be targeted too.