How Should Schools Handle Transgender Kids?

I was looking online and I found an article about transgendered children in schools that was recently published by Denise-Marie Balona in the Orlando Sentinel. She starts off by describing how when children are younger and they start drawing themselves that girls generally draw themselves as ladies in fancy dresses and pretty high heels. However, one student in Deltona drew herself differently. In her drawing she was a boy wearing pants standing in front of a “boys” school. She then explains how now at the age of 8 this child wants to be called “he.” His parents explain that he wasn’t born a hermaphrodite or intersexed but he was just born in the wrong body. And after years of struggles over school clothes, and haircuts, and even therapy, his parents are finally letting him lives as a boy. “This is just who he is — his brain is just wired in such a way that he’s male. It doesn’t matter what his genitalia is,” explained the boy’s mother.

Mental heath experts are disagreeing over whether or not it is healthy to make such a dramatic change at such an early age in life. However, Balona states that children are changing gender as early on as 5 years old. “They’re changing their names, insisting on a new pronoun and altering their appearance with new clothes and hairstyles.” In the article the questions arise about what schools should do about these children. How will the schools accommodate these children? How will they make sure they are using the correct pronouns? How will teachers be able to explain to other children the situation?

Balona comments, “It’s hard to know how many people are transgender, an umbrella term that includes those whose biological sex doesn’t match their internal sense of masculinity or femininity. Nobody tracks statistics, and many transgender people prefer to keep information private.” According to the APA, American Psychological Association, approximately 1 in 10,000 males will transition to female and about 1 in 30,000 females will transition to male. And according to the Center for Transgender Equality that is about one-fourth to one percent of the population.

The article also discusses how certain psychologists believe children can be “re-trained” to conform with their sex at birth. Some of these psychologists and therapists agree on certain terms that children shouldn’t be allowed to switch gender roles because they will eventually grow out of it. While the other psychologists and therapists insist that it isn’t something that can be trained especially if the children express that they are the wrong sex over a period of years. “And, those experts conclude, it could be dangerous to ignore these feelings. Transgender kids sometimes feel so out of sync with their bodies they cut or otherwise intentionally injure their genitals — or commit suicide.”

Although many places are beginning to help work with families with transgendered children a lot of people are still opposed to the idea that this happens. A mom in Florida explained that after allowing her child who was born a male live as a female, she received threatening emails. “I get some terrible e-mails — people that basically say that I am the worst parent, I am evil, I should be killed.”

In Miami-Dade County, the school district has changed its policies to accommodate transgender kids. Schools are encouraged to have unisex bathrooms and have a trained Gender Safety Leader, who helps the kids make a smooth transition. Also at another school, the Hillsborough County School Board updated its anti-bullying policy to include transgender kids within the most protected groups.

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One response to “How Should Schools Handle Transgender Kids?

  1. I found this article very interesting. In particular, when you cited how certain psychologists believe that children should be allowed to decide their gender because they often “grow out of it”. What if we as a society openly allowed and even encouraged this behavior? (Also– it almost immediately came to mind the whole recent todo in celebrity gossip with Shiloh Jolie-Pitt and how she is “dressing” as a boy. Is it really that big of a deal?) Would the gender binary be challenged? Would it matter if a child identified as male one year and female then next as long as they are pleased and making progress mentally and socially?

    Thanks for sharing!

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