An Open Letter to Some Grown Ups at the Start of the School Year

Posted: August 24, 2016 in Blog, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Dear School Administrators,

I’m about to share with you an idea that is so radical, it might make your hair catch fire when you read it. Ready?  Here goes.

It is not the responsibility of the teenagers with whom you cross paths  to educate you about their gender identity. I know this is a crazy idea, but there are adults in the world who would be glad to have those conversations with you–other real adults who are also school administrators, lawyers and docs, who have spent a great deal of time learning about sexual orientation and gender identify development. Some of the Youth Outlook kids like speaking up but (and I know you’ll find this hard to believe) there are some 13 and 14 year old kids who feel sorta….you know…put on the spot when called upon to educate grown people whose motivations and goals are not quite clear and the kids don’t feel quite supported.

Okay, now put out the fire on your head and consider this. There are agencies that focus their work on supporting LGBT children and youth. They have attorneys on staff that have tracked the legal issues across the country and can give you the most up to date information available.  First, check in with Illinois Safe Schools Alliance (www.illinoissafeschools.org).  They do amazing work with school policy and gender issues.

I know this hard work. Here. Put a little aloe on that burn. Now consider this. There is a growing number of school administrators who have already undertaken some education on the topic of gender identity, bathroom and locker room issues and have arranged for training for all of their staff. At this point, schools are even arranging education for parents who want to understand more. How do I know this? Because I’ve met them in person. They’ve come to trainings offered by Youth Outlook (www.youth-outlook.org), or they’ve scheduled Youth Outlook to come to their school for a presentation. Talk to them. They are a wealth of information about how they did policy changes, guidelines and training.

Back in the late 90s when Youth Outlook was just getting launched, school representatives told me ALL THE TIME that there were no gay kids in the suburban schools. I half expected it from the admin folks but I’ll admit I found it embarrassing from other social workers. Then, time went by and I kept bringing the topic up and more kids came out and GSAs took root. High school representatives stopped arguing about whether or not they had gay kids. They KNEW they had them. Those wild and rascally gay kids were everywhere!

About 5 years ago, I started pointing out that we weren’t talking about only gay kids any more and we weren’t talking about just high schools. By then, we were talking about middle school kids coming out and many, many more issues related to gender identity. And over the last few years, trans, non-binary and gender fluid kids have been coming out in droves.

Guess what our next challenge is going to be?  Can you connect the dots? Right.  Here. You need a little more aloe on that. The next trend is going to be elementary aged kids coming out as the whole range of L, G, B, P and T/non-binary.  The middle schools are still doing what the high schools did back in the 90s. “Oh, we don’t have kids like that here!” Imagine, if you will, what the response is going to be when the elementary aged kids start coming out in the same droves that the middle schoolers are right now.

So, back to my original point.  It’s not the responsibility of those kids to educate you, no more than it is the responsibility of trans teenagers to educate their doctors about trans health needs. There are trainings all over the country now. There are local organizations specializing in supporting LGBT+ kids. I encourage you to find us. We can help you, because it’s our mission to help them. Inviting a 14 year old to meet with the school attorney to explain gender…strikes me as a power play and the first thought that comes to mind, “Hey, pick on someone your own size.”

Really? Is this the first time someone has said that to you?

I know, I know! But don’t worry, I think your eyebrows will grow back. Take this aloe plant with you.  We’ll talk again soon.

aloe-vera-plant

Comments
  1. Nancy Carlson says:

    So eloquent. Thanks.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s