How to Talk to School Staff and Parents About Gender Identity
The fluidity of gender and the diversity of which gender is experienced and identified is vastly more varied than in previous decades. Gender is not binary, a simple boy or girl. Some feel as if they were born in the wrong body, feeling like they are more of a girl rather than a boy or vice versa. Others identify on the spectrum between male and female, as gender nonconforming, or gender creative, diverse, expansive, and independent.
With different gender identities becoming prevalent within the norm, conversations concerning their well-being, and promoting awareness should be a priority.
What Does This Mean?
Parents and teachers need to be on the same page to assist in the development of their children. Inclusive spaces must be created as well as tools and resources that support the students. This is not a small portion of society being affected, over 10% of the population identifies as something other than what they were assigned at birth. Communication should be encouraged to fill the gap of information.
How Should We Communicate?
One of the first steps for incorporating gender identity into a daily conversation or teaching method is respecting and using the student’s preferred gender pronouns. These hold value and should be treated like a student’s name. Making the adjustment, especially in a small school where most students know each other. When the preferred pronouns are encouraged, students and teachers that may have previously been unaware of their significance become aware, which can lead to the introduction of other steps to communicate with those students properly.
A common misconception is the idea that students should only be learning about gender identity at home instead of at school. In truth, both places are appropriate for students to be taught to respect differences. When students respect the differences of other students both are more likely to succeed, they will be able to cooperate on projects and prevent bullying from other students. This is not limited to teaching about gender identity, you should also include race, sexuality, family type, class, and religion. Discourage harmful stereotypes.
Don’t wait until the situation arises to push you into talking about gender identity, you need to approach it beforehand. No need to get into all the details, especially if you feel uncomfortable with talking with them because they are younger or may not be able to comprehend, simply cover the basics fully. Teach that certain people feel different about themselves, and we should be okay with that.
Gender may begin with the assignment of sex, but it does not end there. A person’s gender is a complex relationship between their body, identity, and expression. They can vary across a range of possibilities that are separate but equal on the gender spectrum.
Our job as educators and parents is to create a safe space where children and young adults can learn while expressing themselves without fear of judgment. Educating each other is the best opportunity to allow freedom of expression within our schools and within our homes.