The first adult I told I was trans was my school board when I was 17 years old.
It was a place where I felt safe as I wasn’t sure how my family or those around me would react.
It was something I knew I had to tell someone, but I was still incredibly nervous. I remember walking into her office like so many times before and just sitting down and feeling exhausted pretending to be someone I wasn’t.
I explained to her that I was trans and had no idea what to do, who to talk to, or where to go. I knew I wanted to switch, but I had no idea where to even start.
She supported me straight away – and instead of questioning me, she acknowledged me and believed me and helped me find a trans support group. Within an hour she had given me hope.
It was incredibly important for me to have that space and be able to share it with her with confidence – and the support she gave me was so important.
My council member was a lifeline who could help me take the first steps, come out and tell my friends and family. When I was ready to come to school, she made sure it was a smooth process and that the school started using my real name and pronouns as requested at all times.
Without her, my journey could have been very different and I am still grateful for that today.
This is one of the many reasons why it is so incredibly important that school staff support their transgender students and create an environment where they feel safe to express themselves fully. Without it, students are forced to suppress themselves in order to fit in—at the expense of their own mental and physical well-being.
Therefore, when I first heard the comments of then-Attorney General Suella Braverman last month, it was “wrong for schools to claim they have legal obligations that mean they must address children by their preferred pronouns or names, or allow them to do the opposite Sex toilets, sports teams or dormitories” – I felt nauseous.
It shows such a lack of compassion and understanding for what young trans people are going through. We’re talking about giving young people some human decency and making an effort to respect who they are.
I just can’t understand why anyone would be against it and so obviously despise other people.
It is more important than ever that schools do their utmost to protect their students from harm and bullying. This commitment is not only reinforced in the Ministry of Education’s legal guidance for schools and colleges, but more importantly, it’s just the right thing to do.
Bullying starts to affect your self-esteem
A 2017 study by Stonewall in the UK found that almost half (45%) of LGBT students experienced bullying at school – including 64% of trans students.
The government’s Equality Office showed in 2018 that half of secondary school students reported that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language was common in their school.
In fact, according to a 2019 YouGov poll, bullying against LGBT students is the most prevalent form of discrimination in schools.
These are not just numbers on a page – this is likely affecting the real lives of thousands of students across this country.
Growing up in the early ’90s, I vividly remember what it was like to be a gender-nonconforming kid in school. I was routinely referred to as “girl,” “sissy,” “pansy,” and other derogatory terms intended to belittle me for my femininity.
Being negatively labeled “gay” was a common occurrence, especially when I reached my teens. From there, the bullying became more extreme, with horrible insults thrown my way, and malicious mix-ups and prejudice became more common.
Bullying starts to affect your self-esteem. It makes you feel like you’re not good enough and that something is inherently wrong with you or with who you are. Being bullied for being perceived as gay — and later coming out as trans — has definitely impacted me and my mental well-being.
But luckily I had a supportive environment when I came out as trans – and my school was unequivocally supportive.
I believe it is very important for students to be able to come out as trans at school without sharing it with their parents or family – because a trans student is not in and of itself a protection issue.
However, if they are outed to their family, who may not be supportive – or even hostile – to LGBT+ people, it will certainly create a security issue and make them unsafe.
Contrary to what Suella Braverman, now Home Secretary, believes, school staff should definitely support their transgender students and give them the opportunity to use a different name and pronoun in school. In fact, a 2018 US study found that using a young trans person’s name and pronouns can reduce symptoms of depression by 71%.
In the UK, adults can change their name as many times as they like, as long as it’s not for fraudulent purposes – and I see no reason why we shouldn’t give young people the same opportunity.
At the same time, it is important for the staff to talk to the students about their home situation.
By keeping this in mind and talking to students about it, they can be supported to come out on their own terms while also getting the support they need.
Contrary to what Suella Braverman believes, school staff should be supportive of their transgender students
I’m always touched when I see the younger generation having opportunities to come out at an earlier age. While I was able to come out at a relatively young age, I know I would have come out sooner if I had had the information and opportunities that young people and their families have now.
Schools play an important role in helping young people express themselves, and anyone who argues that schools should not support trans students clearly either doesn’t understand the importance of that, or lacks the ability to understand that being trans is not something that just goes away.
Our sexuality or gender identity isn’t something we “grow out of” or a “phase” — all of these myths have long since been trashed regarding child gayness, and the same goes for being trans.
I’m in my early 30s and I’m still not “outgrown” – nor are the vast majority of the millions of trans people around the world who have benefited tremendously from being themselves.
It’s time we start realizing that transgender is a part of our society and we all need to do our best to make sure everyone can live their life to the fullest and feel safe, at home, in the to express at school and at work.
Looking back on my childhood and adolescence, I can see so clearly that those who bullied me back then are no different from the adults who bully and harass me today because I am trans.
The irony is that before I came out as trans they tried to insult me by calling me “a girl” and now they abuse me and call me “a man”.
These views are all rooted in bigotry and deep-seated misogyny, homophobia and transphobia.
In the end, nothing they have ever said or will ever say will change who I am and how I live my life. Likewise, our young people deserve much better than the treatment they endure in schools.
The fact that so many of our young people are being bullied at school should be a case of national concern – they deserve to be free to be themselves and have the same opportunities as everyone else, regardless of identity.
It’s not about politics or ideology – it’s just about being kind and compassionate.
Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact us by email at Ross.Mccafferty@metro.co.uk.
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/09/28/teachers-should-support-trans-pupils-to-come-out-on-their-own-terms-17466368/ Teachers should support transgender students to come out on their own terms