Schools and Gender

The development of a safe and supportive learning environment is a fundamental responsibility of any successful school. As you encounter increasingly diverse populations of students, it is incumbent upon your educational institutions to understand the characteristics of the complex communities you serve.

A basic area of student diversity that is rarely acknowledged is gender. Gender variance is a normal part of human expression; while many children fit easily and naturally into our culture's binary gender options, others do not. Some students barely step outside of gender-related expectations, while others take giant leaps. Regardless of the degree, individuals who stray outside of typical boundaries frequently become targets for mistreatment and exclusion. In many schools, even the slightest inconsistency in one's presentation from that which is considered "normal" for the child's assigned gender can lead to severe harassment from peers and even adults. The third grade boy wearing a "Dora the Explorer" backpack, the middle school girl who prefers jeans and t-shirts, or the androgynous high school student all face potential teasing and social isolation for these seemingly innocent choices.

For transgender students, the risks are especially high. Current data about the high school experience for transgender students is shocking:

For additional insights into the challenges faced by transgender students, see Harsh Realities: Experiences of Transgender Students in Our Nation's Schools.

Despite these and other disturbing numbers about the experience of gender nonconforming students, schools can and are working to create supportive climates at their sites. Gender inclusive schools and classrooms welcoming all children and teens are within any school community's reach.

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