Trans* at School: Middle School and High School Edition
A lot of people have been asking us questions lately about coming out in middle school or high school, generally in the public school system. This can be really tricky due to bullying and difficulty with the teachers and administration, but there are some ways to make it a little easier. Although neither of us have personal experience coming out as trans* in middle or high school, we did some research and here are the tips we were able to come up with:
1) Get your parents on your side. Having the support of your parents in this situation is absolutely invaluable, particularly if you are much younger. Not only can your parents approach the teachers and administration at the school for you, but when they are on your side you are more likely to get the results you’d like (in terms of the school being accommodating to you, etc.). Of course this is not always something that you can control, but if your parents ARE supportive, let the teachers and administration at your school know and ask your parents to talk to the school on your behalf.
2) Educate the teachers and administration of the school. Pamphlets like this one are actually designed just for the purpose of educating schools about creating a safe and supportive environment for transgender youth. Your school might not have any experience dealing with trans* students, and so unfortunately it might fall on you to explain to them what being trans* is/means and what your needs are (having teachers call you by your chosen name and use your correct pronouns, bathroom arrangements, protection from bullying, etc.).
3) Get the support of your school’s LGBTQ + Allies group. And if you don’t have one, you may want to start one. As someone who started an LGBTQ organization at my high school though, I can tell you that it can take several years and be a real uphill battle (as well as put you in the spotlight). Another good option, particularly if you live in a bigger city, is to try to get in contact with a local LGBTQ or transgender specific support group or organization that might be able to help you navigate coming out and/or transitioning in school.
4) Understand your rights and protections as a student in the a) public school system or the b) private school system. Trans Youth Family Allies and Lambda Legal both have good information about this. You also might want to read a copy of the school’s conduct code to see if there are any rules on the books regarding gender that might apply to you (and make sure that any rules that are on the books aren’t infringing upon your rights).
5) Have a network of support from your friends, family, therapists, and online community in place to help you through any adversity you may face. Before you come out to the entire school or start openly transitioning, you may want to make sure you have this support system in place. Maybe start by coming out to a few of your close friends and seeing how they respond, and making sure you have people behind you before you go into this. Transitioning in the public eye (regardless of whether you physically transition or not) can be incredibly difficult, no matter what age you are. Being a teen or pre-teen can also be incredibly difficult without the added complication of being trans*. Having people to support you can make it all significantly easier.