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How to Discuss Transgender Issues in The Classroom

It was one woman’s sole effort to memorialise the murder of her transgender friend in 1999 that grew into what’s known today as Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR).
TDoR is one day of the year when people from all genders come together to remember those who’ve fallen victim to violence directed against the transgender community. As well as to bring attention to the ongoing discrimination and debate surrounding the subject.

It came just after this year’s Anti-Bullying Week, which itself celebrated diversity and equality with its campaign of ‘All Different, All Equal’. The coordinators recognised the theme as an important topic on the international stage that was also being heavily discussed among young people up and down the country.

The fact that transgenderism is so widely reported in mainstream media may actually put some teachers off raising the topic. Students clearly have a multitude of opinions, each influenced by whatever news source they read and often the views of their parents. But given recent events, and the talk of changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004, there’s simply no better time to discuss transgender issues in the classroom.

Here are three ways that’ll help you effectively approach and discuss transgender issues with your
students.

1. Understanding what transgenderism is A good way to start talking about transgender issues in the classroom is by exploring the meaning behind common terms, either that you have researched yourself and/or your students have seen in the media.

The word transgender itself is described as identifying with a gender or expression that doesn’t correspond with your birth-assigned gender. Some other common terms include:

Gender Identity: The internal awareness, which may not be visible to others, of being male, female, neither, or both.

Gender Expression: the way a person uses appearance, mannerisms, hairstyle, attire, and other personal traits to communicate their gender.

Gender Fluid: Changing gender identity over time or in different circumstances.

Gender Spectrum: The range of varying and multidimensional gender possibilities.
  
Gender Nonconforming: Expressing differing gender identity from societal expectations of birth-
assigned gender.

Cisgender: A term for someone who has a gender identity that aligns with what they were
assigned at birth.

Agender: Without gender or with gender-neutral identity; having no particular gender expression.  

Transitioning: Living as the identifying gender rather than the birth-assigned gender.

2. Establishing a school-wide policy

If your school doesn’t yet have a policy that supports transgender students, it may be time it did. However, it doesn’t need to be official to make a difference.

Making transgenderism a common part of the wider debate on diversity and equality — race, ethnicities, minority groups, gender — will help integrate it as a normal part of the curriculum. The fact is, if you feel strongly about such issues, there’s nothing stopping you from developing programs, practices, lesson plans, and activities that can be shared among teachers and even among other faculty and parents.

3. Setting up extracurricular programs

It can be hard for students who’re either lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, or asexual (LGBTQIA) to talk about their experiences in front of all their peers. Running extracurricular programs after class is a great way to allow students to talk openly about these issues. Outside of the classroom, students may feel they’re in a safer environment in which they can open up, express doubts and worries, and find the right support they need.

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