This post is the next in my series of letters parents have written to schools on behalf of their gender-nonconforming and transgender children (the first and second letters appear here). The following letter was written by Natanya*, the mother of Jamie, a transgender teenager entering high school. Natanya sent the letter to every teacher at her daughter’s new school; in addition to the letter, Jamie and her mother visited every teacher in person before the start of school to judge their reactions. At this first meeting, they all responded positively. They have since gotten permission from the principal for Jamie to use the girls’ locker room.
I look forward to meeting you in person in the near future, but in the mean time there is an important matter I need to discuss with you.
My child is an incoming freshman and is in your class (English 9, 1st period; Algebra 1, 2nd period; Health, 3rd period; Spanish 1, 4th period; Dance PE, 5th period). On your roster, her name appears as James Renaldo, and her gender appears as male. However, my daughter is transgender; she identifies as a female, and her name is Jamie. It would be wonderful if you can correct the name on your roster before class starts so that Jamie does not have to make this awkward correction.
I am concerned because transgender teens have the highest percentage rate of discrimination, bullying, and assault (Jamie suffered all of these from students and staff at her middle school last year). Likewise, they have the highest percentage of depression, self-mutilation, and suicide. Jamie is in good spirits, I have no immediate fears about her emotional state, and I would like to look to you, her teachers, to please help her feel safe in school. The research by the California Safe School committee indicates that one of the most important factors in keeping trans students safe is having a trusted teacher or staff member who they recognize as an ally, and who will take action if the student is aggressed.
I understand that Gender Spectrum does training at your school, and that there are other LGBTQ students, so I am hoping that this year goes smoothly. I in no way intend this message to be confrontational, but just so that we start the year off on the same page I would like to reiterate that state law, and county and district policy supports the T in LGBTQ: “Transgender and gender non-conforming students have the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun corresponding to their gender identity. This is true regardless of whether the student has obtained a court ordered name or gender change. Intentionally addressing a student by the incorrect name or pronoun is a form of discrimination. The directive does not prohibit inadvertent slips or honest mistakes, but it does apply to an intentional and persistent refusal to respect a student’s gender identity.”
I also have some concern about where Jamie will change clothes, I hope that we can meet with Ms. Billings today or that Jamie can have a moment of her time tomorrow during class. Again, the legal standards are clear: “In locker rooms that involve undressing in front of others, transgender students who want to use the locker room corresponding to their gender identity must be provided an accommodation that best meets the student’s needs. Such accommodations can include: (A) use of a private area within the public area (a bathroom stall with a door, an area separated by a curtain, a PE instructor’s office in the locker room), (B) a separate changing schedule in the private area (either utilizing the locker room before or after the other students), (C) use of a nearby private area (a nearby restroom, a nurse’s office), (D) access to the locker room corresponding to the student’s sex assigned at birth, or (E) satisfaction of PE requirement by independent study outside of gym class (either before or after school or at a local recreational facility). It is not an acceptable accommodation to deny a student’s opportunity for physical education either through not allowing the student to have PE or by forcing the student to have PE outside of the assigned class time. Requiring a transgender student to use the locker room corresponding to the student’s sex assigned at birth is likewise prohibited…All students have a right to safe and appropriate restroom facilities. This includes the right to use a restroom that corresponds to the student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s sex assigned at birth. Requiring the student to `prove’ their gender (by requiring a doctor’s letter, identity documents, etc.) is not acceptable. The student’s self-identification is the sole measure of the student’s gender, per Title IX and The California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 (AB 357).”
I believe you are all compassionate people, and I am confident that Wawona High School will be welcoming.
Thank you for your consideration . . . and if you have any wish-list items for your classrooms, please let me know!
*All of the names and places are pseudonymous.