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AACTE Honors International Transgender Day of Visibility

According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, there are over 1.6 million trans youth (13+) and adults across the United States. With new language and increased social acceptance to explore gender identity, the number of students identifying as transgender, non-binary, or any other gender non-conforming identity continues to rise. AACTE celebrates educators, policymakers, communities, and advocates that are doing the work to ensure transgender youth have the inclusive spaces and access to equal rights they deserve. In honor of International Transgender Day on March 31, AACTE encourages P-20 educators to do the work of learning how to support the identities of trans students and teachers, a sentiment shared by many of our members.

“It is critical that we focus our attention on the social, emotional, and mental health of our LGBTQ+ students. In 2001, the CDC published a report that concluded our LGBTQ+ teens continue to face extremely high levels of violence and mental health challenges. In fact, the report concluded that over half (52%) of LGBTQ+ students had recently experienced poor mental health and that 1 in 5 (22%) attempted suicide in the past year. Our teacher preparation programs must begin to provide the information and skill development needed to create trauma-informed classrooms, welcoming and affirming all identities and knowing how to appropriately respond to students who experience harm and who cause harm in our schools – using restorative justice and nonviolent communication practices.” –Kari Vogelgesang, Director, Professional Development Scanlan Center for School Mental Health and Baker Teacher Leader Center, University of Iowa

As Vogelgesang notes, physical and mental well-being for transgender students is concerning. A national survey by GLSEN found that 75% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school, a feeling that we can only assume is increasing due to the unsubstantiated fears and focus of lawmakers using a variety of tactics to chip away at their equal rights. According to HRC, 37 states have introduced more than 400 bills that would harm LGBTQ+ and/or other underrepresented individuals. The majority of these bill specifically target transgender people, and even more so, transgender youth. 

On the national level, some members of Congress have also tried to censor the curriculum taught in our schools, even though there has been a long tradition of the federal government deferring to state and local school districts about those decisions. These include HR5, a Parents Bills of Rights Act that ignores strong partnerships that already exist between parents and educators and that disregards educators’ experience according to the NEA; and HR734, which seeks to codify the anti-equality trans youth sports bans that have been sweeping across states over the last several years. 

While the bills vary, the end goal is similar: to restrict the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming youth. For example, some states seek to prevent students from using the restrooms that match their gender identity, participate in athletics, remove access to gender affirming care, and/or removes books or curriculum that discuss race, gender, sexuality, US history, and other issues from classrooms and school libraries. As a result, these bills create a chilling effect among teachers and severely restrict students’ freedom to read and to learn about the full breadth of our nation’s history.

AACTE hopes you take some time this week to read more stories about transgender youth and resources that can help support their identities in schools across the country. Here is a list to get you started:

Pronoun Form for Educators

Transgender Teachers Speak Out on What They Need from School Leaders

Trans Educators have an important place in our schools

Trans Youth Equality Foundation – Resources for Educators

National Center for Transgender Equality – Youth & Students

Resources from “about Gender Identity Justice in Schools & Communities” by sj Miller