First name, last name, address, sex, birthday. For most people, filling out forms is, at worst, routine. But for many students, the matter isn't so simple. Having to pick one's sex or gender on a form can put students between a rock and a hard place, having to fill the forms out, but not wanting to lie about their identity. The dreaded box is everywhere, from emergency contact info to school lunch aid. There are thousands of forms still out there that can put students in a difficult position, even though school districts may not realize the issue. Let's go through the standard forms used in schools, and the problems that accompany them.Sex: M or F
This option is perhaps the most restrictive and inaccurate. Sex is one's physical traits, such as chromosomes. A trans female student, even if they had been living as a woman for years, might technically have to pick Male.
This invalidates her identity and places her along with cisgender
males, obviously creating issues. This option also ignores the existence of intersex
students, implying there is only male or female. Many schools go a step up by offering the next option:Gender: M or F
Another very popular option, this box does at least allow for accurate filing of gender-conforming students. But what about those students that can't simply mark one box? What about those students that can't check the M
or the F?
Our schools are pushing these students into boxes they shouldn't be. Entire countries such as Australia
are giving their citizens the right to be who they are. Schools need to give students the same; they deserve it.Gender: M, F, or Transgender.
Although the intent of this form is honorable, it is, frankly, inaccurate. The term transgender
refers to those who do not identify with the gender they were assigned based on their physical sex. This form seems to imply it is instead a gender onto itself. The trans female student mentioned in the first form would be asked to pick two options, making the form confusing to the student and not providing the information the school is (presumably) looking for. A more accurate form would be:Gender: M, F, or Other.
Compared to the three previous options, this form at least the most accurate. However, something seems off. Let's imagine if the form said "Gender: Male, or Other,"
or "Hijra, Genderqueer, or Other."
Slightly different, no? Although this form does allow an option for everyone (if you are neither male nor female, you would technically be other), it can project the wrong image. Non-binary identities aren't a side-option, an extra, an "other." They are just as valid as the identities of "male" and "female." They have existed for centuries, and include thousands of people. We should not be asking these distinct groups to be pushed into an "et cetera" category. Instead, let us use a more equal option:Gender: ______.
This option allows all students to be open about their identity, without making them a side-salad. "Male," "Fa'afafine," even "N/A" are all valid responses here. The form makes no presumptions about students, and it can even save ink! The main consideration schools may have is, of course, students filling in joke responses. However, this opportunity presents itself in any
fill-in area; it's simply a necessary risk.No Gender Option.
Some activists are advocating for removing gender options from forms entirely. The primary arguments for this approach are to reduce the importance of gender on a societal level, and to prevent pressuring students into identifying. The downside, however, would be the loss of important data for schools, and the mind-opening effect seeing gender-diverse options can have on other students.
This is where the question to YOU
comes in: "Should students be required to fill out gender on forms?
It would be great to cover this issue in another post. Give us your opinion below, on Facebook, or through email
. Thanks for reading!
We're always looking for ways to interact with our members, defend student rights, and increase awareness and respect for those rights. On Tuesday, TSR's board took up a project that would allow us to do all three.
Transgender students face a number of unique challenges when attending school, and some administrators are happy to do whatever they can to help them feel safe and comfortable at school. Unfortunately, many others are not so willing. In these cases, students may find themselves without the option to wear clothes of their choosing, without the respect of their preferred name and pronoun, or even without the basic necessity of a bathroom to use without fear or violence. Schools or principals that deny these rights can leave students feeling humiliated, antagonized, and depressed. Those feelings are not healthy, and are contradictory to the purpose of education.
School principals don't always have the authority to make these decisions, and there are laws, government regulations, and legal precedent protecting you from many discriminatory and dangerous situations. However, wading through all the legalese can be frustrating, time-consuming, and confusing. And even if you find something, you might be unable to determine whether or not it applies to your situation.
That's why we're launching our "Your Life, Your Rights" project. We want to hear your stories about issues you face at school. You can submit your story by emailing us at email@example.com
or by using our online form to contact us.
We'll research your situation, and get back to you about whether your rights are being violated. We'll also let you know how you could deal with the situation by addressing the problems you're confronted with. Afterward, we'll add your story and solution to share with other students facing similar issues. Don't worry! We won't use your name and we'll do our best to exclude unnecessary information that could be used to identify you. Our end goal is to make sure that all transgender students feel safe, happy, healthy, and excited to learn.
We look forward to hearing from you!Note: Transgender Student Rights does not consider any advice or recommendations to be a substitute for advice from a licensed professional. If you would like to take legal action, we would be happy to connect you with an LGBT organization that could assist you.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has released a new version of their standards of care, the last update being in 2001. The new SOC for trans and gender non-conforming people reduces barriers to medical care and relaxes age-based restrictions. The common language of "disorder" and "dysphoria" has also been reduced in the medical guide. WPATH's most noteworthy shift is the declaration of gender conversion therapy as "unethical." The SOC states:“Treatment aimed at trying to change a person’s gender identity and lived gender expression to become more congruent with sex assigned at birth has been attempted in the past (Gelder & Marks, 1969; Greenson, 1964), yet without success, particularly in the long term (Cohen-Kettenis & Kuiper, 1984; Pauly, 1965). Such treatment is no longer considered ethical."
The update will surely increase pressure on other medical organizations to reexamine and update their standards. Suggestions have been made for future alterations to WPATH's own standards, particularly those dealing with trans youth. The organization has also announced plans to analyze and revise their own SOC more frequently.
Read the SOC here.
"Dissent and debate are critical for maintaining equality and justice in all areas of society," said Transgender Student Rights co-founder Cameron Morkal Williams. In order to have the most effective movement for trans students, we need to be engaging in dialogues about key issues. That's why, as mentioned in yesterday's post
, TSR will be running a weekly opinion column encouraging those dialogues. The new column aims to analyze important topics and stimulate discussion from you, our supporters.
I'm Camden; I've been working with TSR for about half a year, helping work on the site and manage Facebook updates. Sunday Spin
will be run by me and Blake, the newest addition to the TSR team. We'll be writing about important and controversial issues in the trans movement, and discussing the best approaches to different challenges.
We hope to address the pervasive problem of "sex as gender" school forms, and hope to ensure that students can express their gender identity at school without fear of violence and harassment. We'll write about what's appropriate in enforcing anti-bullying policies, and consider how far discipline needs to go in order to be effective while still being fair to anti-trans aggressors. Trans women must be recognized as women in the feminist movement-we want to discuss how to accomplish this. The classic issues of class, race, sexism, and transmisogyny will be analyzed with more modern developments of teaching transgender history in schools and accepting gender non-conformity. And of course, we'll talk about global transgender issues, along with issues that you want us to try and tackle.
By adding a personal touch once a week, we hope to generate more discussion and progress in the trans movement. Comment, email
, and get involved!
Firstly, thanks for becoming fans of Transgender Student Rights on Facebook! (If this is not you, please click here
.) I can’t express how much we appreciate your support, but it’s fair to say that we owe it all to you.
That’s why I called a meeting of our Board yesterday to discuss ways that we can improve our organization. We all agreed that we want to help TSR meet its full potential, and we discussed ways to do so.
We decided that our most important short-term goal would be to develop a better relationship with all of you. Communication is key for any movement, and when we have such a large community, there’s no reason not to be sharing our thoughts and ideas on a regular basis. That’s why you’ll be hearing from us every day. We hope to hear more from you!
Every Saturday, I’ll update you all on what’s going on with TSR. That could be anything from meetings we’ve had to projects we’re working on to great conversations we’ve had with all of you. We figure that by keeping you in the loop, you’ll be able to advise us on what we do and steer us in the right direction.
Each Sunday, starting tomorrow, we’ll publish an opinion about issues that matter to the transgender community. We’re calling this the “Sunday Spin,” and we hope it’ll start thought-provoking and entertaining discussions for all of us to enjoy.
During the week, we’ll be reporting on news in the transgender and LGB community. This might include information on Congress and the courts, news about transgender students, or the latest victory for transgender rights. If you see anything you think we missed, you’re welcome to send us a tip at firstname.lastname@example.org
or post about it on our Facebook page.
We’ve scheduled regular meetings of our Board of Directors, and we’ll be sharing some of that information as well. To those of you on Skype, you’re welcome to join us Tuesday nights at 8pm EST by emailing your Skype username to email@example.com
. If you’re not on Skype, you’ll still be able to take part: we’ll be posting our meeting minutes online (we’ll let you know when and where), and we encourage you all to write your thoughts and feedback to us either at firstname.lastname@example.org
or on our Facebook page.
So what is it we’re actually going to do? We’re looking on launching a couple of projects, and you can expect to hear about the first one this time next week. It’s still in the works, but it should be a lot more interactive, and much more useful to you than info we’ve provided you in the past.
Finally, we’re looking to move TSR to a more stable organizational model. There are only five of us behind the scenes here, and we’re all students. That’s great for giving us insight into what you all like and need, but it makes serving those needs difficult to balance on our other responsibilities. I can’t say much about what we’ve got up our sleeve, but we’re aiming to make TSR stronger and more effective, so that we can be the best that we can be for all of you.
That’s all for now. You’ll hear more from us tomorrow and throughout the week - will we hear from you?
Thanks for all the support!
Transgender Student Rights Alex@transgenderstudents.org
Australia has hit a landmark in equality. Now, travelers will have three gender options on their passports: male, female, and indeterminate (X). Before, passports only had the option of male
Gender was also unable to be changed without sex reassignment surgery.
Now, Australian travelers can list the third option on their passports with a doctor's statement. This expansion will ease travel and identification for intersex individuals and those outside the male-female binary, allowing for more accuracy and less discrimination. Even further, the change is an important victory for non-binary visibility and acceptance, and will set an example has been set for other countries.
Read more from Mercury News here.
Marriage equality is becoming a reality in more and more states (and countries), but same-sex marriage isn't the only necessary step to have true matrimonial equality for LGBTQ people. Unfortunately, LGB cisgender (non-transgender) people and their allies can sometimes forget the issues with marriage for many trans people. Due to rigid requirements for changing gender/sex on official documents (and sometimes simply inability to due so), some trans people are excluded from marriage and the marriage debate. We must remember what true marriage equality entails, and not forget trans people and their partners.
Read more about trans issues in marriage here.
Physical violence against LGBTQ people, and trans people in particular, has long been a problem. Too often headlines report of a trans murder victim, and too often the cause is hatred and misinformation. The headlines about the murder of D.C. resident Lashai McLean
are, unfortunately, not unusual, and we hope the cause is not simply the victim being transgender.
To match these headlines comes a study
regarding hate crimes, and those against LGBTQH (H
standing for HIV-Affected
) individuals. The study suggests that anti-LGBTQH violence may be increasing, especially against trans women.
As activists, we can help reduce these numbers. The more silence there is around transphobia and hate crimes, the easier it is for these problems to occur. By speaking out and educating others, misconceptions can be cleared and acceptance built. Keep this violence in mind come November, during the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Many activists and thinkers are reconsidering whether "transgender" should be used as an umbrella term, especially considering the broad range of terms covered by "transgender" and the different experiences of transgender people. Like many other concepts and terms in the LGBTQ community, there are strong opinions on both sides.
In Mercedes Allen's article on the debate "The Death of the 'Transgender' Umbrella,” Mercedes does a great job summarizing the debate and examining different viewpoints. Read the article here.
What do you think?
Congratulations, and thank you! Transgender Student Rights has now reached 7,000 likes on its Facebook page, our most reliable way of quantifying support. Thanks to all of you who clicked, commented and shared our way to this milestone! TSR is the second-largest transgender-specific page on Facebook, just behind our friends at the National Center for Transgender Equality
. (They're 25 away from 9,000 at time of writing - could you take a moment and like them?)
Thanks so much for your support! Continually improving our resources to transgender students is rewarding in itself, but your support is icing on the cake of fulfillment. We couldn't have done it without you!