Being Transgender at Green Hope
The amount of high school transgender students is unknown, with many uncomfortable with the notion of coming out due to fears of retaliation or nonacceptance. At Green Hope High School, transgender students find comfort in the True Equality Alliance, a club, according to president Kristin Schmidt, dedicated to “providing education for the student body on LGBT topics and a community for LGBT students at Green Hope.” Despite having a refuge like the True Equality Alliance, Green Hope transgender students still face various forms of adversity, including being addressed by the wrong pronouns and/or names, and a general sense of being misunderstood.
CM, a senior at Green Hope, agreed to be interviewed under the conditions of anonymity. CM is a transgender student, meaning that his gender identity does not correspond with his gender assignment at birth. When explaining his/her/their pronoun preference, transgender students anticipate awkward conversation, “when it comes to coming out, a lot of it is telling someone what pronouns you prefer, it’s one thing to ask for a preferred name, but when it comes to pronouns, it’s suddenly a conversation that can get really awkward, really fast.” CM uses them and he pronouns, meaning, these are the only forms he would like to be addressed.
Yet even after telling peers and teachers what his/her/their pronoun is, transgender students still face challenges in being addressed by their preferred pronouns, which is often due to teacher and student forgetfulness, “No one I’ve met has tried to do it out of malice, like they’re not trying to hurt me. They’ll forget or I won’t like pass as trans, which is basically you look like the gender are are, you identify as, or I may not look like a boy, or non-gender conforming, so they see someone who’s dressed like tomboy. So they just use “she.”They see what they see and they don’t think that something else could be applied.”
CM isn’t the only one who has been addressed by the incorrect pronouns, RF, a *non binary-transgender student, goes by they pronouns, and discussed their experiences in school, “I think the hardest thing for me is explaining to teachers I usually go by a name [that is not on the roster]. They generally accept that, but some teachers still use my *dead name. I have some teachers who use my name, and my dead name, interchangeably. I’ve had friends ask me why I don’t correct teachers on my pronouns, I have to say it’s because I don’t expect them to understand.”
The True Equality Alliance (TEA) has served as refuge for students like CM and RF and has offered a place for students to discuss their problems and find unity, “For me, it actually helped me realize I was trans. At first I did not think I was trans because I wasn’t; I wasn’t a boy, I didn’t identify as male, so I thought, “I’m not trans’, but at the same time I never felt at home identifying as female, and through that club I learned that there is something in between. In that club I experimented with new names. Every meeting we go around the room and say our name and pronouns. So it was there I first started going by[RF], and it was where I started using they/them pronouns. It’s what has stuck with me so far.”
CM and RF are only two of several transgender students at Green Hope who deal with being addressed by incorrect pronouns and names. Teachers and students still have room for improvement when it comes to addressing fellow peers and students by what they prefer. CM suggested teachers use questionnaires at the beginning of the year to ask students what pronouns and name they prefer to be addressed by in an effort to make transgender students at Green Hope feel more comfortable. Measures like these will begin to eliminate awkward moments among transgender students and teachers and would also be welcomed by the Green hope transgender community who want to be and feel included.
To assist the student body and teachers with addressing transgender students by his/her/their correct pronouns and preferred name, here is a guide on how to address students like CM and RF.
Note on Terminology, from GLAAD Media Reference Guide
-Transgender: An individual’s whose gender identity does not correspond with his/her/their assigned sex at birth.
-Transexual: Transgender people that have or want to undergo physical changes, such as hormones or surgery. Not all transgender prefer to be addressed by this term, with some preferring to be addressed as a transgender person.
-Non-binary transgender: An individual that doesn’t conform to either end of the gender spectrum.
-Dead name: A name no longer used by a transgender individual, usually their legal name.
How to address transgender students, from GLAAD Media Reference Guide
-You shouldn’t say “the transgender went to school”, instead you would say, “the transgender student went to school,”because “transgender” should be used as an adjective, not a noun, or else it is seen as offensive.
-Don’t refer to transgender student’s transition as a “sex change”, because doing so incorrectly suggests that gender reassignment surgery is a requirement to be a transgender person. Instead, use the word “transition”.
-Avoid using phrases like “biologically male”, instead say, “assigned male at birth” or “designated male at birth.”
-Address transgender students by their preferred name and pronouns.