2+ Genders: A Dive into the LGBTQ+ School Experience

Andrew Higgins, Writer

How many transgender people would you say are students at school?  Two, three, four? I bet you would be surprised to know that it is likely that at least two transgender students are sitting in a study hall.

Like so many students across the country, members of the school community do not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. For example, your friend, teacher, or peer may very well be nonbinary, the identity that exists outside of the two genders we’re all familiar with. 

Transgender people are people that don’t identify with the sex that they have been labeled at birth. An intersex individual is someone born with both male and female biological traits. A gender non-conforming person is someone that doesn’t adhere to gender stereotypes in the way they dress or present themselves. 

Transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming students are all around the school, and many people might not even know it. 

Despite transgender (intersex, and gender non-conforming) people being a bigger part of the population than one might think, these students constantly feel at risk. Whether it be harassment over the internet, verbal and physical assault, or recent online trends, it can sometimes feel like the world is against diversity. It is extremely important, especially during politically, divisive times, that students and staff respect each other’s unique identities.  

One of the biggest risks taken as a transgender person is going to school non-passing. Passing is the act of being seen as the gender an individual identifies. The risk of facing serious problems with classmates increases substantially when a transgender student doesn’t pass. Deadnaming and misgendering can be extremely detrimental to transgender students’ mental health. 

Findings from the U.S 2015 survey from the William’s Institute of Law report that the prevalence of suicidal thoughts and attempts among transgender people is significantly higher than that of the U.S. general population. More than half of transgender people who have encountered four instances of harassments have attempted suicide.

The internet isn’t a safe place to exist as transgender either. Whether it be Nazi inspired trends (such as the super straight “sexuality” that meant only excluding transgender people from your dating pool), or the fascist online comic creator Stonetoss, who constantly jokes about the transgender suicide rate, a student’s cellphone fails as an easy escape from the cruelties of school. Youth will often run into the same phrase: “There’s only 2 genders.”

People in our community experience these taunts first-hand. Sophomore Diego Jimenez, a band member and wrestler, has experienced this first-hand. Jimenez towers over the majority of his classmates and has a deep voice; no one would think “Oh, they’re definitely transgender.” But that’s just how he was born.

When entering Pinkerton, he worried about such things as “would they treat me differently for being transgender?” While only encountering minor harassment at school, he now knows that people are much braver on the internet than in person. 

“They were [apparently] going to beat me up for being transgender, saying things like ‘you’ll always be a girl,’” explained Jimenez. After a terrible encounter with an online harasser from school, Jimenez felt motivated to try and educate cisgender people on the struggles transgender people face in each facet of their life. 

A good portion of people share the same opinion on gender. Another student who asked not to be identified wrote, “respectfully- you are born a man or a [woman], [just] what I think.” This is a very common misconception. Not only do gender identities exist, such as those under the nonbinary umbrella, but intersex people exist. But, unfortunately, the world is built on the false narrative: two sexes, two genders. 

The number one thing that Jimenez recommends is “even if you don’t agree with [me and people like me], be respectful.” Transgender people experience discrimination often, whether it be online or offline, from friends or family. Jimenez states that “people misgendering me and finding my deadname” at Pinkerton was hurtful, but also not entirely surprising.

Some people will never understand the concept of being trans, intersex, or gender non-conforming. While taking it upon yourself to be educated on LGBTQ+ identities is encouraged, it isn’t necessary to be an accepting and kind human being.

“It’s perfectly cool if you don’t accept me [and people like me], just respect me as a human,”  said Jimenez.

It’s a minimum the LGBTQ+ community asks for, and by doing the minimum one can make a world of difference for many students all across campus. 

Combatting online propaganda and family values is hard. As Jimenez said, “Intolerance stems from your environment. Your parents’ beliefs form hateful thoughts and ideas in you, and you might not even realize it. The best thing you can do to be a good ally is refuse to be a bystander. If you hear someone being disrespectful don’t just let it happen, educate them.” By actively educating those around you on transgender identities and correcting misconceptions, we create a more welcoming environment: a place where everyone can be happy, no matter what you were born as. 

Teachers can be extraordinarily helpful or detrimental as the case may be to a student’s emotional growth and mental health. A majority of students have that one teacher who has impacted them in a positive way. There is a surplus of supportive teachers that accept another’s identity. Whether one is transgender, intersex, gender non-conforming, or any minority, teachers are supposed to be here to make us feel welcomed and appreciated. 

“The first thing I would show any outsider is the amount of safe spaces [indicated by posters on teacher’s doors] which have increased tremendously,” said Mr. Gagnon, Associate Dean and co-advisor of the LGBTQ Alliance with Ms. Putnam.

“To actually show support and have that welcoming message posted on your walls [as a teacher] is incredible,” said Gagnon. “Numerous LGBT Alliance members mention this being the push they needed to join the club. Acts like these from teachers really show the growing support.”

A number of teachers are currently participating in professional development about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. It appears that has the school community diversifies, efforts are being made to support all students. For transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming students, they can hold out hope for a bright and inclusive future.

“Being a member of the community, and a high schooler, is often a very difficult time. Anything that the people can do to help relieve some of this difficulty is awesome.  In recent years, club members seem to be much more confident and comfortable being themselves” said Mr. Gagnon.