The Current

Transgender children need support in school, say gender identity experts

Across the country a few school boards have formal policies to try to make transgender kids feel safe. Rules around which washroom they can use can help but it can also trigger more controversy. As part of our project By Design, we explore how to improve schools to recognize the growing number of students struggling with gender identity....

Across the country a few school boards have formal policies to try to make transgender kids feel safe. Rules around which washroom they can use can help but it can also trigger more controversy. As part of our project By Design, we explore how to improve schools to recognize the growing number of students struggling with gender identity.

The guy I used to be friends with was blocking the door with his hands out. And when he finally took his hands off the door I ran. - Transgender 10-year-old explaining being trapped in a boys' bathroom stall

As part of our project By Design, today we're talking about schools, and how they might be redesigned to accommodate transgender children.

Take the Vancouver School Board for example. Last June, the board voted "yes" to a new policy designed to offer extra support to transgender kids. The new policy allows students access to washrooms, changerooms, and sports teams that reflect their gender identity. It allows students to be addressed with a name and pronoun with which they're comfortable ... and it gives children the choice to keep their gender identities confidential. The new policy has been met with mixed reaction.

In November some of those parents filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court claiming the new policy violates the School Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Vancouver is hardly alone in struggling with these questions. There are children right across the country who have gender identities that do not match their birth certificates... and schools are being forced to update policies and figure out how best to care for transgender children while they are in school.

The Board said it couldn't comment on this particular case because it's before the Human Rights Tribunal but sent a statement which calls itself a leader in addressing issues involving gender identity and gender expression.

It goes on to say:

School boards across North America look to the TDSB for guidance on these issues as we were one of the first school boards in the country to develop guidelines for the accommodation of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming students and staff. In addition, the Board has a Gender-Based Violence Prevention Department which works with schools, staff, parents and students on accommodation issues every day.

For more on how to make schools better for kids who are are transgender or questioning their gender identity, we were joined by two education and gender identity experts.

Kristopher Wells is the Director of programs & services at the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies & Services at the University of Alberta. He is also the co-founder of Camp fYrefly.

fight to get his birth certificate switched from female to male

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now