Transgender Students Share School Experiences with ED Officials

Transgender students from across America shared their stories with Secretary Duncan. (Photo by Leslie Williams/U.S. Department of Education)

Transgender students share their stories with Secretary Duncan. (Photo by Leslie Williams/U.S. Department of Education)

ED recently invited a group of transgender students to speak about their school experiences at a roundtable discussion with Secretary Duncan and senior officials.

During the roundtable in the Secretary’s conference room, students expressed the need for greater awareness of and school support for addressing issues affecting transgender students. They emphasized the importance of having their gender identity and expression respected within their learning community and feeling safe in school.

During the discussion, students talked about their experiences in school, such as being prevented from using the proper bathroom as well as being punished as a victim of bullies’ physical assaults. They also talked about what a tremendous difference it makes to their ability to learn and feel safe at school when they have the support of educators who believe in them.

ED officials listened to the students’ recommendations about how we can foster safer educational communities for transgender youth and ensure that all students can learn in safe and healthy environments. Among other things, students advocated for:

  • schools to implement proper bathroom and locker room utilization,
  • consistent recognition of appropriate names and pronouns, and
  • elimination of the school to prison pipeline.

ED welcomed the dialogue and the chance to hear from these students. As one student explained, “It’s all about being true to yourself.” Embracing individuality and authenticity is a lesson that we all can learn from these courageous students.

Samuel Ryan is the Special Assistant and Youth Liaison and Hannah Pomfret attends McGill University and is an intern at U.S. Department of Education.

4 Comments

  1. Since my comment was removed, I am re-posting. Please let me know exactly what part was against your posting guidelines.

    What about the gender non-conforming students who do not “identify” as the opposite sex? What about the rights of the rest of the students to appropriate single-sex facilities in school? In catering to the internal feelings of the few- feelings not based in the reality of sex- 99+% of the student body no longer have the right to single-sex facilities. This is the genuine Title IX issue at hand. The transgender students who “identity” or “feel” as though they are the opposite sex are not being being denied access to facilities based on their sex and their’s is not a Title IX issue. If they were being denied access to facilities based on their sex it would be, but they are not. No one is telling them that they are “too masculine” or “too feminine” to use to girls’ or mens’ restrooms or lockerooms, respectively. They wish to use the facilities of the opposite sex and if this is allowed it becomes a TItle IX issue for the rest of the student body who are being denied equal facilities based on their sex. Females forced to share intimate, often nude, facilities with males, and males with females, are experiencing sexual discrimination within the schools and programs receiving federal funds and Title IX is clear on this.

    The clear “sex-based” basis of Title IX is being ignored and being politically spun as “gender identity” or “gender presentation”. Are young men who dress in a feminine manner no longer going to be allowed to use the men’s facilities? Are young women who look “too masculine” going to be forced into opposite sex facilities? There is already a tremendous amount of pressure on gender non-conforming teens to transgender in this current social environment. It is highly profitable to pharmaceutical companies and doctors, and are now seeing that a lifetime of hormones and surgeries (these same “treatments” used as punishments for homosexuals and other gender non-conforming people in only the last few decades) are most likely not beneficial to the quality of life of an individual in the long term. There are no long-term studies on using puberty delaying drugs and hormones on adolescents for the purpose of modifying their bodies to “live as” the opposite sex. It can’t even be considered human experimentation because it lacks the necessary data collection methods to be considered an experiment. It is unregulated, off-label drug-pushing for profit by pharmaceutical companies and immoral and greedy doctors and it is obvious why it is being pushed so forcefully as a social issue. It has a lot of powerful lobbying behind it. Transgender organizations are back by millions of dollars from various pharmaceutical companies. It is easy to see why they get a seat at the table here and the rest of the students do not.

    I hope the supreme court takes a hard look at the DOE’s regressive and ridiculous interpretation of Title IX. There have been several district federal decisions already that have struck down transgender students demands to use opposite sex facilities. Title IX protects sex-based discrimination based on one’s actual sex not on one’s “internal identity” or feelings of being the opposite sex. This is clearly a Title IX issue, and it is the opposite of what the DOE thinks. The Title IX protections of the majority (based on their actual sex) are being dismissed and often ridiculed when the internal feelings of the few are prioritized. If the transgender students do not wish to use the facilities based on their sex, they should be catered to in a reasonable way: provided with an appropriate alternative in the form of a private bathroom or even co-ed facilities if that is a possibility within that school. They do not have the right under Title IX to effectively remove Title IX protections for all other students by using facilities for the opposite sex. The DOE’s interpretation is not only flawed, it is antithetical to the actual purpose of Title IX’s sex-based protection of students.

  2. What about the gender non-conforming students who do not “identify” as the opposite sex? What about the rights of the rest of the students to appropriate single-sex facilities in school? In catering to the internal feelings of the few- feelings not based in the reality of sex- 99+% of the student body no longer have the right to single-sex facilities. This is the genuine Title IX issue at hand. The transgender students who “identity” or “feel” as though they are the opposite sex are not being being denied access to facilities based on their sex and their’s is not a Title IX issue. If they were being denied access to facilities based on their sex it would be, but they are not. No one is telling them that they are “too masculine” or “too feminine” to use to girls’ or mens’ restrooms or lockerooms, respectively. They wish to use the facilities of the opposite sex and if this is allowed it becomes a TItle IX issue for the rest of the student body who are being denied equal facilities based on their sex. Females forced to share intimate, often nude, facilities with males, and males with females, are experiencing sexual discrimination within the schools and programs receiving federal funds and Title IX is clear on this.

    The clear “sex-based” basis of Title IX is being ignored and being politically spun as “gender identity” or “gender presentation”. Are young men who dress in a feminine manner no longer going to be allowed to use the men’s facilities? Are young women who look “too masculine” going to be forced into opposite sex facilities? There is already a tremendous amount of pressure on gender non-conforming teens to transgender in this current social environment. It is highly profitable to pharmaceutical companies and doctors, and are now seeing that a lifetime of hormones and surgeries (these same “treatments” used as punishments for homosexuals and other gender non-conforming people in only the last few decades) are most likely not beneficial to the quality of life of an individual in the long term. There are no long-term studies on using puberty delaying drugs and hormones on adolescents for the purpose of modifying their bodies to “live as” the opposite sex. It can’t even be considered human experimentation because it lacks the necessary data collection methods to be considered an experiment. It is unregulated, off-label drug-pushing for profit by pharmaceutical companies and immoral and greedy doctors and it is obvious why it is being pushed so forcefully as a social issue. It has a lot of powerful lobbying behind it. Transgender organizations are back by millions of dollars from various pharmaceutical companies. It is easy to see why they get a seat at the table here and the rest of the students do not.

    I hope the supreme court takes a hard look at the DOE’s regressive and ridiculous interpretation of Title IX. There have been several district federal decisions already that have struck down transgender students demands to use opposite sex facilities. Title IX protects sex-based discrimination based on one’s actual sex not on one’s “internal identity” or feelings of being the opposite sex. This is clearly a Title IX issue, and it is the opposite of what the DOE thinks. The Title IX protections of the majority (based on their actual sex) are being dismissed and often ridiculed when the internal feelings of the few are prioritized. If the transgender students do not wish to use the facilities based on their sex, they should be catered to in a reasonable way: provided with an appropriate alternative in the form of a private bathroom or even co-ed facilities if that is a possibility within that school. They do not have the right under Title IX to effectively remove Title IX protections for all other students by using facilities for the opposite sex. The DOE’s interpretation is not only flawed, it is antithetical to the actual purpose of Title IX’s sex-based protection of students.

  3. So grateful to see Arnie Duncan and the USDOE focusing on the issues and challenges faced by LGBTQ and Transgender students everyday in schools around the country. This work is a major part of the civil rights movement of our time. School districts desperately need guidance in how to best support these students in achieving access to and success with their educational goals and aspirations.

  4. This is a conversation that should take place in every school across the nation.

    So menagerie children are exposed to unfair treatment because of our failure so stop, look & listen.

    State Department of Education’s should adopt policies that reward school communties for coming together to address these hard to understand facts of life.
    Right On To The Obama Team

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