On Sunday, October 21, 2018, the U.S. public learned of a draft of a memo from the Trump administration. The proposed memo argues for a narrow, strict definition of gender that is based on the physical characteristics someone is born with—not on their gender identity. Whether this memo is approved and written into law remains to be seen as of October 25, 2018. Members and allies of the transgender community have come together to protest what they see as systemic attempts by the U.S. government to take away the rights of transgender people. In reality, as many of these activists note, violence and discrimination against transgender people is not a new phenomenon. Violence against members of the diverse transgender community in the United States is common and has been throughout history. For these reasons and many others, it is important to learn about transgender identity and issues. The following collection represents an array of resources from various groups and organizations that may prove useful to educators looking to learn more about transgender identity, discuss transgender identity in the classroom, serve and support transgender students, and more.
For those looking for secondary-level lesson plans related to transgender identity, the following may be of use. All classrooms are different, and it is important to assess the dynamics of your classroom and community and adapt all activities accordingly in order to provide a safe learning experience for all students.
#WontBeErased: Source Analysis from the Choices Program
In this lesson from Choices, students learn key terms for discussing transgender identity and issues, read a general overview text about transgender identity in the United States today, and analyze social media posts from the #WontBeErased campaign.
Myths and Facts About Transgender Issues
In this lesson from PBS, students watch and analyze clips of the documentary film From This Day Forward, which is about one family’s experience with transgender identity. (Links to the film clips are included in the lesson plan and are free. The entire film is available for purchase or can be borrowed for free from PBS.) This lesson challenges students to analyze stereotypes about transgender people, familiarize themselves with necessary terminology, ask questions, and evaluate sources for reliability.
Each student and teacher enters the conversation about gender identity and transgender issues at a different place and from a different background. The following resources may help provide some basic information that can serve as the foundation for respectful, constructive, and informed conversations in the classroom and beyond.
Gender Spectrum Glossary
If you are looking for a place to start in your classroom, this gender spectrum glossary from Teaching Tolerance defines the terms that will help you and your students have informed, respectful, and accurate conversations about what it means to be transgender. Whether your students are already well-versed in this terminology or are completely new to discussing transgender identity and issues, it is always good to review these terms.
Frequently Asked Questions about Transgender People
This guide from the National Center for Transgender Equality addresses frequently asked questions about transgender people. Among other things, the FAQ sheet defines a few basic terms, discusses how people realize they are transgender, and explains what it means for someone to transition.
About Transgender People
In addition to their FAQ page, the National Center for Transgender Equality’s “About Transgender People Page” may be a useful place for students (or teachers) to explore various informational resources about the basics of transgender identity and issues. This page provides links to resources that introduce what it means to be transgender, discuss how to ask appropriate questions about being transgender, and give tips on how to be a good ally to transgender people.
Resources for Transgender or Questioning Students
The following resources may be useful for those students who identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, or who are questioning their gender identity. In order to avoid making assumptions about students’ gender identities, it may be beneficial to make these resources available for all students. They could also be useful resources for students who specifically ask for information on gender identity.
Coming Out as You Guide
The “Coming Out as You” guide from the Trevor Project is a downloadable resource that aims to help students as they navigate the sometimes challenging process of coming out (or choosing not to come out). This guide—written specifically for young people—addresses gender and sexuality spectrums, encourages students to identify supportive people in their lives, provides tips for coming out to family members and other people who may disapprove, and introduces students to self-care and helps them make a self-care plan.
Know Your Rights: Trans Students
From the ACLU and GLSEN, “Know Your Rights” is a downloadable guide that informs transgender and gender non-comforming students of their rights. It outlines the basic rights that these students have at school, introduces students to key laws that help protect them and their rights, and gives advice on how to report gender-based discrimination at school.
TrevorLifeline and TrevorSpace
The Trevor Project provides crisis and suicide intervention services for LGBTQ young people. The Trevor Project has a crisis line for young people considering suicide or engaging in self-harming behaviors. Crisis intervention and suicide prevention advocates are available 24/7, 365 days a year. At certain times of the day, advocates are available via text or online chat. TrevorSpace, an online peer-to-peer community for LGBTQ young people and their allies, may also prove useful to some students.
Resources for Allies
Many students, teachers, and other members of the school community may be interested in learning about how to become a respectful and effective ally for members of the transgender community. The following resources may be useful as people learn more about allyship.
Supporting the Transgender People in Your Life: A Guide to Being Good
This guide from the National Center for Transgender Equality outlines the basic steps for becoming a good ally to the transgender community. It highlights best practices for interacting with transgender people, how to effectively speak out for transgender rights, and how to make change in schools and communities.
Straight for Equality: Guide to Being a Trans Ally
This guide for students from PFLAG outlines ways that students can be allies for transgender people. It is free to download (or can be purchased in print). This guide starts from the basics and is accessible to students with all levels of familiarity with transgender identity and issues. Among many other useful things, the guide defines important terms and provides many examples, explains what it means to be an ally, and gives tips for working through common barriers for allies—such as the fear of saying the wrong thing and how to recover from mistakes or offensive questions or comments. It also asks students to plan next-steps as they continue their work as allies.
Questionable Questions about Transgender Identity
For many people who are learning about transgender issues, it can be daunting to figure out which questions are acceptable to ask transgender people and which ones are not. This guide from the National Center for Transgender Equality discusses how to discern whether questions are appropriate or not. It provides a number of example questions about transgender people followed by both an answer and an explanation about why an ally should or should not ask this question of a transgender person.
Serving Transgender Students
Many educators have questions about the best ways to serve the transgender students in their classrooms and schools. While every student, classroom, school, and community is different, the following resources provide some guidance for teachers who want to better learn how to support transgender students.
Best Practices for Serving LGBTQ Students
In this downloadable, detailed guide, Teaching Tolerance outlines the ways in which educators can serve transgender students and work to create an inclusive and safe school climate. Among other things, this guide advises educators on ways to learn about the policies in place in their schools that affect LGBTQ students, to make adjustments in the classroom that will allow for conversations about identity that are respectful, to assess and adapt curricula to be inclusive, and to engage with families and communities.
Six Ways Teachers Can Support Trans Students
In this short article, GLAAD provides six suggestions for educators to make classrooms inclusive of transgender students. The article encourages educators to research, adjust the language used in the classroom, ask students for their pronouns, respond to bullying, offer resources, and defend transgender students.
FAQs: Rescission of U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education Title IX Guidance for Transgender Students
In order to provide information for educators about what has changed since U.S. government agencies rescinded Title IX guidance for transgender students, PFLAG released this FAQ guide. This guide also addresses questions that parents of transgender students may have.
Transgender Rights History Resources
Studying both the recent history of transgender rights in the United States and longer histories of the experiences of transgender people in the United States is one way to contextualize the current state of transgender rights.
Timeline: A Look Back at the History of Transgender Visibility
This short timeline from GLAAD highlights just some of the many events throughout history related to transgender people and their rights. It includes positive moments—such as the creation of foundations to assist transgender people and protests by transgender people—as well as incidents of violence inflicted upon transgender people. Learning about these moments of both triumph and violence can help students better contextualize the oppression that the transgender community today faces as well as the gains that they have made in securing their rights.
Trans Rights and Bathroom Access Laws: A History Explained
The final section of this article from Teaching Tolerance provides a timeline covering major events related to bathroom access for transgender students. It covers events from March 2016 to July 2018.
Responding to Parental Concerns
Some parents may not understand the importance of teaching about gender identity and transgender issues. The following resource may help address some of these concerns.
Responding to Concerns: Teaching About Gender
This short guide from Gender Spectrum identifies and responds to a series of commonly asked questions by parents and guardians who are unsure about whether children should be taught about gender identity at school. It also provides advice on how parents and guardians can answer questions their children may have about gender. While many of the responses are geared toward parents of younger students, many of these questions are still relevant for high school parents.