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Advice for Transgender and Non-Binary Students Heading Back to School

In this HRC article written by Helen Parshall, she hands out some advice to LGBT youth who are returning to school.

For many children with marginalized identities, the first few days back to school can make or break their year — and for trans and non-binary students, it can be doubly difficult to know where to turn to seek support for their unique needs.

HRC and the University of Connecticut’s recent 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report revealed that a majority of transgender youth don’t feel safe using the bathroom at school and are often not called by their chosen names or correct pronouns.

That’s why it’s not only critical that educators continue learning how to create safe and supportive schools for transgender and non-binary students, but that these young people — who might not feel safe speaking up — have their own strategies as well when they return to school.

We asked some of our trans and gender-expansive colleagues here at HRC to help out and provide some advice to trans and non-binary students as they get ready to head back to their classrooms:

“When you look around at the other students on your first day back, remember you’re never alone. At least one person gets you — and needs you to get them. Go find them.”
— Jay Brown
Pronouns: He, Him, His

“Not everyone is always going to understand you and some might even be mean, but there are always people who adore you and will happily run to help. If you are an open trans kid (or even if you’re not), understand you don’t have to pretend to be something else just to fit in. Be brave and always be yourself!”
— Laya Monarez
Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

“There’s no such thing as being feminine or masculine ‘enough.’ You’re enough right now, exactly as you are, and you’re amazing. No class can teach us how to be ourselves. It’s on us to do that homework and ask the tough questions. Understanding and accepting your identity isn’t easy, but I promise it’ll be worth it.”
— Collen Kutney
Pronouns: They, Them, Theirs

“Be proud, be visible, be strong and surround yourself with those like you. Be the beacon they seek and together you will shine as bright as diamonds. Muestra tu orgullo, se visible, se firme y rodéate de aquellxs como tu. Se el farol que ellxs buscan y juntxs brillaran tales como los diamantes que son.
— Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera
Pronouns: Ella, She, Her, Hers

“Sometimes going back to school can be scary, particularly if you are worried about bullies. One thing I always try to remember when I face bullies is that as LGBTQ people we show so much power in just being ourselves, and the bullies see that power and are jealous of it. You are powerful just by being, and never forget that.”
— Sarah McBride
Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

“There are so many ways to be trans or non-binary, and don’t worry if you feel different. Keep being yourself and try to find others who love you for who you are.”
— Charles Girard
Pronouns: He, Him, His

“It can be hard to get people at school to understand how important it is to use your pronouns, especially if you use neutral ones like they/them/theirs. Find one friend who is willing to be your advocate. They can go with you to the bathroom, use your correct pronouns in front of other people, or just give your hand a squeeze if you’re not okay. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that one person has your back!”
— Sula Malina
Pronouns: They, Them, Theirs

“There is no such thing as ‘not queer enough.’ If you’re queer, you determine what that means to you, and that should be good enough for everyone else. You’re part of the family.”
— Charlotte Clymer
Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Housed by the HRC Foundation, Welcoming Schools and Time to THRIVE are national programs designed to help LGBTQ youth succeed. Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier professional development program providing LGBTQ and gender inclusive resources to schools to reduce bullying behavior and establish a positive school climate. Time to THRIVE is an annual national conference that brings together K-12 educators, counselors and other youth-serving professionals to build awareness and cultural competency to better support LGBTQ youth.

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