October 18 is Spirit Day

10/18/2018

On Spirit Day, LGBTQ+ people and allies wear purple to show their support to LGBTQ+ youth. We encourage everyone to wear purple and speak out against bullying. Click here for more information on Spirit Day presented by GLAAD.

LGBTQ+ students face a range of difficulties being in school. 85.2% of LGBTQ+ students report being verbally harassed at school. More than half of students did not report experiences of bullying and harassment because they doubted that anything would be done about it, while 63.5% of the students who did report an incident said that school staff did nothing in response or told the student to ignore it.1 This problem can be devastating to LGBTQ+ youth. Transgender youth also face a unique set of barriers that can prevent them from feeling safe in school. For instance, only 17 states (including the District of Columbia) have anti-bullying laws that address gender identity.2

The good news?

LGBTQ+ students with many supportive staff at school are less likely to report feeling unsafe (40.6%) in comparison to LGBTQ+ students with no supportive staff (78.7%.) Supporting transgender youth by using their authentic name and proper pronouns in all aspects of their lives is critical for their emotional wellbeing.3

We want trans students to feel more comfortable attending and being engaged in school, to have the same chances as their classmates to learn and succeed. In collaboration with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, we are thrilled to offer a resource to help alleviate these anxieties and to encourage transgender youth in school to advocate for themselves and their rights: two letter templates that the student can edit and send to their teacher or school administrator to request that they are called by the name of their choosing as opposed to the one on the class roster or academic records. Click the link or scroll to the bottom of this page for the letter templates.

Our goal is that, with this tool, trans students will feel more comfortable and empowered to advocate for themselves. In the future, we hope to develop Trans Youth Day, a regularly occurring holiday that schools, organizations, and students around the country can use to build a school environment that is safe and celebratory for trans youth.

If you’re trans or questioning and experiencing crisis, or if you just need to talk, call Trans Lifeline. All of our operators are trans-identified, and we want to hear from you. USA: (877) 565.8860 / Canada: (877) 330.6366

If you need financial assistance changing your legal name, or in updating the name and gender marker listed on your state and federal IDs, you can apply with Trans Lifeline’s Microgrants program. translifeline.org/microgrants

1Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network “National School Climate Survey” (2015)
2Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network “State Maps” (2018)
3The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine “Chosen Name Use Is Linked to Reduced Depressive Symptoms, Suicidal Ideation, and Suicidal Behavior Among Transgender Youth” (Russel, 2018)

Disclaimer:

Laws and social norms about trans people are changing.

Your school district might not have trans-friendly policies. Your school district might not respect your name and pronouns. Your school district might tell people at home about your name and pronouns without asking you first. Before using these templates, please consider your situation and prioritize your safety.

How to use these templates: Replace the highlighted information with the information relevant to your situation and identity.

Teacher Letter

Dear [Mx. Teacher],

My name is [preferred name] and I will be in your [subject] class [period/block] during the [Term/year] school year. I am transgender and have not legally changed my name. Your roster may list my legal name, [legal name]. This is not the name that reflects my identity. I would greatly appreciate it if you refer to me as [preferred name] and use [pronouns] when referring to me in class and around other students.

Thank you for understanding, and I look forward to the upcoming school year.

Sincerely,

[Preferred name]

Principal/Administrator Letter

Dear [Mx. Principal/Administrator],

My name is [preferred name] and I will be a student at [School] during the [Term/year] school year. I am transgender and have not legally changed my name. Your records may list my legal name, [legal name], but this is not the name that reflects my identity. I would greatly appreciate it if you would update any class rosters and other school documents. I understand that your ability to change my records may be limited if my parents/guardians do not consent to the change. I ask that you please check with me first before telling my parents/guardian about my request to use my preferred name and pronouns. Even if you cannot correct my school records, please refer to me as [preferred name] and use [pronouns] when referring to me around other students. Also, I ask that you help me encourage school staff and my peers to use [preferred name] and [pronouns] when referring to me.

To clarify, students who are transgender (also called “trans”) identify with a gender that is different from the one assigned to them at birth. These identities are normal and natural, and transgender students deserve respect. Learn more about other youth like me here: https://www.hrc.org/resources/transgender-children-and-youth-understanding-the-basics 

Supporting and respecting trans students–especially their chosen name and pronouns–is vital to cultivating a supportive, safe, and healthy school atmosphere for trans students. A recent study found that permitting transgender youth to adopt a new name that reflects their gender identity substantially reduces their risk of depression and suicidality.  Stephen Russell, et al., Chosen Name Use Is Linked to Reduced Depressive Symptoms, Suicidal Ideation, and Suicidal Behavior Among Transgender Youth, Journal of Adolescent Health (2018). This positive impact was the greatest when young people were able to use their chosen name consistently in all settings: home, school, work, and socially.  That study is consistent with  the 2015 National School Climate Survey published by the Gay Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) published the, which found that, compared to LGBTQ students with no supportive school staff, students with many (11 or more) supportive staff at their school:

  • Were less likely to feel unsafe (40.6% vs. 78.7%)
  • Were less likely to miss school because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable (16.9% vs. 47.2%)
  • Had higher GPAs (3.3 vs. 2.8)
  • Were less likely to say they might not graduate high school (1.7% vs. 9.5%) and were less likely to not plan on pursuing post-secondary education (4.5% vs. 14.7%);
  • Felt more connected to their school community.

These numbers impact our whole school. The Williams Institute at UCLA estimates that 150,000 youth in the United States between 13 and 17 identify as transgender – that’s 1 in 137 students. I know I’m not the only trans student you’ll ever meet, or even the only trans student you’ve ever met – whether you knew it or not. If you have questions about how to make this school a safe place for us, I’m including some resources at the bottom of this letter.

Today, what I’m asking for is one of the simplest and most effective ways to support transgender students in our school, which is that you respect and use my chosen name and pronouns.

Thank you for understanding, and I look forward to the upcoming school year.

Sincerely,

[Preferred name]

Resources: