Talking With Schools About Your Transgender Child

Often, school can be a daunting place for transgender, non-binary, gender-expansive, or genderqueer young people. Navigating a gender transition and informing schools, teachers, and administrators might be an important part of your child’s process. Throughout this page you will find resources to move these important conversations forward and further help you and your child with this process.

The language of this page is directed at parents of transgender young people in K-12 schools, but this can also be helpful for educators, school staff, and trans youth who might want to go about navigating a gender transition at schools on their own. Occasionally, trans youth might not have the support from parents, family, or guardians to live in their truth at home or at school. If you are a supportive adult who has found yourself assisting a young trans person, you can use this page to help you guide them through this process.

It should also be noted that there are many trans youth who have weighed their options and decided not  to shift their gender status at school. Trans identities are still valid no matter how far along, if at all, trans people are in their social, legal, or medical transition. A person does not have to go on hormones, have surgery, experience dysphoria, or change their gender expression, name, or pronouns to be trans.

This page has been greatly informed by Gender Spectrum’s education resources.

Factors to consider when navigating your child’s transition at school

The first important step is to have an open conversation with your child about their wants and needs regarding coming out at school. Is it entirely possible that your child doesn’t want to come out to their teachers or classmates, and in that case, those wishes should be respected. Not all young trans people feel safe or comfortable coming out at school, and many trans youth just don’t want or need to. However, if your child does want to come out at school, here are some tips.

Note: Your child’s desire to shift their gender expression at school stems from a need to be recognized as their authentic and true self. Therefore, the process for helping your child outwardly affirm their gender identity at school should be uniquely tailored to making school a positive and productive place for them. There is no one correct way to go about this process. You will likely have to choose from a list of elements that you and your child feel comfortable changing at school. These options include, but are not limited to:

  • Name: Either legal, meaning they want to go through the name change process so their identification documents show their desired name, or social, meaning that they want to avoid the legal processes but still be addressed by their desired name.
  • Pronouns: A shift in pronouns might help alleviate anxiety around being misgendered at school.
  • Facility use: They might want to change the bathroom and/or locker room they use.
  • Gender expression: This might mean a shift in clothing or other outward expressions of gender identity.

It is important to take different factors to take into consideration when embarking upon this process.

  • Timing
    • How urgently does your child want to shift their gender expression, name, pronouns, facility use, etc.?
    • What might the outcomes be if your child can’t make these shifts as quickly as they want?
    • Is your child currently experiencing harassment or bullying from students or school staff? Are these shifts likely to exacerbate or reduce this harm?
  • Age and grade level
    • How old is your child? Are they likely to have peers who understand shifts in outward expression of gender?
    • Does your child regularly participate in gender-separate activities at school? How might this impact their decision to shift their gender expression at school?
  • Privacy
    • Does your child want other people to know about their gender history? What are steps that can be taken to avoid your child being “outed”?
    • Who are going to be safe adults for your child to turn to if issues around privacy come up?
  • Student information
    • Does your child want their name and gender marker changed on official student record?
    • If not, how will you help ensure that they are not dead-named with new teachers, at new schools, or with new friends?
    • If so, do you know how to support your child in changing their name and gender marker legally and/or on official school documents?
  • Transgender students without family support
    • Is the young trans person you’re supporting safe to express their gender at home or with parents and family?
    • If not, how might you help a young trans person shift their gender expression at school if they need to be discreet in front of parents, family, or guardians?
    • How will you help them create a safety plan in case their privacy or gender history is violated at school or at home?


Resources to help you support your child’s transition at school (h2)

If you are looking for resources to help you talk to schools about your child’s transition, you’re in luck; there is a community of folks out there working on exactly this issue. We’ve compiled some important resources and guides here.

Gender Spectrum created a resource that expands on things to consider when communicating a gender transition with schools, like valuable information about possible roadblocks and important ways to have these conversations.

If you are looking to help your child create a plan to get teachers and school staff on the same page about a gender transition, you should take a look at Gender Spectrum’s Gender Support Plan. Here, you will find a form to help you, your child, and school staff discuss things like name changes, facility use, and safe adults on campus for your child to turn to.

These next two resources are for district level employees and school staff who wish to make their campuses safer for trans and gender non-conforming young people. If you are a parent or caregiver of a trans young person or you are trans yourself, feel free to pass these along to your school staff if you think these resources would be well received and utilized appropriately. First, Gender Spectrum’s Gender Inclusive Schools Framework touches on the various levels that gender is taught in schools and classrooms, and addresses ways that teachers and school staff can help create gender inclusive schools for all students. Second, GLSEN and NCTE partnered to create the Model School District Policy as a guide for how to model a school district that creates a safe space for students who are trans, non-binary, and gender-expansive.

In summary

  • Not all students who are transgender or gender non-conforming choose to navigate a gender transition at their schools.
  • For those who do, there are factors that should be considered when going through the process, including timing, privacy matters, and safe adults to turn to at school and at home.
  • Gender Spectrum, GLSEN, and NCTE all have resources on their websites to help trans youth and their adult allies navigate a gender transition at school.
  • The National Education Association put out a guide for schools in partnership with the Transgender Law Center, ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Check it out if you work for a school and want more information about how to support trans youth on your campus.