Support for transgender students is desperately needed for students at HHS

The progress we have made, the progress we need to make

By Chloe Wong and Gaby Cristancho

High school is a time for students to explore their identities and discover themselves in inclusive environments. Helping students feel comfortable on campus should be an essential goal for HHS and it is crucial that more support is offered to students who are part of the transgender community. 

Teachers and students alike should keep an open mind when it comes to pronouns. Pronouns are used to refer to a specific person using a masculine, feminine, or neutral pronoun — for example, some may go by she/her pronouns, while others prefer they/xem pronouns. Neopronouns are any set of pronouns used for the intent of gender neutrality. According to NBC News, one out of every four LGBTQ+ youth go by neopronouns other than she/her or he/him.

According to the Washington Post, nearly 2% of students identify as transgender, which would be around 50 students here at HHS. In reference of this 2%, 35% have attempted suicide. This is not a dismissable issue. All of us individually will contribute to the problem if we don’t respect the pronouns and preferences of transgender students. Transgender students, just like all students, deserve a basic level of respect and accessibility.

HHS is taking steps in the right direction by adding more gender neutral bathrooms. (Illustration by Ritaja Subrahmanya)

The root of the problem is planted at the very beginning of the year. As students enter a new school year, many teachers offer students a form in order to learn more about them and ask for their preferred pronouns. In the form, students are generally restricted to three choices: he/him, she/her, and they/them.

This lack of inclusivity forces students who do not go by the listed pronouns to choose one they are not comfortable with. For instance, students who use neopronouns will feel excluded, since the Google Forms fail to include “nontraditional” pronouns. Many teachers fail to realize that neopronouns are a valid pronoun option. 

So, when creating these forms, teachers should simply ask for a student to share their pronouns, rather than providing them with a limited amount of options to choose from. A student’s identity should not be confined to the insufficient choice of pronouns that teachers provide. 

In addition, teachers can help transgender students feel more comfortable in classrooms by altering the way they take attendance. When teachers call out the names of the students as listed on their rosters, students who go by a different name are prone to feeling wrongfully labelled. This is an occurrence of deadnaming, when a student is referred to by their name prior to their transition rather than their current name. If a student gets deadnamed, they might feel pressured to correct the teacher in front of the whole class, which can be nerve-wracking.

In order to prevent this situation from happening, teachers should employ a simple solution. They can take attendance by calling out the last names of students, and then asking the student to state their preferred name. This ensures the safety and the choice that all students deserve. As a result, transgender students can avoid being deadnamed or being put in an uncomferable situation. 

Despite these issues, there is progress being made. Here at HHS, our administration is working on providing resources for transgender students. Currently, there is one gender neutral bathroom in the I building next to I-9, according to facilities manager Toby Mockler. This restroom is ADA accessible and will soon have a set of lockers mounted for those who wish to use it as a space to prepare for PE. The faculty are planning to add more gender neutral restrooms as the school continues to get remodeled. This is a wonderful step in the right direction, and we are anticipating that our faculty will focus on ensuring comfort and safety for transgender students. 

Additionally, there are steps that student allies at HHS can take too. When addressing our peers on campus, it is essential for us to make sure that we are respectful of their pronouns. We should keep an open mind and ensure the people around us are comfortable. For instance, if a student uses they/them pronouns, their peers should keep that in mind when speaking to them or referencing them in conversations. 

Being misgendered can be highly uncomfortable for trans students, which is why we should all try our best to ask what pronouns they prefer and to use those preferred pronouns. Politely educating our faculty and suggesting ways to support transgender students is also an important step we need to take to ensure that transgender students feel seen on campus. 

Ultimately, keeping an open mind and being respectful are necessary steps to help foster a safe environment for everyone at HHS.