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Rachael Carey Robin McConkie-Ward Education 1010 3/18/2014 Gender Identity When you look at our ever changing world you see so many people from so many unique backgrounds. Things that once were taboo or different are becoming more common and accepted. Children now are accustomed to mixed families and dynamics within the home, but one thing that is still hard for some to grasp is the idea of gender dysphoria or transsexuality. Gender dysphoria, also known as gender identity disorder is defined as: A persistent unease with having the physical characteristics of one's gender, accompanied by strong identification with the opposite gender and a desire to live as or to become a member of the opposite gender. This is becoming more and more common; children and adolescents are expressing a desire to live as the gender they feel is right for them at younger ages. About a year ago I came across an article written for the Denver post that really inspired me. It was about a 6 year old child in Colorado named Coy Mathis. She was banned from using the girls bathroom at her school because she wasn't born as a biological female. This story really got me thinking, at 6 years old, how many other children really noticed or cared about Coy using the girls bathroom or was it a parent or a teacher that instigated this as a problem? Children are conditioned to see things as normal. 40 years ago your average normal family was all the same race consisting of a mother and a father, male and female. Many children now are growing up in families with mixed races and some even with 2 moms or 2 dads, these things are becoming more of the normal. When kids like Coy Mathis show up to school dressing, acting and

expressing herself as a female, the other children do not see it as something strange and unusual. It is only when somebody makes a point to tell them that it is not normal that the child becomes inclined to think so themselves. In my research I was having a hard time finding much information about children and adolescents here in Utah that has gone through experiences with gender dysphoria. I contacted a social worker here in salt lake that has had experience working with transsexual youth. Jerry L. Buie, LCSW. I was able to ask him a few questions about his experience working with kids here in the salt lake valley. He has worked more with adolescents around the age of 15 or so, mostly because this is when they start to express themselves more and come out of the closet the children younger than that are much more closeted because of social fears and pressures to conform. Sadly Jerry has had a few clients recently that have received a lot of the same kickback that Coy Mathis also has endured. Teachers not sure which locker rooms and restrooms they should use as well as bullying. The good thing is that transsexuality is getting some publicity now, more attention means more knowledge and many of these kids are finding a good support group within close friends and even some family. Transgender youth have had several problems in school over the years. From an early age children hear derogatory gender language and insults, creating an environment that Trans youth instantly feel insecure in. the CDC reported that 90% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school because of their gender expression. This is just saddening, but what is even worse were the statistics about teachers, according to GLSEN A third of transgender students heard school staff make homophobic (32%) remarks, sexist (39%) remarks, and negative comments about someones gender expression (39%) These are heartbreaking statistics. Teachers are supposed to be advocates for their students, be there to support, help and hopefully have an open mind.

Transgender youth have a much higher rate of harassment, dropout and suicide. Schools can either be a safe haven or a snake pit, and teachers play a large role in this experience. The laws in Utah to protect transgender youth are quite limited. Back in January house bill 87 was introduced into legislation by Representative Michael Kennedy. This bill prohibits a student from using a gender-segregated public school that does not correspond to the students phenotype. This bill requires every student must use restrooms and locker rooms as designated by their biological gender. This bill has been quite contentious; the reason that this bill was introduced was because of a passing of an almost opposite law in California. The lack of transgender rights and protection come down to each school and teacher to see that everyone is being treated fairly. Where Utah has such minimal laws and protection, some states and cities have enacted laws to protect the rights of the transgender community in schools. Some things that can be done in schools here in our state are things like providing gender awareness training to the staff, making sure the faculty feels more prepared for any issues that may occur. Be available to talk to students about gender identity and awareness, when students come to you as a teacher try not to push them away and make them feel welcome. Think about the messages that you are sending about gender to your students, try to avoid gender stereotypes and gender specific languages, rectifying when students use derogatory gender specific language and insults. Creating a safe space for all of your students is the best thing any teacher can do. Gender identity can be confusing for everyone. It is a hard balance to try to make sure every one of your students are receiving equal treatment. By eliminating such strong gender specific notions hopefully you will help your students and colleagues to more beyond the black and white gender roles and ideas. The future is full of changes and new challenges and every

student or member of faculty can learn to be more accepting of everyone regardless of color, gender, sexual preference and gender identity, moving into a future of knowledge and more than just tolerance.

Works Cited "Gender+dysphoria." N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. "Transgender Youth Statistics." N.p., 07 Dec. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. Greytak, E. A., Kosciw, J.G., and Diaz, E. M. (2009). Harsh Realities: The Experiences of Transgender Youth in Our Nations Schools. New York: GLSEN. Web 22 Mar. 2014. "Utah State Legislature." HB0087. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.