February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

“You’re In the Wrong Bathroom!” | Professional Shelf

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Even as transgender and gender-nonconforming children and adults gain acceptance, trans students are likely to face unwarranted hurdles. Just this past February, the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education rescinded federal guidelines that called for schools to allow access to bathrooms and locker rooms based on gender identity rather than biological sex. A recent Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) report, Separation and Stigma: Transgender Youth and School Facilities, found that “when transgender students are forced to use bathrooms that do not match their gender, or when they are barred from communal facilities altogether and told to use a separate facility, they are singled out for discrimination and harassment.”

In You’re in the Wrong Bathroom!”: And 20 Other Myths and Misconceptions About Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming People (Beacon, May 2017), Laura Erickson-Schroth, a psychiatrist and editor of Trans Bodies, Trans Selves (Oxford University, 2014), and Laura A. Jacobs, a trans psychotherapist and writer, confront pervasive misinformation, including unfounded fears about bathroom use, with a straightforward approach. The book is divided into four themes: “Identity,” “Sex and Relationships,” “Health and Safety,” and “History and Community.” Under each, brief but cogent entries work to dispel a particular myth, for example, “Trans People Are Trapped in the Wrong Body,” “Trans People Are a Danger to Others, Especially Children,” and “The LGBTQ+ Community Is United.” Throughout, the authors dispense commonsense guidance, reminding readers that gender identity goes beyond genitalia and that everyone is entitled to privacy and respect. Names and pronouns matter, so when in doubt, the authors advise simply asking politely about personal preferences. While entries can be read separately, together they offer a succinct introduction to important transgender issues, including the need for better medical care and coverage, the lack of legal protections, and the social and emotional impact of discrimination based on appearance. Useful for personal and professional development, this title should reach a wide audience.

Selected Related Web Resources

Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is a clearinghouse of information on the research, legislation, and initiatives of interest to and in support of every member of a school community “regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” Downloadable lesson plans and other educator resources, including a “safe space kit” (in English and Spanish), are available.

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) is an important go-to source. A “newly revamped resource hub” features clearly written, printable articles, such as “Understanding Transgender People: The Basics” and “Questionable Questions About Transgender Identify” as well as information on aging, employment, families, identity documents, travel, voting rights, and more.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an established LGBTQ advocacy group, coproduced Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools, a downloadable resource for administrators, teachers, and parents that contains recommendations for addressing school-related concerns, including student confidentiality and records, names and pronouns, sex-separated facilities, discrimination, and bullying.

Gender Spectrum works “to create a gender-inclusive world for all children and youth.” Among the many resources for educations is a downloadable “Gender Inclusive Schools Toolkit,” which encourages schools to examine the impact of gender-defined limitations.


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Alicia Eames About Alicia Eames

A former Brooklyn Public Library children's librarian and NYC public school teacher/librarian, Alicia Eames is a freelance editor and a frequent contributor to the SLJ’s Curriculum Connections “Professional Shelf” column.

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