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Serving Transgender and Gender Diverse Students in Schools


Serving Transgender and Gender Diverse Students in Schools Colt Meier, MA, LPA Clinical Psychology Doctoral Candidate Texas Licensed Psychological Associate – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Serving Transgender and Gender Diverse Students in Schools

Serving Transgender and Gender Diverse Students
in Schools
  • Colt Meier, MA, LPA
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Doctoral Candidate
  • Texas Licensed Psychological Associate

  • Jo Olson, MD
  • Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D.
  • Walter Meyer, MD
  • NASP and TASP

  • Diversity in gender expression in children
  • Families and schools are seeking to accommodate
    transgender and gender diverse children
  • Social Transitioning

  • To develop a common language
  • To review gender development
  • To review current literature and perspectives on
    these children as well as the role of school
    psychologists who work with them

Gender, gender, gender
  • Lack of awareness (benign ignorance)
  • Did you want to be a prince or a princess when
    you were a child?
  • Can you think of any gender different kids in
    your school as you were growing up?

  • What happened to the child(ren) who did not fit
    these boxes in your schools?
  • What happens to these kids now?

When School Starts
  • Adults and kids begin to enforce gender normative
    preferences and behaviors
  • Bullying, physical violence, unsupportive
    schools, and parents serve to repress these
  • The more gender diverse a child is, the more
    likely they are to be victimized or abused at
    school (Grossman, DAugelli, Howell, Hubbard,
  • The time around puberty can differentiate trans
    from LGB youth

Language and Terminology(Crooks Baur, 2010)
  • Physical, Biological, or Anatomical Sex
  • Gender Identity
  • Internal
  • Child usually voices gender
  • between 2 and 5 years old
  • (Zucker Bradley, 2005)
  • Gender Expression
  • External

Language and Terminology
  • Gender Diversity (non-conformity/variance)
  • Gender expression differs from cultural
  • clothing, hair, play

Gender Diverse Girls (Olson, 2012)
  • Insist on wearing boys clothes and having short
  • Refuse to wear skirts, dresses, and female
    bathing suits
  • Prefer boy playmates and interested in
    rough-and-tumble play
  • May express desire to be a boy, announce that
    they really are boys, enjoy being mistaken for a

Gender Diverse Boys (Olson, 2012)
  • Interested in girls clothes, shoes, hair, and
  • May wish to have or pretend to have long hair,
    prefer girls as playmates, avoid rough team
  • May have expressed a desire to be a girl or said
    that they were a girl
  • May be disgusted with penis

Language and Terminology
  • Transgender
  • Individual whose gender identity does not match
    their assigned birth sex
  • Start noticing between 2-6, is consistent usually
    by 7
  • MTF, FTM, etc.

Language and Terminology
  • Gender Diversity
  • Gender non-conformity
  • Gender variance
  • Transgender
  • Gender Dysphoria

Language and Terminology
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Refers to romantic, emotional, and/or sexual
  • All people have a sexual orientation
  • LGB youth may or may not be gender non-conforming
    in gender expression

Language and Terminology
  • Gender fluidity
  • Flexible range of gender expression
  • Shifts over time
  • Genderqueer
  • Tends to refer to adolescents or adults who
    embrace a fluidity of gender expression
  • Refers to gender identity as male sometimes,
    female sometimes, or belief that neither male nor
    female identifies them appropriately

Language and Terminology
  • Asserted Male or Trans Boy
  • Child who was assigned female,
  • but has male gender identity
  • Transgender male
  • Asserted Female or Trans Girl
  • Child who was assigned male, but has
  • female gender identity
  • Transgender female

Language and Terminology
  • Social Transition
  • Living in asserted gender
  • Clothes, hairstyle, names, pronouns
  • Gender expression in line with gender identity
  • Fully reversible
  • Controversial for children

Language and Terminology
  • Social Transitioners
  • Body distress or disphoria
  • History of or current self-harm/suicidality
  • Impaired social/academic and familial functioning
  • Common diagnoses include depression, social
    anxiety, ASDs, school refusal
  • 3-5 years of consistent, insistent, and
    persistent cross gender identity and expression

Adolescent Presentations
  • History of consistent, insistent, and persistent
    gender diversity into adolescent years
  • Adolescent with no history of gender
    non-conformity, yet gender dysphoria with onset
    of puberty

Gender Development
  • Prenatal
  • Once genitalia are developed the child is
    assigned a gender
  • Differential treatment begins
  • Birth to age 3
  • Gender labels applied by parents/others.
  • Frequent reminders of gender
  • gendered behaviors are encouraged
  • basic gender identity and preferences emerge.

Gender Development
  • Age 3 to age 6
  • Gender expectations consolidate male and female
  • typical gendered behaviors are imitated
  • Age 7 to puberty
  • gender consistency usually by age 7
  • children begin to rely less exclusively on gender
  • Children begin to look to the behavior of models
    consistent with internal gender identity

Gender Development
  • Puberty and beyond
  • re-examination of self-concepts
  • forming an adult gender identity
  • Social pressures, changing social dynamics, and
    their identity is continually solidifying.
  • This constitutes another developmental time for a
    transgender identity or gender variant self
    expression to emerge.

Transgender Development
  • Prenatal
  • not sure
  • Birth to age 3
  • very common to see that their child is
    significantly gender variant.
  • Listen for assertions from the internal sense of
    self of the child.
  • Im a boy the response is usually no youre
    not, boys have pensises or youre just
  • Theres nothing to figure out at this age.

Transgender Development
  • Age 3 to age 6
  • consistent, persistent, and insistent in
    assertion of gender identity.
  • this isnt a phase and it is clear.
  • Some families choose to have their child undergo
    a social gender transition before entering
  • Age 7 to puberty
  • transgender identity consistent.
  • Developmentally, trans kids are rarely on time

Transgender Development
  • Puberty and beyond
  • Large age range in puberty/onset of puberty.
  • Emergence of the awareness of sexual orientation.
  • A child may be struggling with gender identity,
    expression, and sexual orientation.
  • Need to work quickly, but you dont want to make
    a mistake or act too quickly.
  • A lot of time the crisis here is a silent crisis.

Common Questions
  • Are kids too young to know what their gender is?
  • Will they grow out of this?/Is this a phase?
  • Are they seeking attention/Is this real?
  • Do kids take hormones?
  • What about the bathroom issue?
  • How can I get other people to use different name
    or pronouns if they are not legal?
  • What about my religion?
  • How common is this?

  • Arent kids too young to know what their gender
  • Actually, gender identity develops around
    ages 2 to 5 (Zucker, 2005), that's why we begin
    training allies in elementary school settings. We
    are not talking about sexual orientation, which
    is thought to develop closer to puberty.

  • What about the bathroom issue?
  • This situation is only as big of an issue as we
    make it. There are many creative options if the
    school won't allow the child to use the bathroom
    they feel most comfortable in. It is important to
    ensure safe access to the identified bathroom. In
    these cases, it is usually the transgender
    child's safety that is really in question not
    the safety of other students. There are more
    reported situations of transgender people being
    harmed in bathrooms than of transgender people
    harming others in bathrooms. Many schools allow
    transgender students to use the nurse's bathroom,
    however this may not be optimal.

  • How can I get other people to use different name
    or pronouns if they are not legal?
  • This may not be possible in all cases. Some
    schools have ARD meetings for trans kids to
    provide the Other Health Impairment label with
    GID as their diagnosis and include using the
    child's asserted names/pronouns and the child's
    asserted gender bathroom and dress code as part
    of the behavior plan. If not possible, it will be
    helpful if as many people as possible referred to
    the child with their desired name/pronouns.

This does not align with my faith. Thats ok,
you do not have to reconcile that with your
faith. In order to keep this child alive and
safe, keep these feelings away from the child.
Children who are supported by even just ONE adult
(parent, teacher, coach, grandmother) showed
decreased risk factors such as homelessness,
self-esteem suicidality, depression, drug use,
STIs. Reparative therapies to change these kids
have iatrogenic effects and are over 95
  • Prevalence
  • How common is this?

Recent Prevalence Statistics
Prevalence of Gender Diversity
  • Best estimate right now is 1 in 500 to 1-in 2000
    individuals experience some type of gender
    dysphoria or gender diversity.
  • Gender diversity may be expressed differently at
    different developmental stages
  • Gender diversity does not equal a diagnosis of
    Gender Identity Disorder

  • No definite answers
  • Things that do NOT cause a child to be
    transgender (Brill Ryan, 2009)
  • divorce, neglect, wishing you had given birth to
    the other sex, using fertility drugs to conceive,
    encouraging your child to play sports too often
    or not enough, or other parental thoughts,
    behaviors or experiences
  • But science is showing that transgender children
    are most likely born that way

Biological Basis
Rametti et al., 2010a
Rametti et al., 2010b
Table Time Discuss
  • Gender Talk
  • Share ideas about how to effectively discuss
    these children with teachers, staff, and students

  • Gender Identity Disorder?
  • Incredibly controversial
  • Gender Incongruence/Gender Dysphoria
  • First and Second proposed revision
  • The Good and the Not So Good

  • 87 verbally and 53 physically harassed due to
    their gender expression
  • 26 physically assaulted due to their gender
  • 40 heard school staff make negative comments
    about someones gender expression.
  • 11 school staff intervened when hearing
    negative remarks about someones gender

  • 54 reported events where they were victimized
    at school
  • 67 of those who reported the event believed
    that the school did not address it appropriately
  • Almost 50 reported skipping school because they
    felt unsafe or uncomfortable

  • Victimization, rather than gender non-conformity
    predicts negative psychosocial adjustment
  • Recommendations include
  • - policies and procedures and implementation
  • provide education
  • provide the opportunity for a social or support
  • structural suggestions

  • Many gender-based rites of passage
  • Physical education, pressure to date, classes
    that track the specific sexes, and the prom
  • Pressures at school lead to further isolation of
    transgender youth

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Research Netherlands
  • Developmental outcomes of GV/TG kids seen from
    1989-2005 Mean Age 8.4
  • 12 of the 40 (30) trans girls and 9 of 14 (64)
    the trans boys persisted after age 16 and
    requested gender affirming treatment.
  • Of those who desisted (28 boys and 5 girls),
    almost all noted that their feelings and
    preferences stopped upon entering middle school.
  • Those who persisted displayed more consistent and
    persistent gender variance and dysphoria.

Research Netherlands
  • MMPI study (de Vries et al., 2011)
  • Comparing Adolescents to Adults
  • GnRH study (de Vries et al., 2011)
  • 70 trans youth age 12-16
  • Improved psychological functioning
  • No change in gender dysphoria until after they
    began cross-sex hormones
  • None withdrew
  • All went on to make a gender transition

Research USA Ryans best practices
  • Change files/documents to youths preferred name
    and pronoun.
  • Use the name and pronoun preferred by the youth
    and REQUIRE other youth to do the same.
  • Avoid using unnecessarily segregating activities
    according to gender.

Research USADamaging Parenting Practices
  • Physical or verbal abuse to punish gender
  • Excluding the child from family activities
  • Blocking access to other gender variant or
    gay/lesbian friends, activities, resources
  • Blaming the child for the discrimination they
  • Parental denigration and ridicule
  • Religious-based condemnation
  • Distress, denial, shame
  • Silence and secrecy
  • Pressure to enforce gender conformity

Research USAEffective Parenting Practices
  • Establishing a supportive family environment
  • Acting as agents of change, advocates
  • Finding a unified parenting approach
  • Requiring respect
  • Expressing love and support for childs gender

  • School victimization/Bullying, Address bullying
    in MULTIPLE areas in hallways, bathrooms,
    playground, if victim denies bullying occurred,
    maybe at risk/danger for after school beating.
  • suicide
  • self-mutilation
  • referred for sexual orientation instead of gender
  • social anxiety
  • ASDs

  • Be aware of the possibility of violence both in
    school and in the family
  • Be ready to reach out to family members to
    provide education, information, and support
  • Help parents understand the childrens desires
    and behaviors are natural to them
  • Help parents develop strategies to address
    questions from neighbors and community about
    their child

  • Identify resources for these children, provide
    them where there are none
  • Assist parents in developing mutually acceptable
    compromise strategies
  • Assist transgender children with developing
    coping strategies for dealing with societal
    stigmatization, name-calling, and discrimination
  • Treatment for depression and associated
    difficulties should not attempt to enforce gender
    stereotypical behavior

Most Important Needs(Riley, Sitharthan, Clemson,
Diamond, 2011)
  • To be accepted and supported
  • To be heard, respected, and loved
  • To have professional support
  • To be allowed to express their gender
  • To feel safe and protected
  • To be treated and live normally
  • To have peer contact
  • To have school support
  • To have access to puberty-delaying hormones

Working with Families
  • Assess thoroughly - behaviors, beliefs,
    appearance, preferences, sense of self,
    consistency, how long
  • Assess all possible outcomes for child
  • Identity child stress levels and sources
  • Evaluate for psychological disorders
  • Assess the level of upheaval of all family
  • Inventory parenting practices
  • Identify where each family member is
  • Clarify your role as therapist, advocate, coach
  • Help the family identify destination and map
  • Get on the same page with confidentiality
  • Develop referral network of gender sensitive

Working with SchoolsCreating a Supportive
School Culture
  • Consult with the leadership team
  • What are their concerns? What information do they
    need? What are the laws that need to be
  • Meet with school staff about gender issues and
    tolerance of gender broadness
  • Not about the specific child varies case by case
  • Meet with parent groups
  • Not to try to change their opinions about gender
  • To get support for treating all children with
    kindness and respect
  • To introduce them to a parent who is similar in
    demographics and raising a transgender child
  • In-class presentations, if possible

Recommendations for Schools (Lev Alie, 2012)
  • Create an environment where gender exploration is
    normative and gender diversity is encouraged
  • Develop gender affirming policies
  • Educate staff about gender identities
  • Use the youths preferred name and pronoun
  • Provide information and resources
  • Avoid gender segregation
  • Consult, consult, consult

Working with SchoolsAddressing Administrative
  • Adopt zero tolerance for discrimination
  • Update policies and forms
  • Honor preferred names and pronouns
  • Develop guidelines for transgender students
  • Provide on-going training
  • Ensure bathroom safety for all students
  • Document harassment
  • Provide resources and support for parents
  • Evaluate schools gender sensitivity periodically

Warning Signs indicate its time to work faster
  • Asserted boys (externalizing) frequently
    violent, punch holes in walls especially during
    menstrual cycledesires for multiple tattoos.
  • Asserted girls (internalizing) withdrawing,
    becoming socially absent, computer and science
    focus, living through anime.
  • At lot of time the crisis here is a silent
    crisis. Sometimes teenagers will tell parents
    right before they are planning on killing
  • Kid will express it and then wont talk about it

  • High functioning high school youth who is blocked
    from PE and debate conference.
  • GT student in middle school with suicidal
    ideation and questionable parent support
    questionable/religious condemnation.
  • Elementary school male child presents as
    extremely socially anxious, you see them for
    counseling and learn that the child wants to be a

  • Gender Spectrum Education and Training
  • http//
  • Family Acceptance Project
  • http//
  • PFLAGs Transgender Family Site
  • http//
  • Legal Resource for Transgender Youth
  • http//
  • Childrens National Hospital Gender and Sexuality
    Psychosocial Program
  • http//
  • Trans Youth Family Allies
  • http//
  • http//