The Austin school district has made it a point of pride to tout its acceptance of members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community.
The district supports the schools’ participation in the city’s annual pride parades in August and this year it promoted a week of campus pride activities at the campus level.
In September, the Gender and Sexuality Alliance welcomed students and promoting acceptance on campus by passing out support stickers and informative pamphlets. Considering that members of the LGBTQ community often flock to Austin because of its liberal-minded politics, it’s no surprise that the school district here reflects the same beliefs and values. However, it would be bold to assume that all teachers and staff are trained to address the needs of LGBTQ students.
When a student chooses to come out or speak up about a problem regarding sexual orientation or gender identity, are teachers open-minded to it? Based on my experience, most teachers at Akins advocate for the rights and wellness of our LGBT+ students.
Lastly, there is the unfortunate third category of teachers who are either uncomfortable or uneducated about transgenderism and homosexuality. Personally, I feel like I’ve gotten enough help when it came to coming out to the majority of the teachers I’ve had at Akins. It was a matter of talking to my counselor and sending out emails to the teachers I wanted to inform.
Despite my efforts, this did not prevent all my teachers from using incorrect pronouns. Some did not follow up to clarify or discuss the fact that I used pronouns that did not match up with my school records. Might just be because teachers in AISD haven’t been properly taught how to deal with transgender students, despite the majority of our staff claiming to be an ally. They may also just genuinely not know how to bring up such a sensitive subject.
On occasion the conversation went something like this:
“So, you’re a boy?”
And then the teacher proceeds to use the wrong pronouns for the rest of the year anyway.
To promote a safe and inclusive learning environment, district administrators should consider a professional development day to discuss situations that they may encounter relating to gay or transgender students. Offering this learning opportunity will immensely help out staff and allow them to see how they can do their best to resolve conflicts.
There’s plenty of times where I’ve been blatantly misgendered in front of the class and the teacher either looked uncomfortable or felt bad but didn’t take any action to solve the situation. I don’t blame the teacher whatsoever. I know teachers care for their students, but if they don’t know what to do in a situation that they haven’t been prepared for, you can’t expect them to magically know what to do.
Preparing staff and teachers for these awkward and embarrassing moments creates a space where LGBT students can rest easy knowing their teachers are willing to have their back anytime.