Monday, January 10, 2011


Should We Teach Children To The Concept of Transgender People

The logic is a beautiful counterpoint to the usual screaming "omigod if we teach kids about these strange people, they'll become one themselves" that we hear from outer wingnuttia.

Kennedy and Hellen believe that school efforts do have a consequence, however. Transgender children learn very quickly that being transgender is "not acceptable," and so they conceal their identity, even from family members, to avoid suffering socially. As a result of fearfully suppressing their identity for such a long period, "many of these children achieve well below their abilities at school, leave school early, are more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide, and more likely to suffer from mental health issues in early adulthood."

By having schools introduce the concept of transgender people to all children, the authors assert, transgender children will "feel they are not alone and that their gender identity is as valid as any other." This will, in turn, greatly diminish the damaging consequences currently observed as these children mature.

This is an excellent point, and the study's authors make one last beautifully clear observation:

If a school system tried to coerce any other group of individuals to become people they are not, to regard an inner core of their identities as illegitimate, and prevent them from expressing their identities freely, particularly from a very young age, it would be characterized as barbaric. ... The [resulting] internalization of self-hatred, guilt, self-doubt and low self-esteem in childhood affects transgender people throughout their lives. Any education system, or indeed society, which allows this state of affairs to continue is neither fully inclusive nor fully humane.

It's about time we starting seeing some reasoned voices talking about the realities that trans youth face when they are in school - whether or not they are openly trans.

1 comment:

Rob F said...

Exactly. By analogy, knowing someone who is LGBT is the number one predictor of support for LGBT rights. Knowing transgender people and realizing that they are completely normal individuals will only improve societal views of transgender people and by implication, their rights.

And this does not impact on anyone's freedom of religion. First, religion is a choice and no one is forcing them to be a member of a transphobic religion. Second, they are still able to talk to their kids. It's not like their kid come home and says "Mommy (or Daddy), we learnt about transgender people in school today," and they start clutching their throat as their larynx ceases to exist. To go otherwise is symptomatic of bad parenting and comes pretty close to a tacit admission that their own views are nonsense. In other words, they're afraid of people thinking for themselves.