Distinguished School board and Department of Education Administrators,
I strongly support any and all measures possible to protect children. Transgender identity is not a phase, not an act of insubordination, and not a choice. Gender identity must be protected as a legal right as all children, trans or cisgender, must be given equal protection under law. As mentioned in the guidelines transgender students are at increased risk of abuse and suicide. For many trans adults I know school was a traumatic experience because of constant mental, physical and, sexual abuse or assault happening on school grounds. Much of this abuse far passes bullying and was never addressed by administration or police even when reported multiple times. If these guidelines can grant trans students the equal protection that they are denied then I am in full support. However, the Virginia Education system must also take responsibility for previous inaction when faced with anti-trans human rights abuses.
Almost all of the proposed guidelines are excellent. I encourage providing model non-gendered uniforms for activities such swim meets, cheer, field hockey, and any other traditionally gendered sport. On a personal note, I am a cisgender woman who would have loved to have taken part in cheer if I had an option other than a mini skirt. The tight mini skirt was against my spiritual beliefs, but when I asked I was given no other choice but to wear it. Had track pants been an option I could have participated.
Additionally, I commend your protection of children choosing both gendered and non gendered bathrooms. This is one of the most important ways to combat social stigma against trans students. As a chronically ill child, I also could have benefited from single stall non gendered bathrooms to discreetly take care of medical needs without having to go to the nurse's office for the only single stall bathroom.
The only issue I have is in the "student Identification" section on page 13 where it encourages administrators to listen to bigoted parents about how their children should be addressed. I believe administrators and teachers alike should respect their students even if it is against the will of parents.
Misgendering trans students and deadnaming is emotionally abusive and under no circumstances should schools aid in parental abuse of children. Malicious dead naming should be considered verbal abuse and reported as such. Would you recommend teachers referring to girls as sluts or boys as s if the parents requested it? Deadnaming and misgendering whittles away at a child's confidence and shows a complete disregard for their identity as a human. Misgendering removes a child's agency and asserts control over their very personhood by discounting the individual and asserting a predetermined social narrative instead. Deadnaming and misgendering is dehumanizing much in the way a slur is. In every way possible we must treat children as people with agency. Removing that agency and aiding in the hateful treatment of children increases the likelihood of a young person developing depression or taking their own life.
We must be completely clear that there is a difference between a learning curve and passive aggressive disrespect in regards to pronouns and names. It is common for adults to pretend to be "trying" to respect pronouns and ask for patience, only for no improvement to ever come. Please establish a reasonable time table, for example over the course of two weeks, by which old names can be phased out. Any mistake after that should be followed by an apology everytime.
I would prefer that there was some metric for accountability laid out in this document. Additionally you should include assurance that transgender students still facing discrimination in breach of these guidelines would have a clear path to aid, reporting and, conflict resolution aside from quiet patience with the small mindedness of others. It is our responsibility as adults to put aside personal biases and truly aid the children we have sworn to protect.
We can no longer discount transgender children as being strange, deviant or, immoral leaving their human rights a question of personal taste. It was never just to do so. It is time for Virginia to right it's past wrongs and truly strive for equity now. These guidelines are a good start but by no means mark the end of our duty to protecting transgender children in public schools.