Upper secondary school students at the British International School of Washington observed Transgender Awareness Week from November 13 to 19. This annual occasion raises awareness of the transgender community and leads to Transgender Remembrance Day, an observance to commemorate people who lost their lives due to acts of anti-transgender violence. Year 13 students Britt, Charly, Leo and Minna presented on the topic and discussed everything from compassionate language and terminologies to notable figures and media representation.
“It’s OK if you don’t understand all the words being used,” the presenters said, “But avoid invalidating others for using labels unfamiliar to you.” The students urged people to learn about and respect matters of significance to transgender people, and they recommended talking to members of this historically marginalized community to gain insight. The students discussed the role pronouns play in gender and self-expression, and they advised people to share pronouns in online communications and suggested:
“Gender is a personal experience,” the presenters said. “There is no right or wrong way to define your gender, and it’s OK if you don’t want to label yourself either.”
The presentation explored how some labels liberate people to express themselves and find others who relate to similar experiences. For example, the students explained that labels on the internet can help people filter through results to connect and build communities with people who have common characteristics. The students mentioned notable transgender people throughout history, discussed organizations with resources to help the transgender community, and highlighted books, documentaries, and films on the transgender community.
“Research has found that children who do not identify their gender with their sex assigned at birth begin their gender identity development with that knowledge as early as 3 years old,” explained BISW’s School Counsellor Devon DeCataldo, LGPC, NCC. “It is important to affirm students’ identities and work to create safe, inclusive spaces.”
Ms DeCataldo provided teachers with lesson plans related to gender stereotypes and identity, suggested a list of critically acclaimed and award-winning children’s books on topics significant to the transgender community, and provided tips on inclusivity.
“Use inclusive phrases that are not gendered. Instead of boys and girls or ladies and gentlemen, try everyone, folks, class and so on. I am still working on this as well,” Ms DeCataldo said. “Group students in ways that don’t rely on gender. Alternatives include using the letters in their names, the colours of their clothes and so on. Intervene when students limit one another based on gender. Last but not least, be an ally.”
The students’ presentation and discussions support the foundation of a community with a heightened awareness of its neighbours. Likewise, the observance of Transgender Awareness Week is part of BISW’s commitment to the acceptance, inclusion and protection of people from diverse backgrounds.