What’s it like to have a different gender in high school? Would you be isolated all the time?
Thanks for sharing this important question.
It sounds like you’re concerned about someone feeling alone and unsupported. I think that how difficult or isolating high school is can depend a lot on how open and accepting the school is – does the school have policies about inclusive language and discrimination?
Does it have a GSA?
Are there openly queer or trans* faculty and staff members?
There will always be people in high school that thrive on making life difficult for others, but similarly there will always be people who are accepting and open.
I’ve often found myself saying that gender is the new frontier in our culture – there are more and more gender diverse folks standing up and demanding that they be treated with respect and dignity. This is happening in schools too, sometimes with awesome results, and sometimes with less than-stellar responses. Certainly, gender creative kids may face isolation in high school. They may face bullying and even violence – but hopefully that will start to change. Gender identity and expression are now protected in Ontario’s Human Rights Code – which means that Ontario public schools needs to take incidents of harassment and bullying based on gender presentation very seriously. Some school boards, like the Toronto District School Board, are already responding to this change by implementing new policies to protect and support gender variant children.
Even though there are risks to being gender creative in high school, I think there can also be opportunities to find support and foster change. Gender diverse kids might seek out supportive friends and teachers. They may join a Gay Straight Alliance, or consider starting one. They might ask their administration for support, like having their preferred names and pronouns recognized by teachers. They might rally for change, and if changes aren’t made, they take their concerns to the public or higher up the chain. It depends on what else might be going on in a person’s life and if they have the energy for those kind of fights – some people do, and others prefer to hang out in the closet – that’s okay too.
At the end of the day, I think high school can be tough for any one, and it may be especially tough for gender creative kids. But I also believe firmly that it gets better. High school doesn’t last forever, though it may seem to. Even kids who have the worst of times in high school might find that once they graduate, things aren’t so bad. In fact, things can even be awesome.
If you have other questions or thoughts on this topic, we’d love to hear them. Give us a shout, our summer hours are Mondays from 3:30-6pm and Wednesdays, from 6-9pm.