We held our first all-staff meeting this morning. Having a late start to our Wednesdays allows for our two-campus school to get together in one place at one time to discuss larger themes, lenses, and focuses of our entire school. This meeting was focused on gender and how to approach this topic in early childhood. The gender spectrum can be a sensitive topic, and one that adults can often feel
shy discussing. This is one of the privileges of being cisgender. If you have never felt the need to explain your gender to someone this may naturally feel strange. It may seem further difficult to discuss such a topic with young children, especially if we, as adults, are unsure of how to approach this. In fact, Alisha began our discussion by asking us what fears we had around discussing this and we each had something to share. Many of us are afraid to say ‘the wrong thing’ and accidentally be hurtful when we are trying to be helpful. By having these conversations we can become more comfortable with our understanding and ready to lead conversations with young people.
Alisha and Mage led this discussion with a very informative presentation that included gender terminology, previous project work and conversations with children, and important information and statistics. Alisha included this terrifying fact sheet from Trans Student Educational Resources.
The fact that 57% of trans youth who have unsupportive parents attempt suicide is horribly sad and eye-opening to me. The fact that 4% of trans youth (about the average for youth in the general population) who have supportive parents attempt suicide, is in comparison, quite hopeful. This statistical outline can help us see just how very important a supportive community can be. The understanding and support from parents can quite literally be vital to our trans community. Saying our gender pronouns while introducing ourselves during events, challenging gender stereotypes, and having these meetings among teachers to ensure we are ready for this work, are such important steps for continuing to build support in our community.
Mage led us through some conversations they had had with a small group of toddlers at the Elm House as well. It was beautiful to see how, even at the age of two, this can be an easy topic to discuss. One child had referred to another child by a gender pronoun they did not usually use. Instead of correcting them, Mage saw this as a great teaching and understanding moment. Mage explained that they themselves prefer ‘they/them’ pronouns, and asked the children sitting around the snack table
what pronouns they like to use for themselves. The children said, “I like ‘he'”, and “I like ‘she'”, and continued talking also about how much they like bananas. It was a simple conversation that asked the children to pause and consider something important, and then it was back to business as usual. The children found it very easy, unlike many adults, to have this talk.
Mage included a reflection on this pronoun check with a story of one of the students going to their much older cousin and asking them what pronouns they use. The cousin wasn’t accustomed to this question and the young Elm House child explained by saying that they preferred “he”. At two years of age, this child had grasped the concept of gender pronouns and the idea of checking in with someone about that. They had had a simple and supportive conversation with a teacher that led them to speak in the world like an ally.
It is this work that makes our school community so special to me as a teacher. We talk about the things that matter most in the world. Making sure that we take the time to have these difficult and profoundly important conversations helps ensure that we teachers feel ready to teach such topics. When we can teach these things and support our community in this way, so will the students, and maybe their cousins, and who knows who the ripples will reach.