A recent article in Inside Higher Education reports that the NCAA has issued guidelines for competition by transgender athletes. The treatment of transgender students in K-12 schools is fraught with controversy, often more about freaked out parents than distraught children. Still, nearly 90% of transgender students report harassment, even while enlightened states such as California and Maine provide legal protections for them.
I got to wondering, however, about how independent schools in general, and single sex independent schools in particular, might respond to an enrollment application from a transgender child who does not conform to the school’s gender; the trans male (female to male) or the trans female (male to female) who wishes to attend the single-sex school of the gender with which they identify.
Singe sex school exist, at least in part, to mitigate the effects of male/female interaction during the pre-adolescent and adolescent years. This is not to suggest that a student checks his or her gender or sexuality at the school house door, but parents and students are making conscious choices about their preferred gender of classmates.Most people deal with gender in a binary manner, though they make take a more nuanced approach to sexual expression. For some parents, they’d rather have their daughter be a gay female than a trans male.1
The distinction between gender and sex is difficulty for adults to sort out, and I suspect, may be even more so for adolescents. And it is little wonder, therefore, that many of the parties involved in the education of transgender youth may sometimes be at odds with one another.
If you happen to teach in a single sex school, ask yourself what you would do if a transgender child was to apply to your institution. This teachable moment will reveal much about what you believe about yourselves, your students, and your parent body.