Supporting Transgender Students in Schools: Tensions and Opportunities in the Talk of Educators
Presentation: Helene Frohard-Dourlent
Session E | 11:05 – 11:45 | Location: Room 308
As more people are becoming aware of the negative school experiences of trans students, more and more school districts in North America are working to implement best practices to support these students and create educational environments more inclusive of gender diversity. Yet we still know little about the experiences of educators who are doing the work of supporting trans students and of making their schools more inclusive.
Currently, schools often respond to transgender students’ demands for recognition from an accommodation perspective, which is focused on providing educators with logistical tools to address specific issues (Smith & Payne, 2016), e.g. what bathroom the student should use. While this approach is essential to the work of supporting individual students, it approach does not interrogate why transgender students are systematically marginalized in school spaces. As a result, individual accommodations rarely creates sustainable change in school cultures. Drawing on 62 in-depth interviews with educators (teachers, administrators, counselors as well as other school staff), I analyze educators’ discursive practices to show the tensions and limitations that educators encounter when working with transgender students within an accommodation model. I also highlight the way that the talk of educators showcases possibilities for cultural change that could happen alongside individual accommodations. These possibilities offer glimpses into educational practices that can challenge the way that schools are currently organized by cisnormative modes of thinking and doing that marginalize gender diversity, and instead can create more inclusive spaces for students of all genders.