Teaching teachers to respect trans students
Last week, my dad and I went to talk to my school’s authorities about including my chosen name on the rosters. They decided not to let me, even after a long discussion where we presented evidence that my request was, in fact, legal. I’d found some legal documents in support of trans students; plus, I pointed out that some of my Asian classmates have chosen Spanish names which are listed alongside their legal names. Although their situation is different from mine, it proves that non-legal names are in fact routinely used.
As an aside, I think the system is rigged to let teachers stay in their ethnocentric, ciscentric comfort zone: it’s probably “easier” for the teachers to use traditional Spanish names, whereas it’s so hard to use the right pronouns when you know someone is trans! It’s a reminder that apparently different oppressions are rooted in similar attitudes.
Although I believe the decision was deeply unfair, and that I could have won the case if we had taken some sort of legal action, I’m lucky that the school’s head is surprisingly LGBTQ-friendly (unless, of course, she has to take a risky stand). She tried to find some other solution, and we finally agreed to have a meeting with my new professors before the beginning of the school year. My dad just got out of that meeting –I wasn’t invited– and called to say it went well. I’ll ask about the details when he gets home.
The idea of a whole meeting centered around me is really embarrassing, and I hope my professors aren’t annoyed that they had to attend. But I guess it’s better for them to hold a grudge against me than to be called by the wrong name for an entire school year, especially because –for the first time in five years– I’ll be having new classmates who won’t necessarily know that they shouldn’t use my legal name (during all of secondary school, I had the same 30-35 classmates in every single class because we all had to take the same subjects).
Besides, I’m trying not to feel too embarrassed about the meeting because it isn’t really about me — it’s about educating my teachers about how to treat a trans student, and why it matters (almost like “diversity training”). For instance, my dad was going to tell them that –even though I’m very engaged with my studies– I often avoided participating in class in fear that the teacher would ask my name, or to avoid hir from calling my name. Looking back, that was really hard because we often had awesome student teachers, the kind who get you really involved, and I did NOT want them to know my name — but I was bursting to join the discussion!
All in all, I’m glad that I got the principal’s support; whatever my professors’ attitudes, I won’t have to wait in dread –during the first week of school– until each new teacher pulls out their student list, and struggle to correct them –in a terrified voice– in front of 35 other people. School starts on Monday, and I’m really looking forward to it!