Yet another high school weighs whether trans students should have basic dignity and respect

Yet another high school weighs whether trans students should have basic dignity and respect

One of the simplest and most fundamental ways to respect a trans person in your life—whether they’re family, friends, coworkers, or someone you’re just meeting for the first time—is to use the correct name and pronouns. Using the correct name and pronouns is just as important as, say, pronouncing or spelling someone’s name correctly. It’s not a matter of “opinion” or “comfort” but of being accurate, respectful, and frankly, correct. 

Trans youth deserve every bit of respect but sadly, many Republicans in power don’t want to offer them even a shred of dignity. As Daily Kos has covered, sometimes the Republican mission centers on keeping trans people from competing on girls’ sports teams, and sometimes it’s a large-scale effort to deny gender-affirming, age-appropriate health care. Unfortunately, even policies on the district or school level can be harmful to trans kids and teenagers. One example? As reported by the Canton Repository, one high school in North Canton, Ohio, enacted a temporary rule that may have resulted in serious potential harm for trans kids. Why? It involved essentially “outing” them to their parent or guardian.

As Ash Barros, a senior at Hoover High School, told the Repository in an interview, being called by his correct name as opposed to the name listed on his birth certificate makes him feel safe and accepted. He told the outlet that he transferred to the high school as a junior and since then, his teachers have respected his request to go by Ash. At the end of August, however, the Hoover administration introduced a rule that might have significantly changed life for not only Ash, but all trans students at the school.

According to the outlet, Principal Eric Bornstine told teachers and administrators that they’d need to get explicit permission from parents or guardians in order to call students by anything other than their legal name. Barros, a member of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), found out about this new rule by receiving a screenshot of an email sent to his parents about his name and pronouns. As he told the outlet, he immediately felt sick. He felt his time at the school was a “safe space” and it felt “jarring” to have it taken away. 

While Barros says he’d already talked to his parents briefly about his name and pronouns, he and his peers in the GSA knew that not all trans students would be safe doing so. The group gathered to meet with the principal on Aug. 20 and requested that the rule be changed back. According to Barros, the students stressed that “outing” youth to their parents could put them in danger at home. 

From there, students began circulating an online petition for support, which quickly received almost 3,000 signatures. On the bright side, Borstine let staff know on the second day of school that they could use a student’s correct name and pronouns without contacting parents for permission. But, as North Canton Superintendent Jeff Wendorf stressed to the outlet, the change had nothing to do with the student petition. Instead, Wendorf said the school received updated legal advice on the issue and changed its stance accordingly. Teachers and staff are expected to honor a student’s correct name and pronouns once they are verbally given to them, and while the school will not outright tell parents, Wendorf says they also won’t “not tell parents the truth.” 

As Daily Kos has covered, trans youth are more likely to become homeless than their cisgender peers. They are also more likely to experience mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. In terms of school, they are more likely to skip classes and leave high school without a diploma.

“Outing” an LGBTQ+ person is never okay, and especially not when the person is vulnerable and living under the other person’s roof. We still live in a country where conversion therapy exists, mind you, and even if parents do not go to that extreme, trans (and all LGBTQ+) youth are extremely vulnerable. The very least adults can do is offer them support, affirmation, and a safe space to be themselves. 

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