A huge part of coming out was coming out at school. A recent report by Stonewall (School Report) states that almost half of trans kids have attempted suicide. This is a shocking statistic and shows how badly their experience at school can affect trans kids. The best way to mitigate this? Support. Nothing more complex, just support. Our experience was mixed but overall positive.
About 6 months after R came out to us, we went in to speak to school and tell them what was going on. At that time we met with the class teacher and head teacher. The initial response was shock and confusion. School staff were open in saying they had no idea what this all meant but also open in asking for more information.
R wasn’t quite ready to come out to their peers at school but knew they wanted to do that eventually. The first reaction from school was that this might not be the best thing and they had to think about the wellbeing of all their students. For those that know me, you won’t be surprised at my response being something along the lines of “my priority is R’s wellbeing and this will be best for their wellbeing”. After that first meeting I sent a variety of information to school, pointing them to LGBT Youth and also Mermaids UK as sources of information.
A couple of months after that first meeting R decided they were ready to come out to their peers. Another meeting was set up and I was ready for a bit of a fight but reading all the information meant that school’s attitude had changed and they worked with us to make things as easy as possible. We decided R should come out just before the Christmas holiday, giving everyone time to process things over the break. R had prepared a presentation giving information on gender identity in general and their specific gender identity, and we consulted with school on the content. R’s teacher suggested that rather than them being bombarded with questions he would set up a question box. This meant R could decide what they wanted to answer and how to answer. It also let school monitor the questions and decide what was suitable.
The day of the presentation came and R seemed totally fine but I was a ball of nerves. I made myself a little late for a work meeting because I waited to see R after school and find out how it had all gone. R struggled a little with the presentation due to nerves and anxiety over public speaking but they managed it and did well. A few questions came out and R answered with the support of their teacher.
My other worry was what might other parents say. We live in a small town which isn’t the most diverse and I had no idea how people would respond. Those fears quickly disappeared, within 10 minutes of school finishing I had a message from a parent saying how brave R was to have come out in that manner and we had their full support. Lots of other supportive comments and messages came and it was wonderful to know my fears had not been realised.
Things at school haven’t been entirely smooth, we have had a few incidents of old name and gender being used but these represent a small minority and overall it’s been positive.
The biggest impact though is that it seems to have taken a weight off R, every time the secret is revealed it has a positive impact on us all.
Now we face the challenge of starting high school in two weeks but I’m less worried about that. We have had lots of discussions with the high school about ways to make the transition smooth, of where to find information and where to access training for staff. The staff will receive training from LGBT Youth before term starts and this will be invaluable in highlighting the issues that need consideration and also the way R and other trans kids can be affected by the behaviour of staff and students. Mermaids UK also provide training to schools and other agencies on gender identity and the issues faced by trans kids.
This training and the information and resources available are necessary to help school staff support children. That support means they are at significantly less risk of harming themselves.
The best bit of all this? The end of year report shows R is flourishing academically, already working at a secondary school level in lots of areas. I’m confident that being supported at home and at school has been a factor in the blossoming confidence I can see every day.