Transgender youth face challenges in school that most students don’t — like finding a gender-neutral bathroom or asking to be called by a different name.
To help students learn how to get what they need, the Zach Gordon Youth Center and the Juneau branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness has created new guides for Juneau middle and high school students.
“It can be hard enough and scary enough to be a kid at school trying to figure things out,” said program coordinator Meryl Connelly-Chew. “Add in the piece of being a trans or gender-diverse young person, and potentially not having a supportive adult at home who’s helping you.”
The guides have answers to questions like how to handle name changes and negotiate activities that are typically gender-segregated — and what to do if somebody disrespects a student’s identity.
And they explain how to navigate those problems in each of the district’s middle and high schools, complete with lists of people students may need to know, like counselors, principals and registrars.
They also have an explanation of the district’s non-discrimination policy, written for students.
“It just really became clear to us that we need to simplify some of the school district’s anti-discrimination policy into a way that young people can understand and use for themselves,” Connelly-Chew said.
The booklets debuted at the Zach’s Trans Youth Advocacy Workshop earlier this month, when trans youth were able to ask questions and hear from school staff and the people who put the booklets together.
On Aug. 23, the youth center and NAMI are hosting a webinar about the guides for family members, teachers and school staff who want to better support transgender students in Juneau.
“Okay, you are the trusted adult,” Connelly-Chew said. “So what can you do, and how might you support a young person, if they come to you, and say, ‘You’re my trusted adult, I need help with this thing?’”
The guides are available at the Zach Gordon Youth Center and online at namijuneau.org/lgbtq2.