The current climate for LGBTQ+ students isn’t great. However, national organizations and federal and state agencies are working to change this. Coming out at school is difficult especially for elementary, middle, and high school students because of the lack of autonomy that these students have. Additionally, if you parents are not supportive, your transition at school can be difficult, if not impossible. Even school counselors, who should be a safe place for LGBTQ+ students, aren’t always affirming. The follow tips are sorted in terms of K-12 and Post-Secondary educational settings. Given the large amount of state legislation currently underway and changes to Federal policy during the Trump Administration, some information may be rendered out-of-date without warning.

For Students in K-12 Schools

  • Know Your Rights: The Federal Government has made it clear that gender identity is covered under Title IX and that all schools receiving Federal funds may not discriminate against transgender and gender non-conforming students. You have the right to be treated with the same respect and courtesy shown to all students at your school (e.g., correct name/pronouns). You should not be forced to use a bathroom or locker room which is not consistent with your gender identity nor should you be forced to use a gender neutral bathroom. However, many states have indicated that they will not be complying with the Federal Government’s directive. If you experience discrimination, you should file a report with the Department of Education. Learn more here.
  • Know Your District’s Policies: Many schools and school districts are working to make their schools more inclusive. Contact your school’s main office or district’s central office and ask for a copy of their policies on LGBTQ+ students.
  • Sit Down With Faculty and Administrators: Supportive parents are very helpful in this process. It is important to sit down as a family and determine what your plan of action is and what you expect the school to do to support your student. Ask your school principal to sit down with you, your parents, and your teacher(s) and counselor. Discuss the process of transition and what you need (and expect) from the school to support this process. If resistant, remind them that your gender identity is covered under Title IX, and you will seek the advice of an attorney should your rights as a student not be upheld. If your parents are not supportive, then you may need to rely on your school counselor to serve as an advocate for you when approaching your teacher(s) and administrators. See information on affirming therapists for more information.
  • Know Your Allies: Working with faculty and administration is only half the struggle. It will be important to know which classmates will be your allies, because having allies is a great way to reduce the negative effects of bullying. Similar to coming out to family and friends, it would be helpful to make a list of who you know will support you, who will not, and who you are unsure about.
  • Know Your Resources: Visit the National Center for Transgender Equality for more information.
  • Help Your School in Their Transition with You: It may be difficult for many people to make name/pronoun adjustments. Unless you expect misgendering/misnaming is intentional, you should approach these mistakes with compassion and understanding. Doing so will help assist your transition at school. HRC has excellent guides to aid your school in support transgender students and a Guide on the Federal Government’s Title IX Guidance.

For Students in Technical Schools, Community Colleges, Professional Schools, and Universities

  • Know Your Rights: The Federal Government has made it clear that gender identity is covered under Title IX and that all schools receiving Federal funds may not discriminate against transgender and gender non-conforming students. You have the right to be treated with the same respect and courtesy shown to all students at your school (e.g., correct name/pronouns). You should not be forced to use a bathroom or locker room which is not consistent with your gender identity nor should you be forced to use a gender neutral bathroom. However, many states have indicated that they will not be complying with the Federal Government’s directive. If you experience discrimination, you should file a report with the Department of Education. Learn more here.
  • Know Your Institution’s Policies: Many universities and colleges have inclusive policies, and more are working to make their schools more inclusive. Contact your institution’s human resources or student affairs office and ask for a copy of their policies on LGBTQ+ students.
  • Housing Matters: Many institutions require their first year students to live on-campus. You should contact residence life to find out what their policies are for transgender students and whether or not they have a LGBTQ+ ally roommate matching service. If your school has an LGBTQ+ coordinator or center, they might be a good resource to check with prior to contacting residence life. If your institution does not have affirming policies, ask if you can be excused from living on campus. Cite Title IX if necessary.
  • Know Your Allies: Find your campus’ LGBTQ+ group. They often can provide advice specific to your institution. Also, check with your school’s student life or student affairs office to see if your university has a diversity officer, multicultural center, Women’s Center, or LGBTQ+ Center. Any of these offices usually are LGBTQ+ friendly and can point you toward resources available for you at your institution.
  • Look Around Town: Depending on how big the city your school is in, there may be an LGBTQ+ center or group in your town. Find them and find out what programming they offer for youth and young adults. Having that support will be very valuable to you.Find centers in your area.
  • Change Your Name: Many campuses now offer students the ability to have their preferred name listed on class rolls and on campus IT resources such as email and blackboard (even without a legal name change). Check with your LGBTQ+ group or campus IT help desk for more information.
  • Know Your Resources: Visit the National Center for Transgender Equality for more information.
  • Help Your School in Their Transition with You: It may be difficult for many people to make name/pronoun adjustments. Unless you expect misgendering/misnaming is intentional, you should approach these mistakes with compassion and understanding. Doing so will help assist your transition at school. HRC has excellent guides to aid your school in support transgender students and a Guide on the Federal Government’s Title IX Guidance.