Supporting your trans child plays a vital role in affirming their identity. By openly showing your support for your child's gender identity and expression - and positively acting upon this support - your child will feel they are in a safe, hospitable environment where they can flourish as their authentic self. You can put your support into action by listening to your child with an open ear, taking seriously the steps they want to make in their gender journey, respecting their chosen name and pronouns, and standing up for them always.
***Use the resources on this page when talking to educators and school officials. Email or call TYEF for support.
Key educational and legal resources
Check out our glossary on commonly used terminology
A guide to supporting transgender students K-12
Explanation of how schools are required to treat transgender students
In this section we discuss frequently asked questions kids and families have about school for a transgender child. Here we answer some of the questions you or your child might have about their rights in school. Please also listen to our TransWaves podcast about youth rights by board adviser and attorney Zack Paakkonen. You can access this podcast on our home page.
A very important guide from the DoE about a variety of resources available for LGBTQIA+ students. Among these are filing a discrimination complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, harassment statistics, legal protections for trans students, and much more.
FERPA is a federal law that protect’s a student’s education, health, and medical records.
Department of Education: Title IX and Anti-Discrimination protections
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) officially enforces Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. According to the OCR, Title IX “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.” The OCR goes on to declare that protections for people from discrimination based on sex “includ[es] sexual orientation and gender identity.”
This echoes the statements in a June 2021 DoE public notice “clarifying Title IX’s protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity” for students. Significantly, this ruling “applies regardless of whether the individual is an adult in a workplace or a student in school.”
The DoE summarizes sex discrimination protections in its publication Sex Discrimination: Overview of the Law.
Restrooms, Locker rooms, and school sports
According to President Biden’s Executive Order 13988 of January 2021, Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation, “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.” The executive order goes on to cite that these crucial and life-saving protections for trans students are reflected in the Constitution, Title VII, Title IX, and Bostock v. Clayton County.
The above excerpt from Biden’s executive order was clearly cited in an April 2021 publication from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Letter to Students, Educators, and other Stakeholders re Executive Order 14021. This proves that both President Biden and the Dept. of Education uphold trans students’ rights to access the restroom, locker room, and school sports in line with their affirmed gender identity.
All of this re-upholds the May 2016 DOE/DOJ directive under the Obama administration.
Also look up your state’s laws that protect transgender children, although federal laws override any discriminatory state laws.
Resources about the law, and protections for your child at school
?The Biden Administration has released a very important document mandating that “discrimination against students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by federal law.” This guide lays out the steps for filing complaints with the government if schools or districts fail to protect LGBTQI+ students. Please read for important details stating your legal requirements as an educator or school personnel to protect your students from discrimination and harassment.
Further Information about Filing a Discrimination Complaint with the Office for Civil Rights.
A very helpful explanation of how schools are required to treat transgender students. This fact sheet details that schools must treat trans and gender diverse students as their true gender identity. It explicitly states that the Policy Letter requires that trans students have access the restroom, locker room, and facilities in line with their gender identity. It also says that schools must use the student’s correct name and pronouns, and allow them to dress in alignment with their gender.
Crucially, this fact sheet also says that Title IX overrides anti-trans state laws. Schools that don’t respect Title IX protections can expect disciplinary action form the Dept. of Education and/or the Dept. of Justice. You can file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights using the previous links. It is helpful to also talk about discrimination with school and district officials. Ask them about their anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies. They’re often willing to help.
This further explains your federal rights at school. This resource also explains in detail how to file a complaint, and the importance of talking to school and district officials about any discrimination, harassment, or bullying. Ask about your school and district anti-bullying policies.
This excellent resource from NCTE guides you on making a difference at your school, and suggests resources for bringing to your school and district officials.
GLSEN can help if your school or district won’t treat your child with their due respect. Also email or call TYEF for guidance.
Find your local ACLU chapter to help if your school or district won’t treat your child with their due respect. Also email or call TYEF for guidance.
Check out Gender Spectrum's great guide to learning more about transgender students and how your school can protect them.
This page discusses the legal, ethical, and educational imperatives for schools and educators to create learning environments which respect the rights of trans students. This page also offers practical guidance on how to foster equity and inclusivity for all students. For example, schools and educators should implement and enforce anti-bullying protections, respect student privacy under FERPA, creating ongoing professional development opportunities, foster an inclusive curriculum, and more.
This landmark White House publication crucially includes guidance to schools and educators regarding how to foster an inclusive environment for trans students. This publication also details how the DoE protects trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students. The White House makes this message clear: trans students have legal anti-discrimination protections, and schools must create welcoming and respectful environments for all students, regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, gender expression, or adherence to traditional concepts of masculinity and femininity.
What is Gender Dysphoria?
The DSM-5 defines gender dysphoria in children as a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender, lasting at least 6 months, as manifested by at least six of the following (one of which must be the first criterion):
A strong desire to be of the other gender or an insistence that one is the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender)
In boys (assigned gender), a strong preference for cross-dressing or simulating female attire; or in girls (assigned gender), a strong preference for wearing only typical masculine clothing and a strong resistance to the wearing of typical feminine clothing
A strong preference for cross-gender roles in make-believe play or fantasy play
A strong preference for the toys, games or activities stereotypically used or engaged in by the other gender
A strong preference for playmates of the other gender
In boys (assigned gender), a strong rejection of typically masculine toys, games, and activities and a strong avoidance of rough-and-tumble play; or in girls (assigned gender), a strong rejection of typically feminine toys, games, and activities
A strong dislike of one’s sexual anatomy
A strong desire for the physical sex characteristics that match one’s experienced gender
As with the diagnostic criteria for adolescents and adults, the condition must also be associated with clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Above is from the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Read more from the APA about gender dysphoria.
*TYEF would like to see greater emphasis on non-binary identity inclusion in all resources*
Gender Dysphoria Support
TYEF supports a gender-affirmative care model (GACM), as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). According to the AAP:
“In a gender-affirmative care model (GACM), pediatric providers offer developmentally appropriate care that is oriented toward understanding and appreciating the youth’s gender experience. A strong, nonjudgmental partnership with youth and their families can facilitate exploration of complicated emotions and gender-diverse expressions while allowing questions and concerns to be raised in a supportive environment.”
TYEF emphasizes that according to the American Psychiatric Association:
“Being transgender or gender variant implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities; however, these individuals often experience discrimination due to a lack of civil rights protections for their gender identity or expression.… [Such] discrimination and lack of equal civil rights is damaging to the mental health of transgender and gender variant individuals.”
According to Mayo Clinic,
“People who have gender dysphoria also often experience discrimination, resulting in minority stress. Access to health services and mental health services can be difficult, due to fear of stigma and a lack of experienced providers.”
For information regarding the standards of care for gender dysphoria, see WPATH guidelines for transgender care.
specific ways to alleviate gender dysphoria
Using and respecting your child’s chosen name and pronouns is also a major component in alleviating their dysphoria and affirming their identity. Encouraging your child to dress, present, and act in a way congruent with their gender identity is necessary and a central component in socially transitioning.
Quotes* directly from children as they draw about gender dysphoria:
*Quotes from Artistic Expressions of Transgender Youth, from Tony Ferraiolo, CPC. There is now a second edition of this book available.
“Body dysphoria to me feels like being locked in a cage (as cliché as that sounds). Sometimes I feel superior, but my “human form” is keeping me down. There are lots of things I’ll never be able to experience because of my body. Even worse, many people think that my aforementioned human form has to define me. I drew weapons around my cage because I feel like I am being tortured for having any confidence, and my body is my punishment.”
“I’m ripping at my flesh trying to tear away my femininity. GO AWAY!!!!"
“Body dysphoria is like…
Not recognizing yourself in mirrors.
Not having control over your body.
Feeling like you’re presenting yourself to the world all wrong.”
“What dysphoria looks like to me is pain and static where comfort and identity should be.”
Self-affirmation coloring sheet for youth
Youth have reported that they are excited to meet people and make new friends this school year. But many of them are shy and struggle with socializing. Studies have shown that positive affirmations can foster confidence and self-esteem. Print out this PDF of self-affirmation coloring sheets for your child (use link below). Encourage your child to fill them out and have fun with them. Hang them up in your kitchen or in your child's bedroom where they will see it often. This will help them a lot!
Summer Tips + Tricks
Check out TYEF's summer tips for alleviating dysphoria. Includes specialized resources for trans girls, trans boys, and non-binary youth! Written by a young transgender woman working for TYEF.
Suggested Videos for adults
Some well worded advice from our friend Skylar Kergil.
Dr. Johanna Olson discusses transgender youth, gender transition, and juvenile justice.
Dr. Norman Spack, a medical advisor to the TYEF Board. Dr. Spack is a Pediatric endocrinologist at Boston Children's Hospital, and a co-founder of the Boston Children's Hospital Gender Management Service. Dr. Spack is known internationally as a specialist in the field of intersex and trans pediatric medicine. This video is of a TEDtalk that Dr. Norman did in 2014 on his work with transgender teens and how valuable his work is to their sense of self and identity.