Getting an Education is a Thorny Path for Transwomen, but it Shouldn’t Be

Let me make my position clear. Transwomen and members of any other group in the LGBTQ community deserve to learn and thrive in K-12 and higher education. Let me explain what I mean by “transwoman.” A transwoman is a woman who was assigned the gender of a male at birth but identifies as female. Before I begin this advocacy piece, let me say that I do so from a space of semi-awareness. I am only discussing what I have read, seen or experienced, but my knowledge base is limited. I don’t personally know any transwomen, so this article does not authentically represent their voice.

All kids and adults should have a right to pursue an education, regardless of their gender or sexual identity. So forcing transwomen to use restrooms that don’t match their gender identity can be seen by the transwomen community as another barrier to educational attainment. And forcing them to use a separate restroom from the other students in the school or university just makes things worse. Schools should be protecting students from bullying, not creating policies that enable or promote it. If students can’t use restroom safely, among other things, then successful matriculation becomes that much harder.

What I know about Transwomen and LGBTQ bullying and abuse in education

I get it. I grew up in rural Mississippi, so I understand but don’t agree with the resistance that evangelical Christians and the community, in general, can have towards the LGBTQ community. The religious and the unreligious alike see it as a sin that is forbidden by the Bible, Koran, etc. The resistance is so harsh that an ex-offender coming home after doing a 30-year prison sentence for murder is more easily accepted than a transwoman.

Where I am from if a man or woman even associates themselves with a member of the LGBTQ community they can be ostracized by association. In the K-12 schools that I attended, some teachers encouraged and allowed the ostracization and bullying of K-12 LBGTQ students. I even remember one teacher telling us to stay away from a male student because he was “gay” and had “AIDS.” You can only imagine how terrified this made us. I won’t mention the grade, but it was in upper elementary school.

I know I digress a bit, but I wanted to make you understand what transwomen and members of the LGBTQ community go through. This was in the late ’80s, but some things never change. Laws and policies have curtailed some of this type of abuse, but it still exists.

Message to educators

My message to K-12 teachers, college professors, and education administrators is that you must ensure that every child has safe access to restrooms and can safely participate in your school or universities education program. Regardless of how you feel personally, it is your job to protect all students, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. If you can’t, you might need to find another profession.

I am especially ashamed of teachers of color who discriminate against transwomen and members of the LGBTQ community. How dare you make hard for these students to attend school and receive a quality education? How hypocritical can you be?

Think about how your ancestors were forced to attend segregated schools because white citizens didn’t want their children to attend school with them. Think about all of the abuse and suffering that they endured. Think about how they were murdered and “lynched,” just because they wanted to receive an education. Suffering is suffering, and bullying is bullying.

Getting an education is a thorny path for transwomen and the rest of the LGBTQ community, but it shouldn’t be. When we make the journey difficult for transwomen, we betray our humanity and fail to learn from our history. And as we all know, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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