Your donation will support the student journalists of West High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase Scholarship Yearbooks, newsroom equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.
November 12, 2021
Many sources, including school, the internet and peers, contribute to the understanding of gender. Nevertheless, these resources do not provide equal access to the information many trans and non-binary students seek.
Grayson McNamar ’24, a trans student, does not feel represented in portions of the health curriculum.
“They leave out transgender [people]. They leave out all of the things that aren’t specifically written down in the textbook, which can make for some very interesting, awkward moments,” McNamar said.
During West’s required trimester-long health course, where students learn about gender identity in the human growth and sexuality unit, a sex health educator from UAY teaches students in health class for a week.
“A lot of those lessons talk about gender identity and sexual orientation, and all of those pieces, so they’re very explicitly taught during those portions,” said Lindsey Schluckebier, the ICCSD Health Curriculum Coordinator.
Although trans students see progress in the education department, they detect a lack of focus on gender identity and trans inclusion in any curriculum.
“There have definitely been discussions about transgender rights in more open classes, but those have just been fleeting moments,” Ham said.
Due to the inadequacy of trans education in schools, many students turn to the internet for more clarification and assistance. For Dillon, the aid of social media during the pandemic gave him a better understanding of his gender.
“I started following more LGBTQ+ pages on Instagram, and a lot of them have informational stuff. [I realized] there are these words that I can use to describe myself,” Dillon said. “It can make you wonder if all that hadn’t happened, would I have ever even realized?”
The school curriculum did not provide much support to McNamar either. The most beneficial source of insight came from his friends.
“[Trans education] is something that should be in our curriculum. It’s something that should be widely spread, like in normal conversations or conversations amongst friends—just so people have more of an idea about what they’re talking about when they say ‘trans’ because right now, it’s just a label,” McNamar said.
Education is ever-evolving.
“[LGBTQ-inclusive education] wasn’t really even on our radar 36 years ago when I was in the classroom. That was not something we probably discussed and certainly not something that was part of our instruction,” said Diane Schumacher, the ICCSD Director of Teaching and Learning for the Elementary Schools.
With constant developments in education, Jamie Ellis, the UAY Pride Group Organizer, feels gender identity instruction should begin in elementary school.
“The younger they are, the more [teachers can say], ‘Hey, do you know that there are all kinds of people in the world? Do you know that there are all kinds of families?’” Ellis said. “Once you get to fourth, fifth, sixth grade, you can start talking about the specific uniqueness of family. I think normalizing that not everyone is exactly like you [is important].”
Ellis believes learning never stops, and it is fundamental in further creating a more inclusive environment at West.
“There are new labels and pronouns and identities—there’s something new to learn every day,” Ellis said. “The beautiful thing about it is that people are also learning those things about themselves.”