Addressing how to support transgender youth is an underrepresented area of concern in educational reform and community organizing. Given the current political climate where the President has attempted to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military three times and the vice President is outwardly and proudly transphobic and homophobic with a passion for passing laws that require transgender youth to go to conversion therapy and use the bathroom of their sex assigned at birth, transgender activism in community organizing are needed now more than ever. As one of the nation’s most marginalized populations, community organizing can have significant effects in making not only transgender youths’ school experiences positive, but will also increase transgender youths’ life satisfaction.
Transgender people are individuals whose gender identity and/or gender expression does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. The transgender community is estimated to be between 0.6-2% of the United States population (between 2 million and 6 million individuals) (Cicero & Wesp, 2017; Zook, 2017). According to the findings of the National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 National Transgender Survey, transgender individuals experience disturbingly high patterns of mistreatment and discrimination and therefore represent one of the most marginalized groups in the United States. The negative treatment of transgender youth is evident in their school experiences. The 2015 National School Climate Survey published by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reveals that compared to LGBQ cisgender students, transgender, genderqueer, and other non-cisgender students faced more hostile school climates. For instance, 4 in 10 students (43.3%) felt unsafe in school because of their gender expression—with 85.7% of LGBTQ students reporting hearing negative remarks about transgender people, like “tranny” or “he/she” (GLSEN, 2015).
Theoretically, our education system is built on the commitment to provide all students with equal educational opportunities. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education, under Title IX, outlawed gender discrimination in all schools and districts. However, despite this federal requirement, many transgender and gender nonconforming students report facing discrimination in school. The survey found that the majority of schools (93.6%) did not have policies in place to protect transgender and gender non-conforming students (GLSEN, 2015). Significantly, these experiences of victimization resulted in transgender students having disproportionate levels of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation and attempts—all of which led to higher rates of homelessness, poverty, sexual and physical assaults, and unemployment (Cicero & Wesp, 2017; Olson, K., Durwood, L., DeMeules, M., & McLaughlin, K., 2016). In addition to these negative psychological outcomes, the hostile school environment experienced by transgender youth resulted in missing more school due to safety concerns, having lower grade point averages, and having fewer plans to attend college when compared to their cisgender peers (McGuire, Anderson, Toomey, & Russell, 2010). In this environment where transgender students are neither safe physically nor mentally, their access to education is impeded.
This website is a resource for youth, guardians, educators, and all allies of the transgender community, focusing on transgender youth in Philadelphia, to connect the community with grassroots organizations that are working tirelessly to advocate and support their transgender brothers, sisters, and siblings. Although transgender youth are experiencing disproportionate rates of discrimination and stigma in schools, this website is here to show that there is hope—and that the time when transgender youth can freely be themselves without stigma and discrimination is within our reach. Please explore the website to learn more about the powerful organizations that are working with our communities to support our transgender youth.