• Transgender and gender-variant youth, their families, and their communities often face unnecessary isolation, discrimination, and harassment. By providing information on community resources, advocacy, and support programs, SAGA hopes to promote the physical, emotional, and social health of transgender and gender-variant youth and their communities.

    It is often assumed that gender is genetically and biologically determined and if one does not fit into the confines of these categories, there is something wrong. Because a person has certain anatomical or physical traits, they are supposed to relate to their body in a very specific manner and have an innate sense of what it means to be either female or male. But the evidence used to prove this innate sense of gender is incredibly unstable and unreliable. In fact, by attempting to prove gender as innate, it becomes increasingly evident that gender is a set of social expectations that change with time and space. For example, what it means to be a woman today is very different from just fifty years ago. Similarly, the expectations for men in the U.S.A. are very different from expectations for men in other parts of the world.

    Acknowledging gender as a social construct does not devalue the importance of gender to one’s sense of self or one’s identity. Instead we hope to celebrate all genders, not only the restrictive two deemed valuable. We hope to support gender diversity by disrupting the notion of gender as an unchanging phenomenon. A good place to begin involves examining gender in our own lives. Below are a few questions to get started:

    How does your gender change within the multiple realms of your life? Do you perform your gender differently when you are at work? At home? With friends?
    How has your sense of gender changed through out your life? What do you consider important markers of your gender today? What did you consider important markers of your gender when you were fourteen?
    In what ways have you or do you challenge or resist imposed gender expectations of appearance, mannerisms, interests or activities, occupations, and relationships?

  • SAGA’s Resources
    SAGA has a very active and effective parental support group, Trans Parents, which meets monthly and provides opportunity for the parents of gender creative children to meet with other parents and share ideas about effective parenting of trans and gender fluid children. Trans Parents is open to all parents and custodians of trans kids.

    Organizations
    TransYouth Family Advocates, www.imatyfa.org
    TransYouth Family Advocates (TYFA) are parents, family, friends and caring adults dedicated to educating and raising public awareness about the medical and cultural challenges faced by children with gender variant and gender questioning identities and the families who love them.

    Gender Spectrum Education and Training, www.genderspectrum.org
    Gender Spectrum Education and Training is dedicated to creating supportive and nurturing environments for all children through trainings, information, and resources offered to families, schools, and organizations.

    Parenting and Support Websites
    The Family Acceptance Project, http://familyproject.sfsu.edu
    The Family Acceptance Project (FAP) is a community research, intervention and training initiative to study the impact of family acceptance and rejection on the health, mental health and well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth.

    Transfamily, http://www.transfamily.org
    Transfamily is a support group for transgender and transexual people and their family and friends based out of Cleveland, Ohio. They provide referrals, literature, and over-the-phone information on all transgender issues. Although their meetings are held in Cleveland, Ohio, the Internet has enabled them to extend helping hands to transgender individuals and their families across the globe.

    Support groups
    PFLAG Tucson
    PFLAG Tucson promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends through support, to cope with an adverse society; education, to enlighten an ill-informed public; and advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights. PFLAG provides opportunity to dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. Call (520) 360-3795, e-mail pflagtuc@pflagtucson.org , or visit their website at http://www.pflagtucson.org.

    Rainbow Families
    Rainbow Families is a group by and for LGBTQS family units (single and/or partnered), their supporters, and those thinking of beginning their own families. Rainbow Families meets once/ month, generally on a Sunday, sharing our journeys over fun-filled times. For more information visit their website at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rainbowfams/

    Literature
    “Parents’ Reactions to Transgender Youths’ Gender Nonconforming Expression and Identity” by A.H. Grossman, A.R. D’Augelli, T.J. Howell, and S. Hubbard. In Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services Volume 18 (2005).

    “Male-to-Female Transgender Youth: Gender Expression Milestones, gender atypicality, victimization, and Parents’ Responses” by A.H. Grossman, A.R. Augelli, and N.P. Salter. In Journal of GLBT Family Studies Volume 2 (2006), pages 71-92.

    Our Trans Children (Third Edition: 2001) by PFLAG T-Net. Available at http://www.transproud.com/pdf/transkids.pdf

    Education and School
    -Websites
    Safe Schools Coalition, http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org
    An international public-private partnership in support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth to help schools to build safe places where every family can belong, where every educator can teach, and where every child can learn, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

    GLSEN http://www.glsen.org
    The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

    Human Rights Watch, http://www.hrw.org
    Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world by standing with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice; by investigating and exposing human rights violations and holding abusers accountable; by challenging governments and those who hold power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights law. HRW has researched and challenged the discrimination and harassment of LGBT youth in U.S. schools.

    -Literature
    “Counseling and Advocacy with Transgender and Gender-Variant Persons in Schools and Families” by Stuart F. Chen Hayes. In Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education & Development Volume 40, Issue 1(2003), pages 34-49.

    From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America by GLSEN and Harris Interactive (2001).

    “From Silence to Safety and Beyond: Historical Trends in addressing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Issues in K-12 Schools” by Pat Griffin and Mathew Oullett. In Equity and Excellence in Education, volume 36 (2003), pages 106-114.

    Hatred In The Hallways: Violence and Discrimination Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Students in U.S. Schools by the Human Rights Watch (2001).

    “Embracing Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth in School Based Settings” by Nicole J. Little. In Child & Youth Care Forum, volume 30: Issue 2 (2001), pages 99-110.

    “Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Youth Recommendations For Schools” by The Transgender Law Center. Available at www.transgenderlawcenter.org/tranny/pdfs

    Healthcare  Literature
    “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth: Health Concerns, Services, and Care” by C. Ryan. In Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs, volume 20 (2003), pages137-158.

    “To the Beat of a Different Drummer: The Gender-Variant Child” by E.C. Perrin, E.J. Menvielle, and C. Tuerk. In Contemporary Pediatrics (May 1, 2005).

    “Early Medical Treatment for Transsexual People” by the Gender Identity and Research Society. Available at www.gires.org.uk

    The World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Inc. (WPATH). “Standards of Care for Gender Identity Disorders, Sixth Version,” (February 2001). Available at http://wpath.org/Documents2/socv6.pdf

    Mental Health Care—Literature
    “Extending the Boundaries of Research on Adolescent Development” by M.R. Goldfried and A.C. Bell. In Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Volume 32 (2003), pages 531-535.

    “Recognizing Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Teens in a Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Practice” by M. Rosenberg. In Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, volume 42 (2003), pages 1517-1521.

    “Transgender Children and Youth: A Child Welfare Practice Perspective” by G. Mallon and T. DeCrescenzo. In Journal of Homosexuality, volume 42 (2006), pages 215-241.

    “Chapter 9: Transgender Children and Youth” by Arlene Lev. In Transgender Emergence: Therapuetic Guidelines for Working with Gender-variant People and Their Families (2004).

    “Transgender Youth and Life-Threatening Behaviors” by A.H. Grossman and A.R. D’Augelli. In Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior (In press).

    Legal Assistance
    Lambda Legal, www.lambdalegal.org
    Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. They have resources for transgender and gender-variant youth in schools and for gender-variant youth the custody of child welfare agencies.

    Transgender Law and Policy Institute, www.transgenderlaw.org
    The Transgender Law and Policy Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to engaging in effective advocacy for transgender people in our society. The TLPI brings experts and advocates together to work on law and policy initiatives designed to advance transgender equality. Their website provides examples of transgender inclusive policies in K-12 schools.

    Sylvia Rivera Law Project, www.srlp.org
    The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence. SRLP is a collective organization founded on the understanding that gender self-determination is inextricably intertwined with racial, social and economic justice.

  • Families exist to provide support and love to one another. Strong families are able to work through differences, listen and respect each other’s needs, and help each member to feel safe, accepted, and loved even in difficult times. Strong families work to value the diversity and uphold the dignity of all members. This is not always easy and often takes a great deal of time and effort especially when struggling with societal pressure.

    Parents of transgender and gender-variant youth may feel frustrated by their child’s behavior, appearances, and/or identities. Parents may find it difficult to understand, support, and love their transgender and gender-variant child. Some parents may not know how to feel or may experience conflicting emotions towards their gender-variant child. The purpose of this section is to give language to the possibility of a positive relationship between parents and gender-variant children. It is about alleviating alienation between parents and their children while exploring possibilities of future parent/child relationships.

    Finding a Compromise
    Probably the most difficult task most parents have is finding a compromise. How do you take care of your needs as a parent while meeting the needs of your child? In a situation in which a child does not conform to expected societal norms, parents endure a great deal of stress: from questions about their parenting skills; to ridicule from family, friends, faith-based communities, medical professionals, and schools; to worry about their child’s well-being.

    Even if you cannot celebrate your child’s differences, it is at least important to tolerate your child’s gender-variant appearances, behaviors, and identities. Your child is not responsible for your feelings of anger, fear, guilt, or annoyance. This does not mean that you should not have or express these feelings. It is important that you do so with a supportive friend, family member, or counselor.

    Remember: Your child is not expressing gender-variant tendencies to spite you. Your child’s feeling good is not in defiance of your needs and wishes.

    The following information in this section was taken from a lecture on The Family Acceptance Project given by Stephanie Brill at the 2007 Gender Odyssey Spectrum conference on in Seattle, Washington. The Family Acceptance Project is a study done at San Francisco State University researching the impact of family acceptance and rejection on the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. It is important to note that rejection at home has a much greater impact than rejection or acceptance gained elsewhere. Families have the opportunity to strongly influence the health and positive development of gender-variant youth.

    Below are ideas on how families can support gender-variant youth followed by a description of ideas and behaviors that are harmful to gender-variant youth.

    How can you be a celebratory family?

    Support and welcome the transgender community in your town. Welcome transgender friends and role models into your home.

    Be active in the transgender community in your town. Volunteer and participate in events.

    Take a stand against discrimination. Address negative behavior towards your child such as comments or “looks”. Don’t ignore it. Also address injustices towards the greater transgender community.

    Express admiration for your child. Tell them what characteristics you enjoy. Tell them they are brave and strong. Tell your child that you appreciate them. Celebrate your child’s gender expression.

    Find or make your own supportive religious practices.

    Expect and require respect within the family. Tell your relatives, if they have a hard time accepting your child, that you expect to hear nothing but respect and positive affirmation of your child.

    Express love for your child, either verbally or through affection.

    Behaviors to avoid:
    The following behaviors have been found to have the worst impact on a child’s physical, emotional, and social health.

    Physical abuse.
    This includes hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, throwing things, pulling hair, or making threatening gestures.

    Verbal Abuse.
    Includes yelling, screaming, name calling, threatening, shaming, humiliating, or “black-mailing”.

    Excluding from family
    This refers to not including your child in family activities, discussions, dinners, rituals, celebrations or photos.

    Shame or denial
    This includes not taking your child seriously or dismissing the child’s expressions or concerns by saying things like “you’re just confused” or “you’ll grow out of it”. Denying your child’s identity may include restricting your child’s clothing, telling them you’re embarrassed to be seen with them, or asking them to “tone it down”. Do not express to your child that you are ashamed of them or don’t want them to be who they are.

    Silence or Secrecy
    Likewise, it is important that your gender-variant child not be controlled by messages of shame. Examples of these types of messages include telling your child they can only dress or behave in certain ways at home and not in public; explaining that gender-variant expressions are only appropriate in private; and telling your child not to tell people. These examples imply that something is wrong with the child, that the child should be ashamed, and should hide important parts of their self.

    Pressuring
    Pressuring your child to change their appearance, their clothing, their behaviors, their activities, or their friends sends the same message: that your child is not good enough as they are, and they need to change.

    Reparative Therapy
    Reparative therapy begins with the assumption that there is something “wrong” with your child. By telling your child that you can help make them “normal” or fix them, you are sending the message that “if you don’t change, we won’t love you”. Your child does not need this message. According to research, reparative therapy, also known as behavioral modification therapy, has a weak history of intended success. Most clinicians and families utilizing this treatment rely on strict stereotypical male/female gender roles while ignoring their own biases and discriminatory tendencies.

    Religious condemnation
    Do not tell your child that God will punish them. Do not tell your child that they will go to hell. Do not attempt or let others attempt to “save” your child through prayer or other ceremonies expressing the idea that “who they are” is bad.

  • Parent Aid Child Abuse Prevention Center
    Sean Young
    2580 E. 22nd St.
    Tucson, AZ 85747
    tiffany@parentaid.org
    www.parentaid.orgProvides parenting class, workshops, and in-home support to parents in our community.
  • What does it mean to be transgender or gender-variant?
    Transgender and gender-variant youth include youths whose identities, appearances, behaviors, and/or interests challenge the norms and expectations associated with their gender or sex assigned at birth. Transgender is a term encompassing numerous identities, but it most often refers to a person whose gender identity does not match or remain limited to their gender or sex assigned at birth.

    How do I know if my child is transgender or gender-variant?
    Many transgender youth often insist that they are the “other” gender or sex or express that they want to be the “other” gender or sex. For example, a child deemed male at birth might insist that she is a girl. The gender identity of gender-variant children may change over periods of time. Youth who feel that are both a girl and a boy or neither a girl nor a boy or a combination of genders are described as gender fluid.

    It is important to note that there are no set criteria or checklists to identify gender-variant children and youth. Typical and expected gender presentation varies greatly among cultures, families, schools, and spaces. For example, it may be considered “abnormal” for girls to want to play with boys at some schools but not at others.

    Was my child born in the wrong body?
    Many transgender and gender-variant youth feel very uncomfortable with their bodies and express a desire to change their bodies in order to fully feel themselves. Having a body or body parts that feel “wrong” is very stressful and devastating for a significant population of transgender and gender-variant youth and can cause severe depression and hopelessness.

    For other transgender and gender-variant youth, the “born in the wrong body” explanation does not accurately describe their experiences. These youth may associate their identity more closely with behaviors, activities, and appearances, and depend less on their body to affirm their gender identity. For these youth, the idea of surgery can be unwelcome and frightening.

    There are numerous options when it comes to transgender and gender-variant youth feeling comfortable with their bodies. Some children know they want to change their bodies from a very early age. Others may not change their bodies or may change them hormonally or surgically or both. It is important to review all of the youth’s options in relation to their individual feelings, experiences, and desires.

    It is also important to note that transgender and gender-variant people may change their bodies not because they feel their body contradicts their gender-identity, but to avoid societal rejection, discrimination, and ignorance. Dealing with these issues on a daily basis quickly becomes exhausting and overwhelming.

    Is this my fault as a parent or caregiver?
    Gender variance is not a disease to which we need to assign blame or find a root cause. No parenting practices can produce gender-variance. Open and supportive parents are more likely to have children who confide their non-conforming identities and feelings to them. But rejecting a gender-variant child’s identity and forbidding them to express their identity and feelings does not “cure” a child. Parents often blame themselves when their child(ren) challenge societal norms. There is no research to suggest that gender-variance is caused by “liberal” parenting or by other stressful events in a child’s life such as divorce.

    How do I find support for myself as a parent or caregiver?
    The fact is that there are not enough resources to fill the needs of parents raising transgender and gender-variant kids. Often parents feel very alone, scared, confused, and guilty. Many parents face criticism from other parents, family members, schools, and health professionals regarding their support of their transgender and gender-variant children. There are options for parents in the forms of support groups, online conversations (blogs), advocacy groups, and conferences. SAGA sponsors TransParents, a group of parents of transgender children ages 5 to 18. You may contact them by emailing transparents@sagatucson.org.  Please see our list of support resources. Find support for yourself, not just your child. You are not alone.

    What happens when my child grows up?
    There is a myth that transgender people live sad, depressed, and isolated lives. Often these traits accompany any person who has experienced abuse and rejection. Many times, parents have the option to be part of their child’s happy and successful life by supporting and accepting them. Many parents feel that while their child is young, they can offer protection from societal ignorance and discrimination to some extent but fear for their child’s well-being in adulthood and in the “real world”. The transgender community in the U.S. and especially in Tucson has been fighting long and hard for the rights and well-being of transgender and gender-variant people, with great success. While there remains a great deal of educating and advocacy to be done, remarkable strides have been made to build supportive employment, educational, and health care environments. Tucson in particular has a great community of employers, health care professionals, mental health professionals, and policy makers dedicated to the physical, emotional, economic and social respect and support of transgender community members. There are many amazing people who identify as transgender. With your support in addition to the work of transgender communities and their allies, your child can continue to be a happy, healthy, and exceptional individual and community member.

    Whom do I tell?
    When thinking about disclosure, it is very important to respect the child’s wishes. If your child is not ready to “come out,” do not force them to. Before identifying your child as transgender or gender-variant, ask your child if it is okay. If your child decides they are ready to “come out,” prepare yourself and your child for a range of possible outcomes. Discuss your child’s fears and discuss coping possibilities in the event of a negative outcome. Parents should discuss their fears and concerns but with a supportive family member, friend, advocate, or counselor.

    How do I tell my family?
    If you and your child have decided to tell your family about your child’s decision to live another gender, there are a few things you can do to facilitate a positive outcome. First, express your child’s identity in a positive manner. Do not apologize or discuss gender-variance in a negative fashion. Explain that you are proud of your child. Tell your family that you expect nothing but encouragement and support, and at the very least respect. Ask them to keep any negative thoughts to themselves. Ask them to educate themselves about gender-variance and gender diversity. Give them concrete examples of things they can do to respect and support your child, such as using a certain pronoun or a new name, giving birthday or holiday gifts that correspond with your child’s affirmed gender, or making positive comments about your child’s appearances or behaviors.

    What should I expect from siblings? How do I react?
    Siblings of transgender and gender-variant youth may experience stress at having to protect or respond to questions about their gender-variant siblings and may endure teasing and harassment from other children about their sibling’s gender-identity. Increased stress may cause resentment towards their gender-variant sibling. Children may also use their sibling’s gender-variant identity as a way to dominate or intimidate their sibling. If their sibling is living as the “other” gender, children may threaten to expose them as transgender or tell them they are not a “real boy” or a “real girl” to make them feel bad.

    Remind your children that teasing and name-calling are not acceptable and not deserved. Discuss ways in which children can respond to comments and questions about their gender-variant sibling. Openly discuss their fears and struggles. Remind children that there are many ways of being boys, girls, and kids and that they are all equally valuable. Practice problem-solving techniques with your children to avoid hurtful name-calling and threats.

    It is important to note that siblings can be gender-variant youth’s strongest support. Often gender-variant youth “come out” to siblings first. Siblings often provide acceptance and comfort even when other family members and peers do not. Siblings also provide a “bumper zone” against rejection and hostility and willingly mediate at school and in the home.

    What should I say to my child’s school?
    Most schools want to support diversity and be a safe and positive space for kids to learn and express themselves. The most important thing to remember when discussing your child’s gender expression with school staff and administration is not to apologize. Your child has the same rights as other children to express themselves and be comfortable with who they are. Your child is an important part of the diversity of a school and has a great deal to offer their fellow classmates and instructors. Even if your child does not want to “come out” to his/her school community, it is important for schools to be prepared to pro-actively respect gender-diverse expressions and identities. Many schools have sponsored staff trainings and parent education nights specifically on the subject of gender awareness, expression, diversity, and advocacy. Trainings and workshops are often integral to schools’ “zero tolerance” policies against any type of discrimination, harassment, and bullying. It may also be helpful to construct a letter with your child’s school (to be sent to school community) discussing the importance of diversity and the expectation for respect around issues of gender expression and identity.

    How do I approach my child’s doctor?
    It is very important that your child’s health care providers be knowledgeable about gender-variance and transgender issues surrounding childhood, adolescence, and puberty. If your pediatrician seems supportive but does not have a great deal of experience working with transgender and gender-variant youth, you can provide them with resources (see our list) and ask them to educate themselves. If your health care provider is not interested in educating themselves or is intent on “fixing” your child, strongly consider finding a new provider. (See our database.)

    What do I do if my religion does not accept my gender-variant child?
    This is often a very difficult matter for parents whose faith community is an important part of their support network and identity. If you are worried about your child’s gender-variant behavior conflicting with your religious beliefs, talk with your faith leader or faith community members about your concerns. Ask them to educate themselves on the topic of gender-variant children. If you do not feel comfortable talking with someone within your faith community, contact SAGA so we can refer you to a person who shares your beliefs and can talk openly about religion and transgender identity. If you are considering joining a new faith congregation and are concerned about their views on gender diversity, talk with elders within the community about your concerns. Also ask to review the congregation’s policy regarding their acceptance of gender-diversity and ask if they have support groups for families.

  • Because school comprises a large part of youths’ lives, it is incredibly important to make schools safe and supportive spaces for transgender and gender-variant youth. There are several steps that schools and members of school communities can take to make this happen.

    In a perfect situation, a very methodical approach works best.

    The school becomes aware of the existence, possible existence, or future existence of transgender and gender-variant students at the school.

    All school administrators, teachers, staff, and volunteers are trained on transgender, gender-variant, and gender-diverse youth, issues they may encounter, how to support these students and their families, how to prevent and address name-calling, bullying, or other adverse behavior by students in regards to gender-variance, and how to respond to questions and concerns of students, parents, and community members.

    The school completes the process to include gender identity and gender expression under the anti-discrimination clause in school policy and make structural adjustments as needed (this may include making restrooms gender-neutral or adding gender-neutral bathrooms, changing the dress code, eliminating gender-segregated classes, lines, and other activities, and adjusting policies regarding recreational teams and activities).

    The school sends a letter to all school community members discussing importance of diversity, respect, and inclusiveness. The letter informs parents and community members about additions made to anti-discrimination clause and changes made to the school; provides brief discussion of transgender and gender-variant youth; reminds parents and community members of zero-tolerance policy regarding bullying and harassment and asks them to discuss this with their children; and finally, parents and community members are invited to a Gender Diversity Information Night (or something similar) providing information on transgender and gender-variant youth and addressing questions and concerns of parents and community members. (*See SAMPLE LETTER.)

    Diversity in all forms including gender-identity is discussed in the classroom using age appropriate materials and teaching methods.

    The school continues to address the importance of gender diversity and expression through its commitment to ongoing discussions in the classroom and in the community.

    The school works to continuously ensure the support of transgender and gender-variant students by training new staff, volunteers, parents and students and by providing refresher trainings to all staff and volunteers.
    **It is best for schools to address diverse gender identity and expression regardless of their student population. The earlier trainings, policies, and structural changes are completed, the easier life will be for transgender and gender-variant students at the school. Just as a school would not wait to address racism until a crisis occurred, it is best to prevent gender discrimination early on.

    This approach may not be possible for all schools due to resistant staff or time-sensitive situations. If you are not sure where to begin or if the school is resistant or not taking you seriously, here are a few tips.

    If you are a parent or caregiver of a gender-variant youth and need to address the school, the best way to begin is to find someone to talk to. This could be your child’s teacher, the guidance counselor, the school nurse, or the human resources department.

    If you worry that you would not be comfortable advocating for your child in this situation, you might ask an advocate from your local gender diversity support organization or your local lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community center to accompany you. If that is not possible, ask an advocate to write a letter to bring with you.

    Make a list of your questions and concerns. Include desired solutions to the problems if you can.

    Remember, it is the school’s responsibility to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for your child, and this includes a space free from discrimination or harassment. It is appropriate for you to remind the school of this obligation.

    Ask the school to educate themselves about gender-variant youth. Give them our website address if they do not know where to get this information.

    Make a plan and timeline to address problems and concerns and to implement solutions. Keep a log of your interactions with the school staff and a log of the progress made by the school. Keep a log of concerns or incidents your child encounters.

    Discuss the importance of confidentiality with the school. The school is not authorized to disclose information regarding a specific student’s gender identity or expression to other students or parents.

    Some children and their families decide to change schools when their child decides to live as another gender. When meeting with potential schools, it is important to discuss everything from your child’s name and pronoun to whether they will be able to use the appropriate bathroom. Bring a list of questions and concerns and make sure they are adequately addressed before deciding on a school.

    SAFETY AT SCHOOL

    If you are worried about your child’s safety at school, develop a safety plan with your child. Discuss the places where your child may not feel safe such as the playground or the bathroom. Discuss concrete things your child can do in the event that they don’t feel safe or in the event that they are being bullied. This could include going to a specific adult, not playing near the monkey bars, or having another student escort them to the bathroom. It is often most effective if teachers and other adults such as playground monitors are aware of the safety concerns and safety plans. Talk to your child about how they feel at unsafe places and how they feel when they are called names or harassed. Remind your child that they do not deserve to be treated badly. Remind them why you think they are wonderful.

    SAMPLE LETTER TO PARENTS AND COMMUNITY FROM SCHOOL

    Dear Community Member,

    Here at __________ School, we work hard to be a supportive and inclusive community, and we are committed to supporting students, families, community members and staff from a wide range of races, ethnicities, genders, cultures, abilities, economic classes, and family structures. Our diversity allows us to expand our minds, learn from each other, and support one another in a variety of ways. Our unique histories and experiences are central to building a strong community.

    This year, in order to adequately support students and families in the _______ community, we have taken several steps to support gender-variant students and their families. People express their gender in a variety of ways. Gender-variant youth include youths whose identities, appearances, behaviors or interests challenge the expectations associated with their gender assigned at birth. For example, a child may have been born male but insists she is a girl. Or a child may identify as a girl but wants to wear her hair short and change her name to a “boy” name. Here at ___________, we want to encourage our students to explore their identities, whether through activities, friendships, or appearances, regardless of their gender. We believe all students deserve respect and support regardless of their gender identity and expression.

    __________ School administrators, teachers, staff and volunteers have recently participated in trainings and workshops on gender identity and expression in young children. In addition, we would like to encourage parents and community members to attend a Gender Information and Discussion Event on ___(date)________. This event will provide an opportunity for parents and community members to learn more about gender expression in young children and present any question or concerns you may have.

    We would also like to take this opportunity to remind the community of our no-bullying policy. _____________ does not tolerate any form of harassment, abuse, or discrimination. We encourage parents to discuss this policy with their children. Please encourage your children to talk to you, their teacher, or school staff if they encounter name-calling or any other form of inappropriate behavior.

    Thank you for your participation in the _______ School community. Understanding and learning from our differences allows us as school staff, parents, and community members to provide our students with the needed skills of acceptance, respect, and celebration of difference. We are excited to deepen our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness with you.

    Sincerely,

    School personnel

  • Khalsa Montessori School
    Nirvair Khalsa
    3701 E. River Rd.
    Tucson, AZ 85718
    khalsa@theriver.com
    khalsamontessorischool.comOffers childcare, preschool, and elementary (k-8) education to Tucson area families.


    Paulo Freire Freedom School
    Jo Ann Groh
    300 E. University Blvd.
    Tucson, AZ 85705
     JGroh@elpueblointegral.org
    www.PauloFreireSchool.org

    A free Tucson public school for the middle grades (6-8) with a focus on social justice and environmental sustainability.


    Desert View High School
    Dominque Fierro
    4101 E. Valencia Road
    Tucson, AZ 85706
    Dominquef@susd.org

    Serves 9-12th grade students.


    Palo Verde High School
    Jennifer Nutt
    1302 S. Avenida Vega
    Tucson, AZ 85710
    Jennifer.nutt@tusd1.org

    Serves 9-12th grade students.


    St. Marks Presbyterian Church Presschool and Kindergarten
    Jane Hilyard
    3809 E. 3rd St.
    Tucson, AZ
    info@stmarkspreschool.com
    www.stmarkspreschool.com

    Provides quality early childhood education program for children 2 to 6 years old

  • BICAS (Bicycle Inter-Community Action and Salvage)  Rebecca Iosca
    44 W. 6th St.
    Tucson, AZ 85705
    bicasunderground@yahoo.com
    www.bicas.org

    A non-profit bicycle education and recycling center that offers build-a-bike classes.

    Youth Volunteer Corps
    Danielle Flink
    924 N. Alvernon Way
    Tucson, AZ 85711
    dflink@volunteersoaz.org
    www.volunteersoaz.org

    Engages youth ages 11-18 in meaningful community activities and service learning

  • Transgender and gender-variant youth, their families, and their communities often face unnecessary isolation, discrimination, and harassment. By providing information on community resources, advocacy, and support programs, SAGA hopes to promote the physical, emotional, and social health of transgender and gender-variant youth and their communities.

    It is often assumed that gender is genetically and biologically determined and if one does not fit into the confines of these categories, there is something wrong. Because a person has certain anatomical or physical traits, they are supposed to relate to their body in a very specific manner and have an innate sense of what it means to be either female or male. But the evidence used to prove this innate sense of gender is incredibly unstable and unreliable. In fact, by attempting to prove gender as innate, it becomes increasingly evident that gender is a set of social expectations that change with time and space. For example, what it means to be a woman today is very different from just fifty years ago. Similarly, the expectations for men in the U.S.A. are very different from expectations for men in other parts of the world.

    Acknowledging gender as a social construct does not devalue the importance of gender to one’s sense of self or one’s identity. Instead we hope to celebrate all genders, not only the restrictive two deemed valuable. We hope to support gender diversity by disrupting the notion of gender as an unchanging phenomenon. A good place to begin involves examining gender in our own lives. Below are a few questions to get started:

    How does your gender change within the multiple realms of your life? Do you perform your gender differently when you are at work? At home? With friends?
    How has your sense of gender changed through out your life? What do you consider important markers of your gender today? What did you consider important markers of your gender when you were fourteen?
    In what ways have you or do you challenge or resist imposed gender expectations of appearance, mannerisms, interests or activities, occupations, and relationships?

  • SAGA’s Resources
    SAGA has a very active and effective parental support group, Trans Parents, which meets monthly and provides opportunity for the parents of gender creative children to meet with other parents and share ideas about effective parenting of trans and gender fluid children. Trans Parents is open to all parents and custodians of trans kids.

    Organizations
    TransYouth Family Advocates, www.imatyfa.org
    TransYouth Family Advocates (TYFA) are parents, family, friends and caring adults dedicated to educating and raising public awareness about the medical and cultural challenges faced by children with gender variant and gender questioning identities and the families who love them.

    Gender Spectrum Education and Training, www.genderspectrum.org
    Gender Spectrum Education and Training is dedicated to creating supportive and nurturing environments for all children through trainings, information, and resources offered to families, schools, and organizations.

    Parenting and Support Websites
    The Family Acceptance Project, http://familyproject.sfsu.edu
    The Family Acceptance Project (FAP) is a community research, intervention and training initiative to study the impact of family acceptance and rejection on the health, mental health and well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth.

    Transfamily, http://www.transfamily.org
    Transfamily is a support group for transgender and transexual people and their family and friends based out of Cleveland, Ohio. They provide referrals, literature, and over-the-phone information on all transgender issues. Although their meetings are held in Cleveland, Ohio, the Internet has enabled them to extend helping hands to transgender individuals and their families across the globe.

    Support groups
    PFLAG Tucson
    PFLAG Tucson promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends through support, to cope with an adverse society; education, to enlighten an ill-informed public; and advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights. PFLAG provides opportunity to dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. Call (520) 360-3795, e-mail pflagtuc@pflagtucson.org , or visit their website at http://www.pflagtucson.org.

    Rainbow Families
    Rainbow Families is a group by and for LGBTQS family units (single and/or partnered), their supporters, and those thinking of beginning their own families. Rainbow Families meets once/ month, generally on a Sunday, sharing our journeys over fun-filled times. For more information visit their website at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rainbowfams/

    Literature
    “Parents’ Reactions to Transgender Youths’ Gender Nonconforming Expression and Identity” by A.H. Grossman, A.R. D’Augelli, T.J. Howell, and S. Hubbard. In Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services Volume 18 (2005).

    “Male-to-Female Transgender Youth: Gender Expression Milestones, gender atypicality, victimization, and Parents’ Responses” by A.H. Grossman, A.R. Augelli, and N.P. Salter. In Journal of GLBT Family Studies Volume 2 (2006), pages 71-92.

    Our Trans Children (Third Edition: 2001) by PFLAG T-Net. Available at http://www.transproud.com/pdf/transkids.pdf

    Education and School
    -Websites
    Safe Schools Coalition, http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org
    An international public-private partnership in support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth to help schools to build safe places where every family can belong, where every educator can teach, and where every child can learn, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

    GLSEN http://www.glsen.org
    The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

    Human Rights Watch, http://www.hrw.org
    Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world by standing with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice; by investigating and exposing human rights violations and holding abusers accountable; by challenging governments and those who hold power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights law. HRW has researched and challenged the discrimination and harassment of LGBT youth in U.S. schools.

    -Literature
    “Counseling and Advocacy with Transgender and Gender-Variant Persons in Schools and Families” by Stuart F. Chen Hayes. In Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education & Development Volume 40, Issue 1(2003), pages 34-49.

    From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America by GLSEN and Harris Interactive (2001).

    “From Silence to Safety and Beyond: Historical Trends in addressing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Issues in K-12 Schools” by Pat Griffin and Mathew Oullett. In Equity and Excellence in Education, volume 36 (2003), pages 106-114.

    Hatred In The Hallways: Violence and Discrimination Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Students in U.S. Schools by the Human Rights Watch (2001).

    “Embracing Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth in School Based Settings” by Nicole J. Little. In Child & Youth Care Forum, volume 30: Issue 2 (2001), pages 99-110.

    “Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Youth Recommendations For Schools” by The Transgender Law Center. Available at www.transgenderlawcenter.org/tranny/pdfs

    Healthcare  Literature
    “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth: Health Concerns, Services, and Care” by C. Ryan. In Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs, volume 20 (2003), pages137-158.

    “To the Beat of a Different Drummer: The Gender-Variant Child” by E.C. Perrin, E.J. Menvielle, and C. Tuerk. In Contemporary Pediatrics (May 1, 2005).

    “Early Medical Treatment for Transsexual People” by the Gender Identity and Research Society. Available at www.gires.org.uk

    The World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Inc. (WPATH). “Standards of Care for Gender Identity Disorders, Sixth Version,” (February 2001). Available at http://wpath.org/Documents2/socv6.pdf

    Mental Health Care—Literature
    “Extending the Boundaries of Research on Adolescent Development” by M.R. Goldfried and A.C. Bell. In Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Volume 32 (2003), pages 531-535.

    “Recognizing Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Teens in a Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Practice” by M. Rosenberg. In Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, volume 42 (2003), pages 1517-1521.

    “Transgender Children and Youth: A Child Welfare Practice Perspective” by G. Mallon and T. DeCrescenzo. In Journal of Homosexuality, volume 42 (2006), pages 215-241.

    “Chapter 9: Transgender Children and Youth” by Arlene Lev. In Transgender Emergence: Therapuetic Guidelines for Working with Gender-variant People and Their Families (2004).

    “Transgender Youth and Life-Threatening Behaviors” by A.H. Grossman and A.R. D’Augelli. In Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior (In press).

    Legal Assistance
    Lambda Legal, www.lambdalegal.org
    Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. They have resources for transgender and gender-variant youth in schools and for gender-variant youth the custody of child welfare agencies.

    Transgender Law and Policy Institute, www.transgenderlaw.org
    The Transgender Law and Policy Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to engaging in effective advocacy for transgender people in our society. The TLPI brings experts and advocates together to work on law and policy initiatives designed to advance transgender equality. Their website provides examples of transgender inclusive policies in K-12 schools.

    Sylvia Rivera Law Project, www.srlp.org
    The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence. SRLP is a collective organization founded on the understanding that gender self-determination is inextricably intertwined with racial, social and economic justice.

  • Families exist to provide support and love to one another. Strong families are able to work through differences, listen and respect each other’s needs, and help each member to feel safe, accepted, and loved even in difficult times. Strong families work to value the diversity and uphold the dignity of all members. This is not always easy and often takes a great deal of time and effort especially when struggling with societal pressure.

    Parents of transgender and gender-variant youth may feel frustrated by their child’s behavior, appearances, and/or identities. Parents may find it difficult to understand, support, and love their transgender and gender-variant child. Some parents may not know how to feel or may experience conflicting emotions towards their gender-variant child. The purpose of this section is to give language to the possibility of a positive relationship between parents and gender-variant children. It is about alleviating alienation between parents and their children while exploring possibilities of future parent/child relationships.

    Finding a Compromise
    Probably the most difficult task most parents have is finding a compromise. How do you take care of your needs as a parent while meeting the needs of your child? In a situation in which a child does not conform to expected societal norms, parents endure a great deal of stress: from questions about their parenting skills; to ridicule from family, friends, faith-based communities, medical professionals, and schools; to worry about their child’s well-being.

    Even if you cannot celebrate your child’s differences, it is at least important to tolerate your child’s gender-variant appearances, behaviors, and identities. Your child is not responsible for your feelings of anger, fear, guilt, or annoyance. This does not mean that you should not have or express these feelings. It is important that you do so with a supportive friend, family member, or counselor.

    Remember: Your child is not expressing gender-variant tendencies to spite you. Your child’s feeling good is not in defiance of your needs and wishes.

    The following information in this section was taken from a lecture on The Family Acceptance Project given by Stephanie Brill at the 2007 Gender Odyssey Spectrum conference on in Seattle, Washington. The Family Acceptance Project is a study done at San Francisco State University researching the impact of family acceptance and rejection on the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. It is important to note that rejection at home has a much greater impact than rejection or acceptance gained elsewhere. Families have the opportunity to strongly influence the health and positive development of gender-variant youth.

    Below are ideas on how families can support gender-variant youth followed by a description of ideas and behaviors that are harmful to gender-variant youth.

    How can you be a celebratory family?

    Support and welcome the transgender community in your town. Welcome transgender friends and role models into your home.

    Be active in the transgender community in your town. Volunteer and participate in events.

    Take a stand against discrimination. Address negative behavior towards your child such as comments or “looks”. Don’t ignore it. Also address injustices towards the greater transgender community.

    Express admiration for your child. Tell them what characteristics you enjoy. Tell them they are brave and strong. Tell your child that you appreciate them. Celebrate your child’s gender expression.

    Find or make your own supportive religious practices.

    Expect and require respect within the family. Tell your relatives, if they have a hard time accepting your child, that you expect to hear nothing but respect and positive affirmation of your child.

    Express love for your child, either verbally or through affection.

    Behaviors to avoid:
    The following behaviors have been found to have the worst impact on a child’s physical, emotional, and social health.

    Physical abuse.
    This includes hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, throwing things, pulling hair, or making threatening gestures.

    Verbal Abuse.
    Includes yelling, screaming, name calling, threatening, shaming, humiliating, or “black-mailing”.

    Excluding from family
    This refers to not including your child in family activities, discussions, dinners, rituals, celebrations or photos.

    Shame or denial
    This includes not taking your child seriously or dismissing the child’s expressions or concerns by saying things like “you’re just confused” or “you’ll grow out of it”. Denying your child’s identity may include restricting your child’s clothing, telling them you’re embarrassed to be seen with them, or asking them to “tone it down”. Do not express to your child that you are ashamed of them or don’t want them to be who they are.

    Silence or Secrecy
    Likewise, it is important that your gender-variant child not be controlled by messages of shame. Examples of these types of messages include telling your child they can only dress or behave in certain ways at home and not in public; explaining that gender-variant expressions are only appropriate in private; and telling your child not to tell people. These examples imply that something is wrong with the child, that the child should be ashamed, and should hide important parts of their self.

    Pressuring
    Pressuring your child to change their appearance, their clothing, their behaviors, their activities, or their friends sends the same message: that your child is not good enough as they are, and they need to change.

    Reparative Therapy
    Reparative therapy begins with the assumption that there is something “wrong” with your child. By telling your child that you can help make them “normal” or fix them, you are sending the message that “if you don’t change, we won’t love you”. Your child does not need this message. According to research, reparative therapy, also known as behavioral modification therapy, has a weak history of intended success. Most clinicians and families utilizing this treatment rely on strict stereotypical male/female gender roles while ignoring their own biases and discriminatory tendencies.

    Religious condemnation
    Do not tell your child that God will punish them. Do not tell your child that they will go to hell. Do not attempt or let others attempt to “save” your child through prayer or other ceremonies expressing the idea that “who they are” is bad.

  • Parent Aid Child Abuse Prevention Center
    Sean Young
    2580 E. 22nd St.
    Tucson, AZ 85747
    tiffany@parentaid.org
    www.parentaid.orgProvides parenting class, workshops, and in-home support to parents in our community.
  • What does it mean to be transgender or gender-variant?
    Transgender and gender-variant youth include youths whose identities, appearances, behaviors, and/or interests challenge the norms and expectations associated with their gender or sex assigned at birth. Transgender is a term encompassing numerous identities, but it most often refers to a person whose gender identity does not match or remain limited to their gender or sex assigned at birth.

    How do I know if my child is transgender or gender-variant?
    Many transgender youth often insist that they are the “other” gender or sex or express that they want to be the “other” gender or sex. For example, a child deemed male at birth might insist that she is a girl. The gender identity of gender-variant children may change over periods of time. Youth who feel that are both a girl and a boy or neither a girl nor a boy or a combination of genders are described as gender fluid.

    It is important to note that there are no set criteria or checklists to identify gender-variant children and youth. Typical and expected gender presentation varies greatly among cultures, families, schools, and spaces. For example, it may be considered “abnormal” for girls to want to play with boys at some schools but not at others.

    Was my child born in the wrong body?
    Many transgender and gender-variant youth feel very uncomfortable with their bodies and express a desire to change their bodies in order to fully feel themselves. Having a body or body parts that feel “wrong” is very stressful and devastating for a significant population of transgender and gender-variant youth and can cause severe depression and hopelessness.

    For other transgender and gender-variant youth, the “born in the wrong body” explanation does not accurately describe their experiences. These youth may associate their identity more closely with behaviors, activities, and appearances, and depend less on their body to affirm their gender identity. For these youth, the idea of surgery can be unwelcome and frightening.

    There are numerous options when it comes to transgender and gender-variant youth feeling comfortable with their bodies. Some children know they want to change their bodies from a very early age. Others may not change their bodies or may change them hormonally or surgically or both. It is important to review all of the youth’s options in relation to their individual feelings, experiences, and desires.

    It is also important to note that transgender and gender-variant people may change their bodies not because they feel their body contradicts their gender-identity, but to avoid societal rejection, discrimination, and ignorance. Dealing with these issues on a daily basis quickly becomes exhausting and overwhelming.

    Is this my fault as a parent or caregiver?
    Gender variance is not a disease to which we need to assign blame or find a root cause. No parenting practices can produce gender-variance. Open and supportive parents are more likely to have children who confide their non-conforming identities and feelings to them. But rejecting a gender-variant child’s identity and forbidding them to express their identity and feelings does not “cure” a child. Parents often blame themselves when their child(ren) challenge societal norms. There is no research to suggest that gender-variance is caused by “liberal” parenting or by other stressful events in a child’s life such as divorce.

    How do I find support for myself as a parent or caregiver?
    The fact is that there are not enough resources to fill the needs of parents raising transgender and gender-variant kids. Often parents feel very alone, scared, confused, and guilty. Many parents face criticism from other parents, family members, schools, and health professionals regarding their support of their transgender and gender-variant children. There are options for parents in the forms of support groups, online conversations (blogs), advocacy groups, and conferences. SAGA sponsors TransParents, a group of parents of transgender children ages 5 to 18. You may contact them by emailing transparents@sagatucson.org.  Please see our list of support resources. Find support for yourself, not just your child. You are not alone.

    What happens when my child grows up?
    There is a myth that transgender people live sad, depressed, and isolated lives. Often these traits accompany any person who has experienced abuse and rejection. Many times, parents have the option to be part of their child’s happy and successful life by supporting and accepting them. Many parents feel that while their child is young, they can offer protection from societal ignorance and discrimination to some extent but fear for their child’s well-being in adulthood and in the “real world”. The transgender community in the U.S. and especially in Tucson has been fighting long and hard for the rights and well-being of transgender and gender-variant people, with great success. While there remains a great deal of educating and advocacy to be done, remarkable strides have been made to build supportive employment, educational, and health care environments. Tucson in particular has a great community of employers, health care professionals, mental health professionals, and policy makers dedicated to the physical, emotional, economic and social respect and support of transgender community members. There are many amazing people who identify as transgender. With your support in addition to the work of transgender communities and their allies, your child can continue to be a happy, healthy, and exceptional individual and community member.

    Whom do I tell?
    When thinking about disclosure, it is very important to respect the child’s wishes. If your child is not ready to “come out,” do not force them to. Before identifying your child as transgender or gender-variant, ask your child if it is okay. If your child decides they are ready to “come out,” prepare yourself and your child for a range of possible outcomes. Discuss your child’s fears and discuss coping possibilities in the event of a negative outcome. Parents should discuss their fears and concerns but with a supportive family member, friend, advocate, or counselor.

    How do I tell my family?
    If you and your child have decided to tell your family about your child’s decision to live another gender, there are a few things you can do to facilitate a positive outcome. First, express your child’s identity in a positive manner. Do not apologize or discuss gender-variance in a negative fashion. Explain that you are proud of your child. Tell your family that you expect nothing but encouragement and support, and at the very least respect. Ask them to keep any negative thoughts to themselves. Ask them to educate themselves about gender-variance and gender diversity. Give them concrete examples of things they can do to respect and support your child, such as using a certain pronoun or a new name, giving birthday or holiday gifts that correspond with your child’s affirmed gender, or making positive comments about your child’s appearances or behaviors.

    What should I expect from siblings? How do I react?
    Siblings of transgender and gender-variant youth may experience stress at having to protect or respond to questions about their gender-variant siblings and may endure teasing and harassment from other children about their sibling’s gender-identity. Increased stress may cause resentment towards their gender-variant sibling. Children may also use their sibling’s gender-variant identity as a way to dominate or intimidate their sibling. If their sibling is living as the “other” gender, children may threaten to expose them as transgender or tell them they are not a “real boy” or a “real girl” to make them feel bad.

    Remind your children that teasing and name-calling are not acceptable and not deserved. Discuss ways in which children can respond to comments and questions about their gender-variant sibling. Openly discuss their fears and struggles. Remind children that there are many ways of being boys, girls, and kids and that they are all equally valuable. Practice problem-solving techniques with your children to avoid hurtful name-calling and threats.

    It is important to note that siblings can be gender-variant youth’s strongest support. Often gender-variant youth “come out” to siblings first. Siblings often provide acceptance and comfort even when other family members and peers do not. Siblings also provide a “bumper zone” against rejection and hostility and willingly mediate at school and in the home.

    What should I say to my child’s school?
    Most schools want to support diversity and be a safe and positive space for kids to learn and express themselves. The most important thing to remember when discussing your child’s gender expression with school staff and administration is not to apologize. Your child has the same rights as other children to express themselves and be comfortable with who they are. Your child is an important part of the diversity of a school and has a great deal to offer their fellow classmates and instructors. Even if your child does not want to “come out” to his/her school community, it is important for schools to be prepared to pro-actively respect gender-diverse expressions and identities. Many schools have sponsored staff trainings and parent education nights specifically on the subject of gender awareness, expression, diversity, and advocacy. Trainings and workshops are often integral to schools’ “zero tolerance” policies against any type of discrimination, harassment, and bullying. It may also be helpful to construct a letter with your child’s school (to be sent to school community) discussing the importance of diversity and the expectation for respect around issues of gender expression and identity.

    How do I approach my child’s doctor?
    It is very important that your child’s health care providers be knowledgeable about gender-variance and transgender issues surrounding childhood, adolescence, and puberty. If your pediatrician seems supportive but does not have a great deal of experience working with transgender and gender-variant youth, you can provide them with resources (see our list) and ask them to educate themselves. If your health care provider is not interested in educating themselves or is intent on “fixing” your child, strongly consider finding a new provider. (See our database.)

    What do I do if my religion does not accept my gender-variant child?
    This is often a very difficult matter for parents whose faith community is an important part of their support network and identity. If you are worried about your child’s gender-variant behavior conflicting with your religious beliefs, talk with your faith leader or faith community members about your concerns. Ask them to educate themselves on the topic of gender-variant children. If you do not feel comfortable talking with someone within your faith community, contact SAGA so we can refer you to a person who shares your beliefs and can talk openly about religion and transgender identity. If you are considering joining a new faith congregation and are concerned about their views on gender diversity, talk with elders within the community about your concerns. Also ask to review the congregation’s policy regarding their acceptance of gender-diversity and ask if they have support groups for families.

  • Because school comprises a large part of youths’ lives, it is incredibly important to make schools safe and supportive spaces for transgender and gender-variant youth. There are several steps that schools and members of school communities can take to make this happen.

    In a perfect situation, a very methodical approach works best.

    The school becomes aware of the existence, possible existence, or future existence of transgender and gender-variant students at the school.

    All school administrators, teachers, staff, and volunteers are trained on transgender, gender-variant, and gender-diverse youth, issues they may encounter, how to support these students and their families, how to prevent and address name-calling, bullying, or other adverse behavior by students in regards to gender-variance, and how to respond to questions and concerns of students, parents, and community members.

    The school completes the process to include gender identity and gender expression under the anti-discrimination clause in school policy and make structural adjustments as needed (this may include making restrooms gender-neutral or adding gender-neutral bathrooms, changing the dress code, eliminating gender-segregated classes, lines, and other activities, and adjusting policies regarding recreational teams and activities).

    The school sends a letter to all school community members discussing importance of diversity, respect, and inclusiveness. The letter informs parents and community members about additions made to anti-discrimination clause and changes made to the school; provides brief discussion of transgender and gender-variant youth; reminds parents and community members of zero-tolerance policy regarding bullying and harassment and asks them to discuss this with their children; and finally, parents and community members are invited to a Gender Diversity Information Night (or something similar) providing information on transgender and gender-variant youth and addressing questions and concerns of parents and community members. (*See SAMPLE LETTER.)

    Diversity in all forms including gender-identity is discussed in the classroom using age appropriate materials and teaching methods.

    The school continues to address the importance of gender diversity and expression through its commitment to ongoing discussions in the classroom and in the community.

    The school works to continuously ensure the support of transgender and gender-variant students by training new staff, volunteers, parents and students and by providing refresher trainings to all staff and volunteers.
    **It is best for schools to address diverse gender identity and expression regardless of their student population. The earlier trainings, policies, and structural changes are completed, the easier life will be for transgender and gender-variant students at the school. Just as a school would not wait to address racism until a crisis occurred, it is best to prevent gender discrimination early on.

    This approach may not be possible for all schools due to resistant staff or time-sensitive situations. If you are not sure where to begin or if the school is resistant or not taking you seriously, here are a few tips.

    If you are a parent or caregiver of a gender-variant youth and need to address the school, the best way to begin is to find someone to talk to. This could be your child’s teacher, the guidance counselor, the school nurse, or the human resources department.

    If you worry that you would not be comfortable advocating for your child in this situation, you might ask an advocate from your local gender diversity support organization or your local lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community center to accompany you. If that is not possible, ask an advocate to write a letter to bring with you.

    Make a list of your questions and concerns. Include desired solutions to the problems if you can.

    Remember, it is the school’s responsibility to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for your child, and this includes a space free from discrimination or harassment. It is appropriate for you to remind the school of this obligation.

    Ask the school to educate themselves about gender-variant youth. Give them our website address if they do not know where to get this information.

    Make a plan and timeline to address problems and concerns and to implement solutions. Keep a log of your interactions with the school staff and a log of the progress made by the school. Keep a log of concerns or incidents your child encounters.

    Discuss the importance of confidentiality with the school. The school is not authorized to disclose information regarding a specific student’s gender identity or expression to other students or parents.

    Some children and their families decide to change schools when their child decides to live as another gender. When meeting with potential schools, it is important to discuss everything from your child’s name and pronoun to whether they will be able to use the appropriate bathroom. Bring a list of questions and concerns and make sure they are adequately addressed before deciding on a school.

    SAFETY AT SCHOOL

    If you are worried about your child’s safety at school, develop a safety plan with your child. Discuss the places where your child may not feel safe such as the playground or the bathroom. Discuss concrete things your child can do in the event that they don’t feel safe or in the event that they are being bullied. This could include going to a specific adult, not playing near the monkey bars, or having another student escort them to the bathroom. It is often most effective if teachers and other adults such as playground monitors are aware of the safety concerns and safety plans. Talk to your child about how they feel at unsafe places and how they feel when they are called names or harassed. Remind your child that they do not deserve to be treated badly. Remind them why you think they are wonderful.

    SAMPLE LETTER TO PARENTS AND COMMUNITY FROM SCHOOL

    Dear Community Member,

    Here at __________ School, we work hard to be a supportive and inclusive community, and we are committed to supporting students, families, community members and staff from a wide range of races, ethnicities, genders, cultures, abilities, economic classes, and family structures. Our diversity allows us to expand our minds, learn from each other, and support one another in a variety of ways. Our unique histories and experiences are central to building a strong community.

    This year, in order to adequately support students and families in the _______ community, we have taken several steps to support gender-variant students and their families. People express their gender in a variety of ways. Gender-variant youth include youths whose identities, appearances, behaviors or interests challenge the expectations associated with their gender assigned at birth. For example, a child may have been born male but insists she is a girl. Or a child may identify as a girl but wants to wear her hair short and change her name to a “boy” name. Here at ___________, we want to encourage our students to explore their identities, whether through activities, friendships, or appearances, regardless of their gender. We believe all students deserve respect and support regardless of their gender identity and expression.

    __________ School administrators, teachers, staff and volunteers have recently participated in trainings and workshops on gender identity and expression in young children. In addition, we would like to encourage parents and community members to attend a Gender Information and Discussion Event on ___(date)________. This event will provide an opportunity for parents and community members to learn more about gender expression in young children and present any question or concerns you may have.

    We would also like to take this opportunity to remind the community of our no-bullying policy. _____________ does not tolerate any form of harassment, abuse, or discrimination. We encourage parents to discuss this policy with their children. Please encourage your children to talk to you, their teacher, or school staff if they encounter name-calling or any other form of inappropriate behavior.

    Thank you for your participation in the _______ School community. Understanding and learning from our differences allows us as school staff, parents, and community members to provide our students with the needed skills of acceptance, respect, and celebration of difference. We are excited to deepen our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness with you.

    Sincerely,

    School personnel

  • Khalsa Montessori School
    Nirvair Khalsa
    3701 E. River Rd.
    Tucson, AZ 85718
    khalsa@theriver.com
    khalsamontessorischool.comOffers childcare, preschool, and elementary (k-8) education to Tucson area families.


    Paulo Freire Freedom School
    Jo Ann Groh
    300 E. University Blvd.
    Tucson, AZ 85705
     JGroh@elpueblointegral.org
    www.PauloFreireSchool.org

    A free Tucson public school for the middle grades (6-8) with a focus on social justice and environmental sustainability.


    Desert View High School
    Dominque Fierro
    4101 E. Valencia Road
    Tucson, AZ 85706
    Dominquef@susd.org

    Serves 9-12th grade students.


    Palo Verde High School
    Jennifer Nutt
    1302 S. Avenida Vega
    Tucson, AZ 85710
    Jennifer.nutt@tusd1.org

    Serves 9-12th grade students.


    St. Marks Presbyterian Church Presschool and Kindergarten
    Jane Hilyard
    3809 E. 3rd St.
    Tucson, AZ
    info@stmarkspreschool.com
    www.stmarkspreschool.com

    Provides quality early childhood education program for children 2 to 6 years old

  • BICAS (Bicycle Inter-Community Action and Salvage)  Rebecca Iosca
    44 W. 6th St.
    Tucson, AZ 85705
    bicasunderground@yahoo.com
    www.bicas.org

    A non-profit bicycle education and recycling center that offers build-a-bike classes.

    Youth Volunteer Corps
    Danielle Flink
    924 N. Alvernon Way
    Tucson, AZ 85711
    dflink@volunteersoaz.org
    www.volunteersoaz.org

    Engages youth ages 11-18 in meaningful community activities and service learning