Today, openness to gender and same sex relationships is a must in our schools. Prejudice is supposed to be a thing of the past and fear of the unknown can cause some children turmoil at school.

Most children already grow up with anxiety and self-consciousness related to being “different” and will most likely, at some point, face a form of bullying by fellow students due to their looks, behaviour or friends. The same goes for children who are conflicted about their gender identity or sexuality.

Transgender students also face many challenges. Discrimination can be faced in their youth as they are growing into their identity.

Since teachers are the adults in the classroom, they are usually considered role models in that setting. Besides educating their students, a teacher’s role is to make sure the child feels safe at school and can socialize with their peers without hiding, regardless of how the student chooses to identify his or herself.

Thankfully, there are a few ways a teacher can help and intervene if a child is facing issues at school related to gender identity. Here are some suggested guidelines for the teacher to be more proactive in the gender-neutral occurrence.

If a boy or girl identifies themselves as the opposite sex, the best approach to the situation would first be to ask the parent or guardian whether they are aware and comfortable with their child identifying as the opposite sex. Once the parent is aware and has consented, the teacher should follow through and use the pronoun or name the child chooses to identify with.

In June 2017, Quebec’s Bill 103 came into force: “An Act to strengthen the fight against transphobia and improve the situation of transgender minors. Legislation aimed at fighting transphobia and allowing transgender youths as young as 14, the right to change their name and choose their designated sex,” says Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée.

The bill amends the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to provide explicit protection against discrimination based on gender identity. It also amends the Civil Code to give more power to transgender youths aged 14 or over, to make their own decisions regarding their identity. This being said, minors as young as 14 can change their identity on their student identification card.

Schools should also consider providing gender-neutral washrooms. A teacher should be able to allow a transgender student to use the gender designated bathroom of their choice during school hours to eliminate anxiety and stress when it comes to using the bathroom during peak times like lunch and recess. The child should not have to endure bullying by their peers for using the “wrong” washroom.

Teachers should also consider eliminating, or at least limiting gender-based activities and expanding to gender-neutral ones instead. For example, girls should not be separated from the boys in gym class. Groups should be mixed. Also, when gathering students in a classroom, teachers should not separate boys and girls. This principle also applies to playtime.

The goal of eliminating gender-based activities in the classroom, encouraging play and activities for both sexes increases the likelihood that children will be more interactive with their peers regardless of their sex. It also reduces gender barriers between children when they believe that certain activities are exclusive to boys and others to girls.

Gender-neutral activities are not only beneficial for transgender children, but for all children. They deserve to live in a world where there are no stereotypes and they can grow up to be whatever they want to be.