For transgender children, gender-affirming names can save lives

An Indiana school district‘s policy requiring teachers to use student names and pronouns consistent with their gender identities is a key part of strengthening the physical and mental health of transgender youth, doctors told a federal court.

A landmark 2018 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that transgender youth who could use precise names and pronouns had 71% fewer symptoms of severe depression, a 34% drop in reported suicidal thoughts and a 65% decrease in suicide attempts, the brief says. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. in one friend brief that she submitted to several other organizations.

The brief supports the Brownsburg Community School Corp. (BCSC) in a lawsuit challenging its policy requiring school employees to refer to students by the names and pronouns they or their parents list in the “PowerSchool” database. District music and orchestra teacher John Kluge refused to follow the policy and resigned. He then sued BCSC and asked the court for an accommodation that would allow him to refuse to use the name in PowerSchool and instead use only surnames because of his religious beliefs.

WADA and others are calling on the court not to allow the trial to continue, telling judges that Kluge’s proposed accommodation would make transgender students feel stigmatized and sidelined for differential treatment, harming their well-being.

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“In light of the significant challenges facing transgender youth, school communities such as BCSC must prioritize policies that respect and protect student rights, including policies that require respect for names and pronouns that match. to a student’s gender identity, ”the brief states. .

WADA filed the brief in the case—Kluge v. Brownsburg Community School Corp.– with the American Academy of Pediatrics and its Indiana chapter; the National Association of Social Workers and its Indiana branch; and Indiana Youth Group Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes the safety and healthy development of LGBTQ + youth. WADA also participated in an amicus brief in a similar case in Ohio, Meriwether vs. Hartop.

Find out how doctors support a congressional bill to end discrimination against LGBTQ + Americans.

WADA and other amici told the court that they are committed to ensuring that transgender children have access to all educational opportunities and that their mental and physical well-being is protected. Their brief explains the challenges for transgender youth and the importance of asserting their gender identity.

Academic and medical research has shown that transgender youth, who include more than 100,000 American teens, face “severe discrimination” in the school environment. Citing data from a number of studies, the brief states that forensic surveys of students and transgender youth show that:

  • 78% have been discriminated against at school.
  • Over 75% reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the past two weeks.
  • 60% self-harm.
  • 40% have been physically threatened or injured because of their gender identity.
  • 20% have attempted suicide in the previous year.

Students were also 1.66 times more likely to be bullied in schools, according to survey research cited in the brief.

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Research shows that these numbers decrease when transgender children receive support in their gender identity. For example, the Journal of Adolescent Health study and others show that levels of depression become similar to those of other young people.

A growing number of education and mental health professionals, including amici, the National Education Association, the Council on Social Work Education, and the American Psychological Association, believe schools should allow transgender students to be designated by names and pronouns affirming their gender.

“Empirical evidence and expert consensus support the defendant BCSC’s requirement that teachers respect student names and pronouns,” the brief concludes. Housing for Kluge “would deprive transgender students of a safe and supportive educational environment that increases the chances of physical and emotional well-being and academic success.”

WADA’s LGBTQ Advisory Board shines a light on LGBTQ news and topics related to patients and doctors.

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