Many families avoid controversial topics during the holidays, but as my own family has shown me, this can be a missed opportunity to learn more about one another, to share what we’re learning and passionate about, and to practice constructive dialogue.
One current topic at our dinner table, with interest and varying viewpoints coming from all corners of our family, is Gender Diversity. And with the candidacy of Christine Hallquist, who became the first openly transgender major party nominee for governor in the United States, gender identity is also now part of most of our political discussions.
A few years ago, the Vermont Agency of Education created a resource titled, Continuing Best Practices for Schools Regarding Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students, which was updated in 2017.
As students are becoming more confident discussing their identity as it relates to gender, schools are evaluating what practices might need to be adjusted to ensure that all students feel welcome and safe at school.
In response, many educators are attending professional development provided by organizations like Outright Vermont and the Vermont Higher Education Collaborative to learn more about how they can support Transgender and Gender Nonconforming students.
Last year, I attended a workshop titled, The Gender Spectrum: An Introduction to Gender Diversity. Open to both educators and parents, it introduced vocabulary that was admittedly new to me. And it created a safe space to ask questions, and to work through misconceptions that might have developed over time.
Many educators are participating in conversations and gatherings like the one I attended, and are then returning to schools with ideas for how we, and our curriculum, can better reflect the diversity present in our student body.
Even if we’ve worked in schools for a long time, there are still things we haven’t yet learned, so it’s important to find experiences and willing teachers that can engage us in discussion centered around important topics like this one.
Through my own learning, and conversations around the dinner table, I’ve developed a stronger understanding of how I can be an ally, and an advocate for those that might need another supportive voice in this conversation.