How To Be An Ally To People Who Are Gender Non-Conforming: The School Edition

Because school can be hard, especially if you’re different. 

School is hard. It can be even harder if you’re living your best gender non-conforming life. In order to make life easier for those who are, here is a breakdown of all things sex, gender & gender non-conforming related.

Sex vs. Gender

Before we get started let’s quickly talk about the difference between sex and gender.

Sex refers to your anatomy – i.e. your chromosomes, hormones and genitalia.

Gender, however, relates to how you identify – how you feel in your heart and your head. It’s not what’s in your pants!

By Sam Killerman – click here to read more about this image

Cisgender vs. Gender non-conforming 

If one of your classmates identifies as male or female and this aligns with their birth sex, this is what’s known as being cisgender.

But some of your classmates might identify as trans, non-binary, genderless, or somewhere else on the gender spectrum. This is what’s known as being gender non-conforming.

However please remember: Nobody has to use these labels. Some people will feel there are other labels that better describe how they feel and some prefer to use no label at all!

Gender at School

School can be really tough for everyone at times, but if you’re gender non-conforming you might have some additional worries and stresses, such as:

💭 Not knowing which bathroom to use, or not feeling welcome in the one you’ve entered.

💭 Not being allowed in the changing room you feel most comfortable in.

💭 Having a teacher tell the class to split into two groups: boys and girls.

💭 Being bullied for being gender non-conforming.

Even if you belong within the classic gender binary, here are a few tips on how you can be super supportive (a.k.a. an ally) to your gender non-conforming peers:

1) Use their correct pronouns:

Pronouns are the terms we use when we aren’t using a someone’s first name: i.e. “She’s in the classroom” and “That’s his locker”.

Some people will use pronouns that don’t align with their birth sex, and those who aren’t male or female may use pronouns like ‘they/them’ – for example, “They are in the classroom”.

Make sure you always respect a person’s chosen pronouns and if you accidentally use the wrong one, don’t panic; just correct yourself.

2) Don’t assume: 

It’s really important to not make assumptions about those who are gender non-conforming and understand that it’s OK to ask questions – as long as they’re not intrusive! 

How do I know if my question is appropriate or not? If your question is going to help you understand someone’s feelings and boundaries, and you think it will make that person feel respected, then those kind of questions
are encouraged.

For example, asking someone what their pronouns are, what words are/are not OK to use around them (i.e. queer), or whether or not they are happy with people knowing how they identify.

However, questions that could make the person feel uncomfortable or upset should be avoided at all costs unless they are brought up by the other person. These include questions about their body parts, their sexual orientation, or how they previously identified.

3) Be kind:

Those who are gender non-conforming just want to be treated equally and live a normal, happy life, but sometimes school can make this more difficult. So try and look out for your gender non-conforming classmates.

You can do this by asking how they’re feeling from time to time, or if they’d like to spend break time with you if you see them sat by themselves.

4) Report bullying:

If you EVER see someone being bullied for being gender non-conforming (or anything else), make sure to always tell a teacher or other trusted adult, i.e. a Learning Support Assistant or school counsellor.

Feature image credit: Alice Che

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