Transgender Awareness Week (TAW) is an opportunity for students, educators and community members to increase visibility of the transgender community and to raise awareness of the experiences of transgender and gender nonconforming students, who often face hostile school environments.

For example, the 2013 National School Climate Survey found that 42.2% of transgender students had been prevented from using their preferred name and/or pronoun. Additionally, more than one fifth (22.8%) of transgender students said they were not out at school about being transgender (this included 3.4% who were not out at all, and 19.4% who were out about their sexual orientation, but not about their transgender identity specifically), perhaps because of a negative school climate or lack of acceptance at school or from family members.  Students aren’t the only ones who can benefit from more transgender awareness and education.

According to GLSEN’s most recent study, From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited, “12.6% of students reported ever hearing teachers or other school staff make anti-transgender comments”. Celebrating and making time for Transgender Awareness Week is an important step towards creating a safe and affirming school environment. Transgender Awareness Week starts on Saturday, November 14 and ends on Transgender Day of Remembrance, Friday, November 20, when communities across the globe memorialize those whose lives were lost to anti-transgender fear, bigotry and hatred.

For more information about Transgender Day of Remembrance or to find an event near you, please visit the official website.

How can I get involved?
In honor of Transgender Awareness Week, encourage everyone to learn more, raise awareness and take action. Here are some things you can do to counteract anti-transgender bias, prejudice and discrimination in your school:

Learn more about the issues

Get involved and take action

  • Connect with Transgender Student Rights, a community of youth dedicated to creating safe spaces for transgender and gender nonconforming students. Share their infographics and watch out for their updated Trans Student Model Policy for Colleges and Universities!
  • Students: Learn how you can be an ally to transgender and gender nonconforming students using the resource in the box to the right. Then, check out the related resource created for GLSEN’s Ally Week.
  • Educators: Learn how to best support your transgender and gender nonconforming students by watching this webinar and checking out the accompanying educator resources.Then, listen to and utilize Jamison Green’s story from Unheard Voices in your discussions around raising awareness of transgender issues.
  • Community members and policymakers: Advocate for trans-inclusive policies in your district with this Model District Policy on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students in the Resource Download box to the right.

Gender terminology 101
The terms below are designed to provide a basic understanding of words, phrases and ideas related to gender. It’s important to note that all language is constantly evolving; new terms are introduced, while others fade from use or change their meaning over time.

  • Gender: A set of cultural identities, expressions and roles – codified as feminine or masculine – that are assigned to people based upon the interpretation of their bodies, and more specifically, their sexual and reproductive anatomy. Since gender is a social construction, it is possible to reject or modify the gender one is assigned at birth, and to develop, live and express a gender that feels truer and just to oneself.
  • Gender identity: A personal conception of oneself as male, female, both, neither and/or another gender. Gender identity can be the same as or different from the gender a person is assigned at birth. Gender identity is a matter of self-identification; no one can tell anyone else how to identify or what terms to use. Gender identity is different from sexual orientation, and everyone has both a gender identity and a sexual orientation.
  • Transgender: An umbrella term describing people whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth.
  • Gender Binary: A socially constructed system of viewing gender as consisting solely of two categories, “male” and “female,” in which no other possibilities for gender are believed to exist. The gender binary is a restrictive and inaccurate way to view gender because it does not take into account the diversity of gender identities and gender expressions among all people. The gender binary is oppressive to anyone that does not conform to dominant societal gender norms.
  • Gender Expression: The multiple ways (e.g., behaviors, dress) in which a person may choose to communicate gender to oneself and/or to others.
  • Pronouns: The pronoun or set of pronouns that a person identifies with and would like to be called when their proper name is not being used. Examples include “she/her/hers”,  “he/him/his”, ze/hir/hirs”, or “they/them/theirs.” Some people prefer no pronouns at all.
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