Parent meeting sheds light on gender diversity
In light of the new Gender Diversity policy that was sent out to families on Jan. 18 by Head of School Bryn Roberts, two-parent programs took place these past two days to delve into the topic from both a psychological perspective and a familial standpoint. The meeting on Jan. 30 in Driscoll Commons enlightened faculty and parents about gender diversity as a whole, not the specifics of the policy itself.
The “Guidelines for SPA in support of Gender Diversity” was agreed unanimously by the Board of Trustees and had been in the works since this past summer. Extensive effort was carried through by Director of Intercultural Life Karen Dye and Upper School Dean of Students Max Delgado.
Roberts introduced the parent meeting by giving context:
“This meeting is about helping all of you understand the realities of gender diversity and our understandings of it. This new policy will help us serve students better. Our students can’t live up to our mission of ‘shaping the minds and hearts of the people who will change the world’ if they don’t feel understood. Our school must be founded on acceptance. This policy will help our students and it grows directly out of our mission,” Roberts said.
Guest speaker Dr. Todd Savage has been collaborating with SPA efforts surrounding gender inclusion guidelines. He is an Associate Professor of School Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls. He has also served as the president of the National Association of School Psychologists.
To begin his presentation, Savage showed parents and faculty a video from the National Center for Transgender Equality. This video humanized the scientific and psychoanalytical information he would deliver next.
“Sex is an assignment made to people by others based on biological data. From there, another assignment is made, and that is the assignment of gender. There is growing research to support that there are probably some biological contributions to gender, or what we know as gender to be. But, gender, by and large, is a social construction. A group of people, a culture, a society, a nation, decides what it means to be female and to be male. Then they treat that person accordingly. We live in a world that was set up by cisgender people, for cisgender people. We don’t question it,” Savage said.
In accordance with an earlier sentiment delivered by Roberts, Savage spoke on the fruition of the new gender diversity policy as it is related to SPA:
“It’s embedded in your mission and your values. Everything that we are talking about tonight is in alignment with that mission and the vision and the values of the school community hold,” Savage said.
Savage continued his presentation by offering overwhelming data and statistics regarding transgender mental health, suicide rates and bullying in schools among other issues.
“It hasn’t necessarily been safe to come out as transgender in our culture. It hasn’t been accepted. And ultimately, it comes down to the perception of how the adults in their lives will react. This is an adult issue. Kids don’t care. If kids do care, it’s because the adults in their lives care. It’s learned behavior,” Savage said.
Savage culminated his presentation by contextualizing gender diversity and the surmounting issues individuals face who identify as being gender diverse. In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, gender identity is defined as gender dysphoria.
“I truly believe that gender diversity is not and should not be a mental disorder. But, it’s just the state of psychology and psychiatry at the present time,” Savage said.
To give breadth and deeper understanding of the transgender experience from a parent perspective, Leslie Lagerstrom spoke after Savage about her son’s journey as a transgender boy. Her presentation was chronological and detailed, but the mantra was evident: transgenderism is real, it is not a phase, and it can have a happy ending.
The story of Lagerstrom’s son’s transition drew incredible parallels between the data that Savage presented and the lived reality he overcame. Savage emphasized that gender diverse youth remain “consistent, persistent, insistent” about their identity, just as Lagerstrom’s son had been his entire life.
The Gender Diversity Policy can be found here.