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LGBTQ Education: FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find South Portland School District policies regarding transgender students?

On the district policy page, under section J: Students, see JB - Transgender Students and JB-R Transgender Students Guidelines.


Where can I find guidance from the state level?

Please view this memorandum from the Maine Human Rights Commission regarding the Interpretation of the Education Provisions of the MHRA.


Why does it feel like so many more (young) people are coming out as gay or trans? Is this just a passing fad?

People have experienced same-sex attraction and non-binary gender identities throughout human history and across cultures. Unfortunately, in much of modern history and within Western cultures, such experiences and identities have been strictly taboo or even outlawed. In recent years, more people have begun to feel safer coming out and standing up for their right to life their lives as themselves.


What do I do if I have trouble adjusting to a new name and new pronouns?

First, practice! Minus18, an Australian advocacy group for LGBTQ youth has a great online pronoun practice game. In addition to just practicing, however, don't focus solely on memorizing a new name or new pronouns -- make an effort to adjust your internal understanding of the person's identity. If you begin to view someone as they view themselves, you're much less likely to make mistakes. For example, when a single female colleague gets married and changes her last name, you're much less likely to continue to use the wrong name.

Another point to keep in mind is that being deadnamed (being addressed by the wrong name) or misgendered (being referred to with the wrong pronouns), can be extremely painful for many trans and nonbinary folks, regardless of how they may or may not express that hurt outwardly.

If you do slip up, try to avoid excusing your mistakes by telling a trans person how difficult the change is for you. Although your intention may be sincere, you're actually centering yourself in another person's life experience. Keep in mind the challenges that transgender youth face, and avoid telling a trans student how difficult their being trans is for you.


What's the deal with the pronoun thing?

In an ideal world, people may routinely introduce themselves with both their name and pronouns. Although this custom is not a part of mainstream culture, teachers are in a unique position to help normalize this manner of introduction. For example, teachers could begin the year by allowing students to introduce themselves with their name and pronouns. This should not be viewed as a practice strictly for the sake of The Trans Kid, but rather a way to create a more welcoming environment for all students. Many teachers have had a student who went by a name that was different that the one provided on the class roster. Most teachers have also had students who were not transgender, but whose gender was not obvious based on personal appearance or style of dress. Allowing all students to introduce themselves will help create a safe environment for trans students, and help avoid the discomfort of misgendering a student or addressing a student by the wrong name.

Teachers should model this manner of introduction first ("My name is Ms. Jones and my pronouns are she/her/hers."), and try to avoid singling out an individual and asking for their pronouns. While teachers are invited to try out these introductions with students, whether they feel comfortable using this introduction style in their personal lives is up to their discretion.


Isn't in inappropriate to talk about sex with young children?

At the elementary school level, LGBT topics focus not on sexual activities, but on relationships and respecting the differences of others, including challenging gender stereotypes. There are LGBT parents in 98% of counties in the U.S., many more children have LGBT family members or will grow up to identify as LGBT themselves. Homophobic and gender-based bullying begins in elementary school, so gender and sexual diversity cannot be ignored at this level.

Although most LGBT people come out in adolescence or adulthood, many LGBT adults recall feeling “different” or separate from their gender group as a child. For those children who feel different, or who may grow up to identify as LGBT, silence sends a very clear message. If children are only exposed to heteronormative stories and characters, they will learn that anything different is abnormal and bad, and that they themselves are abnormal and bad.


If we talk about LGBT topics in school, won't that make more students think they're LGBT?

Generations of LGBT people have grown up exposed only to the perspectives, history, and stories of  straight, heteronormative ways of being, and yet these messages had no impact on their being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.


Should schools really be promoting a pro-LGBT agenda? Shouldn't schools be neutral?

A disproportionate number of teens experiencing homelessness are LGBT, due to being forced out of their homes. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual students are 6 times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year, and 41 percent of transgender Americans have attempted suicide. The vast majority of LGBT students in Maine regularly hear anti-LGBT remarks at school, and a third of Maine students regularly hear homophobic remarks from school staff. Hostile school climates lead to lower GPA, a lack of college planning, and lower self-esteem for LGBT students. A "neutral" position accepts the status quo as satisfactory. Regardless of personal beliefs, all teachers have a professional responsibility to create a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students.


If someone says they're bisexual, doesn't that just mean they're gay?

Interestingly, bisexual men are often assumed to be gay, whereas bisexual women are assumed to only be after the attention of men. Being bisexual is neither a stepping stone to coming out as gay, nor is it being "half gay and half straight." Bisexuality is its own orientation, and bisexual people make up the largest portion of the LGBT community. 


Isn't being gay or transgender unnatural?

Same-sex sexual behavior has been observed in over 450 species! In fact, same-sex attraction is so common in so many different species that this suggests there must be an evolutionary advantage to a small segment of the population experiencing same-sex attraction. Many other species, including mammals, have genders beyond the male/female binary, and individuals have been observed in the wild with non-binary gender characteristics, such as the female lions with a manes recently observed in Botswana.