Texas District Votes to Forbid Acknowledging Trans People Exist in Schools

Students, teachers and staff at a Texas school district will be forbidden from discussing transgender issues, or even acknowledging that transgender people exist at their school, under a new policy adopted by the school board.

The Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD), located just northwest of Dallas, Texas, adopted the policy with a 4-3 vote on Monday evening, following around 200 comments from members of the community, most of which were against the policy. The policy bars the recognition of pronouns for transgender students or staff, and requires teachers to only use pronouns for students that they were assigned at birth.

“[A]ny theory or ideology that (1) espouses the view that biological sex is merely a social construct; (2) espouses the view that it is possible for a person to be any gender or none (i.e., non-binary); or (3) espouses the view that an individual’s biological sex should be changed to ‘match’ a self-believed gender that is different from the person’s biological sex” is expressly forbidden from being discussed, per the new policy.

Even if parents sign a note specifically requesting a teacher use the student’s proper pronouns, teachers and other school staff will not be required to do so.

The new policy would also restrict students from using restrooms or joining sports teams that correspond to their gender identity. And it restricts teachers from having classroom discussions about transgender issues.

In addition to trans issues, the policy also forbids the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), a set of college-level teachings that discuss how institutions perpetuate racism in society. Though CRT is not part of the curriculum at most K-12 schools, the far right has used it as a political bogeyman, wrongly portraying it as a social ill, harming the nation and influencing students.

According to reporting from LGBTQ Nation, the new guidelines adopted by GCISD “are the result of a concerted campaign organized by conservative [and Christian Nationalist] group Patriot Mobile Action, which has spent millions of dollars electing conservative majorities to Texas school boards.” Although many in attendance during the Monday school board meeting donned shirts with that organization’s name, most spoke out against the district adopting the new set of harmful and bigoted policies.

“By implementing these policies you are preventing our kids, the kids who were trusted into your care, from getting the help and support that they need,” a teenager from the district said during the public comment period. “You will alienate them even more from getting help. … Help my friends. Don’t tell them they should be erased.”

An alumnus from the school who said he graduated from GCISD with the school board president also spoke out against the policy, recounting how, when they were teens, one of their peers was beaten up and afraid to attend school for a full year after being outed as gay.

“This is why we expose kids to LGBTQ viewpoints,” the alumnus said. “Not to indoctrinate, not to make them gay or trans, but to teach them empathy, to show them that they are human beings who deserve care and love. … Kids deserve better than to be otherized and demonized.”

“It’s so disappointing that our kids can’t walk into what should be a safe place for all of them. … By banning inclusive language in our schools, you’re taking away representation, [which is] part of safety,” another parent said during the hearing. “If they’re not represented, they don’t feel safe.”

Although the proposal came about through the help of far right Christian Nationalists, a United Methodist Pastor named Andrew Fiser, whose congregation includes many students who attend school in the district, vociferously opposed the new policy.

The ideas being considered by the board are “a white nationalist, fascist agenda you have brought here,” Fiser said. “You are beating up on LGBTQ+ students, on children, to get your agenda passed, and to have power. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. This is not Christian behavior.”

Such restrictions on recognizing transgender students can have enormously detrimental effects on them, particularly on their mental health. According to a survey from The Trevor Project, 45 percent of LGBTQ youth overall seriously considered suicide last year.

LGBTQ youth typically have such thoughts due to being “placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society,” the organization said. Lacking affirming spaces can increase suicidal risk — indeed, research from the organization shows that “LGBTQ young people report lower rates of attempting suicide when they have access to LGBTQ-affirming spaces,” including at their schools.