By Kai and Rhian, East Norriton Bulldog Bulletin | What is the difference between gender and gender identity?
Your birth “gender” is your assigned sex at birth, male or female, according to the American Psychological Association. Gender identity is what YOU feel most comfortable with.
“Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else; gender expression refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics,” according to the American Psychological Association.
Since someone who may have been born one gen- der may identify as another gender, it is important to think about what pronoun to use when talking to a person. A pronoun is a word that refers to a person and is typically gender-specific like he, she, or they.
“I think people choose their pronouns based on how they feel,” said seventh- and eighth-grade counselor Ms. Raimondi.“I think it describes what people feel. I honestly just tell kids ‘It’s OK,’ and that there are trusted adults in the building they can talk to if they need it.”
Many teachers try to help students feel comfortable in class. “It’s not really an issue in the beginning. I try not to use specific genders/gender terms, I pay close attention to how the kids refer to each other especially with pronouns,” said Mrs. Brennan, fifth- grade ELA teacher. “I also give them an ‘I wish my teacher knew’ project so they can tell me then if they have any specific pronouns or a name that they want me to use. I have fluid conversations about pronouns and names throughout the year, and, say that I am a LGBTQ+ ally.”
Mr. Toner, a sixth-grade social studies and science teacher, said, “I want the kids to feel comfortable in my classroom, The more this is reinforced, the more the other students will accept.”
Mrs. Hoag, a seventh-grade ELA teacher, said, “I have accidentally used the wrong pronoun … I apologize for my error and now I ask at the beginning of the year for students to let me know their preferred pronouns. It wouldn’t be a problem in any way.
“My goal is to accept, support, and educate every student for the unique individuals they are,” Mrs. Hoag continued. “I don’t know if I have a specific way. I just try to reaffirm all throughout the year that eve- ryone should be accepted for who they are. I try to keep an environment that is open, honest, safe, and nonjudgmental for everyone.”
Mrs. Zangara, school nurse, said “there is a transgender bathroom in the fifth-grade hallway students can use if they do not feel comfortable using the regular bathroom.” They could also use her bathroom to change if needed, she said.
But why is using the correct pronouns important? When someone feels they are not the gender they were assigned at birth, using the correct pronouns can help the person feel accepted, according to Ms. Raimondi.
Some ENMS teachers are participating in a program called “I’m Here.” It is an LGBTQ+ program where teachers where badges that say “I’m Here,”alerting students to the staff members who are safe and supportive.
“It is about making sure students know they have allies and the teachers have their back, and they are not alone,” said Ms. Brewster, art teacher, who wears the badge.
Illustration by Toniya, fourth grade, Hancock Healthy Times.