"I couldn’t decide between Mr. or Ms., so I’m just choosing Dr.”

This was my standard joke for breaking the news that I was returning to school for my doctorate. My friends were more shocked that I was going back to graduate school than in my saying that I was trans.

For most of my professional career, my gender was just another aspect of my identity. I was seen as a human who worked hard, cared about kids and reflected on their leadership. I was competent in a dress or a suit — it didn’t seem to matter much.

When enrolling in school again, I didn’t fully realize that I would need to come out as nonbinary or explain they/them pronouns.

Microaggressions came, and so did some macroaggressions. In graduate school, folks remind me that I’m the first and only out trans person they’ve met. When strangers touch me before class on the street, I don’t always have a bathroom that I can enter to collect myself before classroom discussion. Our current education system was not designed for nonbinary people to survive, let alone thrive in.

My story and identity are far from unique. Throughout history and across cultures, trans and nonbinary folks have thrived. More students are embracing gender-fluid and nonbinary identities at earlier ages, and it’s crucial that systems begin to discuss gender in their equity conversations.

A 2019 study from WestEd estimated the population of trans and gender-nonconforming identities to be approximately 3 percent in California. Most school systems have gender-expansive students. There is insufficient discussion of how we can support these students.

We need to view our trans and gender-expansive students as assets in our learning communities. After all, we get to learn from a group of young people, across racial, class and geographic lines, who know and express themselves in their most authentic ways.

Read the full article about student voice for trans youth by James Hilton Harrell at The Hechinger Report.