Freedom from discrimination based on sex is a constitutional right. However, when a student's gender identity or gender behavior does not match with his sex at birth, respecting this right can become difficult, especially in the public school setting.
This student is usually referred to as “transgender” or "trans." The issue is complicated because it places a school district in the position of balancing the rights of transgender students with the rights of other students and parents. The problem is further exacerbated because the rights of transgender students are new and developing.
What Does It Mean To Be "Transgender"?
First, "gender identity" refers to a student's inner sense of being male, female, or even something in between these two concepts.
Second, "gender expression" refers to the way a student communicates gender identity through clothing, grooming, hairstyle, or voice.
Third, when a transgender student surgically alters his body, it is generally called “sex/gender reassignment” or “affirmation.”
Fourth, students who experience intense, persistent gender contrasts may be diagnosed with "gender identity disorder" (GID). However, a GID diagnosis remains controversial in the mental health community.
It should also be noted that "gender identity" does not equate to sexual preference or orientation. For example, a "transgender girl" (born as a boy by sex) who is attracted to males is categorized as heterosexual, not gay. In fact, a transgender person can have the same sexual orientation as anyone else - straight, gay, bi-sexual, or asexual.
For additional information regarding transgender issues, see the National School Boards Association article "Which Way to the Restroom? Respecting the Rights of Transgender Youth in the School System."