The Transgender Experience Impact on Secondary School Choice: A Case Study

Transgender is a term used to describe someone who has a gender expression or identity that is different than what was assigned at birth (Kirk & Kulkarni, 2006). High rates of depression and self-harm along with low rates of school attendance and educational achievement are common in transgender youth (Kosciw, 2009). The experiences of transgender students and their families are virtually invisible in educational literature (Ryan, Russell, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2010). Because transgender issues are often grouped with lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations, there are limited studies that focus solely on transgender youth in education (Irwin, 2002). The aim of this study was to: (a) explore the relationship between the transgender experience and secondary school choice, and (b) understand the supports that schools have for transgender students and their families to reach the student’s learning potential. This study shared the individual experiences of parents of a transgender child who has entered into secondary school as a transgender female. Using a qualitative case study, open-ended questions for the participants provided an insider look into their transgender family experience and the resulting effect on school choice. The results of this study indicated that a safe school culture established by an alternative magnet school and the unconditional love and support from the parents provided an environment in which the transgender child could thrive. Many opportunities for future research emerged such as correlating student discipline with transgender acceptance and determining the extent to which teacher education programs provide cultural sensitivity of transgender issues.