The Back to School Routine for Non-Cis Students
It’s that time of year again. Target is having a 25% discount on school supplies, kids are posting their schedules on their Instagram stories, and you’ve got an outfit that took you an absurd amount of time to put together on the floor next to your bed—it’s back-to-school season.
Recovering from jet lag, saying goodbye to camp friends, getting jump-scared by Google classroom invites and assignments flooding your Gmail inbox—it all leads up to one thing: school. You’re either dreading or excited for the first day. Your friends will greet you with their mid-to-post pubescent voices, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with get-to-know-you activities paired with complementary five-pound textbooks in each class, and you’ll re-learn everything you learned last year within the first week.
However, there’s an extra step to this routine, an extra step that not many people know about. An extra step that only non-cis students like me have to do: coming out. I publicly came out in the middle of last year, so this is my first full school year as an openly agender-queer student. Last year, I sent out an email to all of my teachers, telling them my name was “Wei” and that I used they/them pronouns. This year, I did the exact same thing, only to a different set of teachers. I’ll do the same thing next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and so on.
Now, I don’t mind sending out emails all the time. It’s not an unbearable task, but it’s not exactly convenient. I have to make the email engaging and impressive, say some casual words before I fully come out to these people whom I’ve never met, then I need to ease into the information. And thus, once everyone is nice and comfortable, I give exact, precise explanations and requests. I make sure I'm as clear as possible to avoid the possibility of a long email full of questions being sent back to me. One decently-written email is my limit.
I don’t have the same luxury that my cis peers have. They don’t need to send out emails every year to all of their teachers. They don’t need to pluck up the courage to correct people who misgender them. They don’t have to experience gender dysphoria when using the school bathroom (where did all the gender neutral bathrooms go? I haven’t seen one since before Covid).
I know I should be thankful that Edgemont is a pretty accepting and progressive community. I mean, I haven’t gotten hate-crimed yet, so that’s good. Congratulations for achieving the bare minimum!
Despite the increase in acceptance for queer students, many problems remain unsolved. The problem here isn’t about writing emails, it’s the fact that non-cis students have almost zero opportunities to share our names and pronouns without feeling ostracized. It’s awkward and uncomfortable to interrupt a teacher or classmate when they misgender you, to be the only person in your class that shares their pronouns, to become a walking Wiki-How article titled “How to Respect Me” for every single person you meet. So you chose the easiest option: send out an email to all your teachers before school starts and hope they don’t deadname and/or misgender you. But it’s not a viable solution, it’s merely a mediocre option.
We are trying, we are progressing, but we can’t make a difference if the people in power don’t lend some of it to those of us who need it. I’m not proposing a revolution, I’m suggesting a possible tool that can be of great use to the future generation of non-cis students. A tool that can be provided by our school’s Gay Straight Alliance.
Edgemont’s GSA has been flourishing ever since their online seminar event last year, and they aren’t stopping there. We have been working over the summer on a pronouns form. Ideally, this Google form would be mandatory for all teachers to use on the first day of school. It won’t solve all of our problems, but it will relieve many non-cis students from the stress of constantly coming out.
However, making the form mandatory will be difficult. We have shared the form with teachers this year. Some have used it, and some haven’t. We want to one-hundred-percent guarantee them that they will be supported, accounted for, and valued within our community.
Toleration isn’t enough. Though the pronouns form wasn’t made mandatory this year, the GSA plans to continue their work on making EHS a safe place for queer students. But in the meantime, we’ll stick to raising awareness and writing coming-out emails.