By: Jazlyn Moock
From the stress of coming out to teachers and peers, to fighting off negative comments, to being called the wrong name, or having to use the opposite restroom, the daily nuisances of being a transgender student can be endless.
Trans youths’ own inner-self-doubt and deprecation makes adolescence hard enough without all of the undeniable pressures that manifest in school environments. Yet, combined, these students are forced to face a whirlwind of emotions and challenges that are difficult for even the average struggling teen to possibly begin to comprehend.
In 2015, the National School Climate Survey recorded that three-quarters of students who identify as transgender or non-binary feel unsafe at school because of the way they express their gender. In many cases, trans teens have faced such severe mistreatment and feelings of insecurity that they have dropped out of a K-12 school—21 percent of North Carolinian transgender students to be exact.
However, much has changed since the 2015 survey, and even more has changed in the past several months with millions of students having to alter the way they learn and adapt to the new reality of online schooling.
In these strange circumstances, one must wonder the impact that this sudden shift to virtual learning has had on transgender youth and their ability to not only feel safe, but also succeed educationally in their remote school enviornment.
Although certain hardships faced as a result of in-person schooling are no longer an issue (i.e. bullying and gender-segregated restrooms), the methods of virtual learning have proven to cause numerous other difficulties. For instance, when using a video-conferencing app like Google Meet, each student’s legal name, connected to their school email, is on display to the entire class. For trans students, viewing their birth name every time they join a class call can be quite discomforting and add unnecessary stress in an already difficult school year.
Fortunately, there is a solution to this, but it comes with its own headache: “There is a preferred name form that can be obtained from emailing the WCPSS help desk. This form is why I see my preferred name instead of my birth name in Google. However, the issue with the form is that it does require a parent signature, which I know not everyone is able to obtain,” one Heritage student shared on the struggles of being transgender this 2020 school year.
Unfortunately, the way student emails operate now—requiring a parent signature—can be problematic for students who lack support from parents, making the ability to change a student’s name on video meetings nearly impossible.
Another trans student at Heritage shared his feelings on the matter: “I wish that there was an easier way to change your name. I would leap at the opportunity to be able to go by my preferred name and have that name be seen and shown to everyone else. I wish it was more inclusive of students’ wants and needs to express themselves differently.”
Unlike 75 percent of North Carolina trans youth, he stated that he has felt extremely safe at school, “School has always been my safe space, one where I could be much more authentic to myself through my name and through my experiences.”
Yet, when the pandemic and online learning came into effect, his experiences shifted dramatically, mentioning, “School has stopped being the safe space it once was and became another place where I must learn to tolerate and accept to be called by a name that is not mine.”
The decision to come out to his teachers during remote learning has also been an uphill battle, especially since he, along with thousands of transgender youth, live in a toxic, unaccepting home environment.
The student elaborated on hardships of coming out when he stated, “School work has definitely become harder because of seeing my birth name, but like always, I have to be the bigger and stronger person because I know that if I were to come out to teachers online, it could lead to more struggle and pain for me if my parents found out. Their intolerance towards my differences has led to me being not only isolated from the rest of my family, but has also put me at risk of being homeless.”
When making the decision to tell teachers about his gender identity, the student said it became a “battle of values”: safety and peace at home for his final year of highschool or his own personal comfort at school. In the end, he decided to choose stability in his home life, but by doing so, he denied himself of an escape from a name that he not only despises, but that also represents years of tireless oppression, discrimination, and trauma.
Both students made it clear that what is so grueling about online school has nothing to do with the effort from teachers. In fact, the first Heritage student stated that he knows teachers “do want the best for all of their students, trans or otherwise,” and that they have always adapted well to having him in the classroom, which has continued to be true in online school. The true peril, though, comes from the social isolation of virtual learning. In isolation, transgender adolsencents, locked indoors with unsupportive families, expereince a whole new level of the bedridden and trapped feelings everyone has during quarantine.
As one trans teen describes, “Being called the wrong pronouns by people close to you always hurts, and for trans students, that hurt is amplified by being stuck at home.”
The severity of this issue can be immense, since trangender youth are 4 times more likely to struggle with major depression compared to the general population, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Already surrounded by disapprovement and shame, the tendency to feel alone hits even harder. However, these students are not alone. Now more than ever, it is essential for schools to provide not only the necessary support and resources for them to thrive, but also to help them feel seen and loved–which every student deserves.
Whether a student is troubled with the reality of being trans or queer, having a disablilty or a mental illness, or even living in poverty, the Heritage community must be there to embrace them because as COVID-19 has magnified, so has every other issue that plagues teenagers.
So, to all of those who feel alone, or just a little lost: we love you.
LGBT Center of Raleigh:
LGBTQ National Youth Hotline:
Homeless Youth Hotline:
9th grade Heritage Counselor:
10th-12th grade Heritage Counselor(A-Ge):
10th-12th grade Heritage Counselor(Gf-N):
10th-12th grade Heritage Counselor(O-Z):
Administrative Team and Student Support Services Contacts: