Column: Transgender girls at Los Angeles girls schools


Photo credit: Charlotte Tragos

Trees sway in the wind at Archer on a windy day. The Archer School for Girls is one of several Los Angeles all-girls schools making an effort to include transgender kids in the educational environment.

By Charlotte Tragos, Columnist

Content warning: contains mentions of suicide.

Transgender girls attend all-girls schools. In Los Angeles, they go to Archer, Marlborough, Marymount, GALA, Sacred Heart and other schools where they may struggle to fit in. Everyday decisions that are simple to navigate for cisgender girls can be more complicated for transgender girls, who may fear being outed, judged or shamed.

Shame itself has been institutionalized by fear-mongering politicians who have transmuted the private matter of gender identity into an attack against the will of God in an effort to appeal to the conservative values of the religious right. And it’s working. States have chipped away at the rights of trans kids to have medical procedures, use the bathroom of their choice and talk about their identity. Anti-trans language has become so mainstream that you can even find it on our own campus where some students are openly critical of trans kids and their families who support them. So in an effort to inoculate ourselves against the normalization of this kind of hate speech, let’s set the record straight.

The most hysterical argument against trans rights is the claim that children are too young to make decisions about their gender. It’s typically supported with examples of trans kids who “changed their minds” and then struggled to revert back to their gender assigned at birth. In truth, the real danger for trans kids is suicidal ideation.

Trans kids have the highest rate of suicide attempts of any youth population. Most trans kids face an existential crisis when they don’t recognize themselves in their bodies. It can be confusing, scary and painful, which is why gender-affirming medical care that values them for who they are saves lives. Rather than denying the legitimacy of their inner compass, we need to promote the truth that the choice of gender identity is a right so that trans kids can feel accepted for who they are and believe their life is worth living.

Archer’s leadership has spoken unequivocally in its support of trans kids and is making a conscious effort to bring trans girls to our student population. Head of School Elizabeth English detailed the school’s specific initiatives in our inclusive admission policy: the availability of gender-neutral bathrooms and the increased use of non-binary pronouns. She believes our acceptance of all girls is critical to the moral development of all girls. 

“As long as there is gender bias against women, as long as there is sexism, there is an important role for single-gender institutions, and in particular, schools, middle and secondary schools,” English said. “It doesn’t matter if you identify as a girl whether you’re a trans girl or not. You are going to encounter gender bias, and you need those years to build your confidence and your consciousness so you don’t internalize that bias when you graduate.”

Marlborough, Marymount, GALA, and Sacred Heart did not return a request for comment. 

Single-sex schools have an important role in all girl’s journeys because they offer a protective environment where kids can lean on each other as they define and develop themselves. It’s up to each of us to live up to that ideal, being conscious of our daily words and actions. Transgender students go to our schools, and so do people who love them.