Transgender Rights in Schools: My Vision for One Day
Alyxandra Ramsay (Miami-Dade '17), a first grade teacher in South Florida, is advocating for equitable opportunities for transgender students and employees in her school district and beyond.
My name is Alyxandra Ramsay, and I believe that every child should have the opportunity to unlock their greatest potential.
Unfortunately, children growing up in disenfranchised communities lack access to resources and opportunities and attend schools that are not equipped to meet all their needs. That's why I joined Teach For America in their work toward educational equity—I wanted to personally show kids that they can be who they are and achieve greatness.
I have been advocating for trans rights since college. On campus, I helped plan an event called: “Trans? Fine by me!” during which a panel educated Greek life students about transgender persons. Advocacy followed me into my first year of teaching. In my first year of teaching with Teach For America, I realized there was little to no support for members of the trans community within the school system. I wanted to take a stand to ensure that all trans students and employees have access to equitable opportunities and resources in the school learning and working environment so that they can thrive.
Last summer, I was one of 10 educators selected to participate in Teach For America Miami-Dade and Miami EdTech’s SIEL Accelerator program, a partnership with the Knight Foundation. Over the course of the four-week program, I developed an innovative solution to an educational issue of my choice. One of the first inequities I knew I wanted to address was the lack of a chosen name policy for transgender students and teachers in our school district. Currently, students and teachers are able to use an alias in school. However, they must have a legal name change in order for the name to reflect on any official records, including their district email address and attendance documents. In many cases, this requires a lawyer, which is not a financially feasible option for most facing the problem.
Imagine a first day of school for transgender and non-binary students or employees whose roll call name does not reflect their identity. An alias does not account for the discomfort of being presented incorrectly throughout the school year, especially in front of peers and colleagues. I think about my students, many of whom do not have the resources for a legal name change. A new policy would allow these students to come in with a chosen name and that way—at least at school—they can be protected by Miami-Dade County.
LGBTQ+ students have higher truancy rates, lower grades, and greater expectations of not finishing high school. Victimization and bullying play a role in mediating these differences between LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ youth. Not being able to use self-identified names fosters an environment of hostility and feelings of discrimination. My research also revealed that in Florida, there is no law that addresses discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
A chosen name policy would allow transgender students and teachers who want to add a chosen name to submit a chosen name request form to be approved by their school or the district. This new policy would directly benefit academic performance and align with the school district’s core values: Excellence, Integrity, Equity, and Citizenship.
Every day I push for change, I am motivated by three things:
- At least 22 transgender or gender non-conforming people of color have been killed this year. This is a life or death cause.
- My best friend, Troy Keith, passed away in August 2019. Troy was a large part of the chosen name policy change at our alma mater. I feel their presence in this journey, knowing I am advocating for others in the way they advocated for me. I know they’re proud.
- A future where we have eradicated negative learning environments for all transgender students and teachers.
Currently, I attend school board meetings as often as I can. I continue to learn more about the process of proposing new opportunities and ideas for students and staff to access the resources they need to help create safe, effective learning and working spaces in the classroom. This is a fight I am committed to and I refuse to let obstacles stand in my way. An inclusive school system for all LGBTQ+ students is my vision for One Day.