How Transgender Students Experience Wayne Hills

Senior Chayse Buckley

Senior Chayse Buckley

By Emily Kozak, Staff Writer

Wayne Hills is working to make the school environment more welcoming for its transgender students.

Transgender youth have dealt with harassment and environments that invalidate their identity for a while. The recent uproar against books that deal with LGBTQIA+ issues and a push to ban curricula about it, has made it more uncomfortable for Trans students to feel welcomed and supported.

Just in November 2021, the school district worked towards resolving an issue where Wayne’s parents asked for the removal of a book called “Gender Queer.” The angry parents called it straight pornography and said it didn’t belong in the school’s library. “Gender Queer” was the book that got the most complaints from parents among others. Some of the other books were, “My Princess Boy,” “Sparkle Boy,”When Kayla was Kyle,” “From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea,” “Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story of Gender and Friendship,” and”Who Are You?: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity.” Wayne Superintendent Mark Toback told parents that the books would stay in school while assessing complaints made by the committee. Banning books like Gender Queer leads to less education on these topics and puts pressure on trans students.

Wayne Hills has a history of being supportive to transgender students. In 2016, a Wayne Hills Junior named Gio Leotsakas did an interview with North Jersey about his journey of coming out. When Gio came out as a transgender boy, he was not only supported by his family but also by school officials. In his case, Wayne Hills was extremely embracing and began calling him by his new name, allowing him to use the restrooms and locker room based on their identity.

Still, things are not as easy as we might think.

“It could be more challenging for Trans students to feel like their authentic self when fearing retaliation from cis-students,” said Wayne Hills counselor Ms. Sandas.

One thing that Wayne Hills trans students, according to Chayse Buckley, would like to see changed or added is unisex restrooms, coed club sports, and identical athletic uniforms for both genders.

A transgender senior, Chayse Buckley, shared his experience at Wayne Hills.

Senior Chayse Buckley

“One experience I can recall is that my teachers gave out these little sheets of paper where you put down your name, nickname, etc. I put down my pronouns and they still called me ‘she’ all year. I think a lot of teachers are accepting but only in a performative way. I’ve also had teachers approach the subject of transgender people without much sensitivity to the subject. One of my biggest notable supporters, my coach Ms.Caamano, has been wholly accepting and accommodating,” said Chayse.

There are a number of ways that Wayne Hills has supported trans students. One of the Clubs Wayne Hills has is GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance). This club is a safe space for Trans and LGBTQ students where they can talk about issues they face as well as current events in the LGBTQ community. Wayne Hills has even updated its counseling website to show Trans mental health resources.

Trans mental health resources on the Wayne Hills counseling website.

They included The Trevor Project, which is a mental health resource for LGBTQ youth. The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ kids. Another resource they have included is GLSEN, an organization founded by a group of teachers in 1990. GLSEN works to protect LGBTQ students from bullying and harassment in schools.

“As a whole, students within the trans and LBGTQ community would experience high school differently. I think there’s way more education we can do on these topics, like what to say and what not to say and overall raising awareness,” said Ms. Sandas.