Welcome all humans!
Here at Jackrabbit we’ve always thought of each other and our clients as a family. I’m sure you can relate! Children spend the majority of their time between school, after school activities, and home – which makes you a key part of their day and of their community. You thrive when your students thrive, and for a growing number of your students they need a gender inclusive space to thrive.
What’s that mean? It means recognizing that not all students identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. They may be gender non-conforming, non-binary, or on a journey to discover where they fit on the spectrum. They are coming to your center to be healthy and express themselves, to feel powerful and connect with others. It’s where they go to feel at home, away from home and how you interact with them from the day they walk in the door makes a difference.
It can be especially important for these students to feel welcomed because many of them also struggle with body dysphoria. This means they feel out of place in their own body and this can lead to anxiety, depression and even self-harm. Giving them an outlet for expression and exercise can be both therapeutic and reduce the anxiety and stress of feeling out of sync with their body.
You can also create a welcoming environment by using preferred pronouns and names. Unless you know for sure if a student prefers ‘he’ or ‘she’ just use their first name. Offer a ‘nickname’ option and honor it without judgement. Not only does using the wrong name and pronouns make a child feel out of place, but using the right ones can actually give a feeling of elation and acceptance that is indescribable. To be seen and spoken to as they really are is an unparalleled confidence booster.
Parents of non-binary or transgender children will also appreciate having a provider who ‘gets it’ without lengthy explanation or sideways looks is a relief. It goes a long way towards easing what for many parents can be a stressful and difficult time for them as they help their child navigate a world that is conditioned to see gender in black and white, male and female.
Often times, one of the biggest stressors for gender non-conforming children is using public restrooms. Facilities that offer gender neutral or family bathrooms take a small but significant step towards including patrons of all ages who do not fall squarely into society’s rigid definition of male and female. Hey, I can guarantee your patrons who identify as female will appreciate a shorter wait for the restroom!
You don’t have to get it perfect, just be open and remember that all your students are unique, capable, little humans who come to you to learn a skill. And it just may be that Understanding is the best skill in your toolbox.