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  • Due to society’s cisnormativity, transgender children and youth face a wide range of barriers, difficulties, and injustices at school.
  • Educational inequalities arising from trans student’s identity affect their emotional and psychological health and their ability to participate in education.
  • By changing the perspective and seeing people as diverse human beings, education professionals and every adult can positively influence how a child understands the world and interacts with those around them.


Over time, a perception has developed that heterosexual and cisgender people are the “norm” and all other different forms are perceived to be “different”. People’s established social beliefs, policies and the media are confirming this understanding. At the same time, differences have become more visible in society and “norms” no longer (if ever) reflect reality – the diversity of people’s identities and self-definitions is visible everywhere around us.

2.3.2. DEVELOPMENT OF THE TOPIC Cisnormativity

The word cisnormativity was first used in the 2000s. It is a combination of the prefix cis-, as in cisgender, and the suffix -normativity, as a complement to heteronormativity. The term cisnormativity was developed to describe the socio-cultural assumptions and expectations that all people are cissexual or cisgendered (Bauer et al., 2009). Although cisnormativity is rarely deliberate, it is often perceived as hurtful and offensive to the trans* community.

Cisnormativity can be understood as the belief system underpinning transphobia, which is described as the “irrational fear or hatred of trans people” (Israel & Tarver, 1997). Transnegativity and Transphobia

Transnegativity is a range of behaviours, belief-based cognitive injunctions, and negative affective reactions related to trans persons. The term transnegativity could be defined by “any biased attitude, discriminating or victimizing behavioural action either overtly or covertly directed toward an individual because they are, or are believed to be, trans.” (McDermott et al., 2018).

Transphobia is the fear, hatred, disbelief, or mistrust of people who are transgender, thought to be transgender, or whose gender expression doesn’t conform to traditional gender roles (Chrisler & McCreary, 2010). It can be expressed in many forms, as negative attitudes, aversion to and prejudice against transgender people, irrational fear and misunderstanding, derogatory language and name-calling, bullying, violence etc (Egale, 2019).

Besides the long-used term “transphobia” there is a newly introduced term “cissexism”. It can be understood as form of oppression and discrimination by those who fear, disbelieve or dislike people who are gender non-conforming (Zambon, 2021). The medical journal Medical News Today describes that people experiencing cissexism are likely to experience depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, and general psychological distress. It also can affect physical health in multiple ways in having worse access to healthcare, experiencing violence and abuse and other direct health effects such as high blood pressure, strokes, diabetes etc. Educational Injustice

Transgender children and youth are known to face a wide range of barriers, difficulties, and injustices at school. As related to school environments people often presume a stable cisgender norm – the normalised assumption that everyone identifies with the gender assigned to them at birth; and, that gender identity stated at birth and doesn’t change (Simmons & White, 2014) .Cisgender students are privileged by schools’ institutionalized cisnormativity and different gender expressions tend to be not welcomed (Miller, 2016).

School policies reinforce non-recognition and non-representation that invalidate trans identities, in worst cases enable bullying and physical harassment and teacher bias that affect education and lives of trans youth (Mcbride et al., 2020). Studies show that educational inequalities, injustices arising from trans* student’s identity affect their emotional and psychological health and their ability to participate in education (Meyer et al., 2016).

In reality trans youth are too often left to speak about their own inclusion and acceptance within schools who are poorly prepared and not equipped to welcome trans students (Ullman, 2016). In other cases, parents and carers often take on a significant role in advocating for school inclusion, but too often it depends on whether the family is supportive or not (Neary, 2019).

Every young child deserves to feel seen and heard as their authentic self and to be in the care of responsive adults who are committed to helping them feel a strong sense of safety, visibility, and belonging in the classroom. This requires that trans children and youth are directed and welcomed to environments that communicate and reinforce the positive and affirming messages of who they are and the knowledge of gender diversity (Steele & Nicholson, 2020). The Impact on Youth

Due to cisnormativity, it is sometimes difficult for people to understand that there are more gender identities and self-expressions who are part of the diversity of society. That is not a phase or fad that cannot be cured, which does not divide society or does not set a bad example for children. Such a misunderstanding can also led to fear or even anger towards the trans community.

A wrong perception of gender can cause difficulties and insecurity in teenagers in defining their identity, these external negative factors may then turn lead to risky behaviour, stress, depression, or suicide. Therefore, it is extremely important that every young person receives information about gender.

For a child who is non-heterosexual or non-cisgender, an environment where they do not feel represented or where they feel hated can have destructive effects. Negative environments can have effect on their mental health, learning, self-esteem, and sense of self-worth. They are growing up in environments where boys and girls are segregated for sports or home education classes, where they are taught that anything other than a family with a mother and a father doesn’t exist or is ‘wrong’. By changing the perspective and seeing people as diverse human beings, education professionals and also every adult can positively influence how a child understands the world and interacts with those around them. Hopefully, resulting in a people who are accepting and considering all people, regardless of their identity (LGBTQ+ Primary Hub, n.d.).


Small changes lead to big impacts:

  • Listen to a child! Ask questions and have a conversation, rather than making assumptions.
  • Consider that a child might not be heterosexual and/or cisgender and don’t assume that child’s parents are heterosexual and cisgender.
  • Be an active ally and be ready to express that, educate yourself.
  • Give children a guidance how can they educate themselves.
  • Ask yourself the same challenging questions about gender and sexuality as you ask from a child.
  • Use gender neutral language.
  • Create an inclusive curriculum where gender diversity and different sexual orientations topics are included.


Bauer, G. R., Hammond, R., Travers, R., Kaay, M., Hohenadel, K. M., & Boyce, M. (2009). I don’t think this is theoretical; this is our lives: How erasure impacts health care for transgender people. The Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care: JANAC, 20(5), 348–361. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jana.2009.07.004

Egale. (2019). What Constitutes Transphobic and Cisnormative Bullying and Harassment. https://www.gov.nl.ca/education/files/k12_safeandcaring_pdf_transphobic_cisnormative_bullying_harassment.pdf

Israel, G. E., & Tarver, D. E. (1997). Transgender care: Recommended guidelines, practical information, and personal accounts. Temple University Press. https://archive.org/details/transgendercarer0000isra_b7v2

LGBTQ+ Primary Hub. (n.d.). Heteronormativity & Cisnormativity. Retrieved 26 September 2022, from https://www.lgbtqprimaryhub.com/heteronormativity-cisnormativity

Mcbride, R.-S., Neary, A., Gray, B., & Lacey, V. (2020). The post-primary school experiences of transgender and gender diverse youth in Ireland. https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.32011.52002

McDermott, D. T., Brooks, A. S., Rohleder, P., Blair, K., Hoskin, R. A., & McDonagh, L. K. (2018). Ameliorating transnegativity: Assessing the immediate and extended efficacy of a pedagogic prejudice reduction intervention. Psychology & Sexuality, 9(1), 69–85. https://doi.org/10.1080/19419899.2018.1429487

Meyer, E., Tilland-Stafford, A., & Airton, L. (2016). Transgender and Gender-Creative Students in PK–12 Schools: What We Can Learn from Their Teachers. Teachers College Record: The Voice of Scholarship in Education, 118. https://doi.org/10.1177/016146811611800806

Miller, sj. (2016). Trans*+ing Classrooms: The Pedagogy of Refusal as Mediator for Learning. Social Sciences, 5, 34. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci5030034

Neary, A. (2019). Complicating constructions: Middle-class parents of transgender and gender-diverse children. Journal of Family Studies, 27, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/13229400.2019.1650799

Steele, K., & Nicholson, J. (2020). Radically listening to transgender children: Creating epistemic justice through critical reflection and resistant imaginations. (pp. xii, 179). Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield.

Ullman, J. (2016). Teacher positivity towards gender diversity: Exploring relationships and school outcomes for transgender and gender-diverse students. Sex Education, 17, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681811.2016.1273104

Zambon, V. (2021, February 5). What does ‘transphobia’ mean? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/transphobia

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