See The Transition Closet Explained By A Teacher Who Uses It
clothes available for those who are transgender or gender-nonconforming. It’s a reality that is taking hold on campuses across the country but not without a wee bit of controversy. It's controversial because it's not just being used on college campuses, but also in middle school and high school classes with the express purpose of helping students keep secrets from their parents.
They are called transition closets and the thought behind them, in general, is to have gender-affirming clothes available for those who are transgender or gender-nonconforming. It’s a reality that is taking hold on campuses across the country but not without a wee bit of controversy. It’s controversial because it’s not just being used on college campuses, but also in middle school and high school classes with the express purpose of helping students keep secrets from their parents.
While not coming out directly and admitting what grade level he teaches, an unnamed teacher, in an unnamed school, in an unnamed public school district, in an unnamed state, has taken to TikTok to explain just what his intentions are with his transition closet. But by his description, most have assumed he teaches kids in the 9-12th grade range. You can watch his description of how he uses transition closets with his high school kids below…
The unnamed teacher makes it clear – “The goal of the transition closet is for our students to wear the clothes that their parents approve of, come to school and then swap out into the clothes that fit who they truly are.” Those taking issue with his tactics start getting concerned right here. When the teacher explains his purpose as “for our students to wear the clothes that their parents approve of,” it’s clear he isn’t talking about a college students. College students do not need parental approval for their clothing. The assumption here is that the teacher is talking about high school students (and possibly younger).
The second takeaway here is that the teacher is condoning, and even openly admitting to encouraging kids to lie to their parents. The teacher openly admits to using the “transition closet” as a tool to insert himself between a child and their parents. For many parents, this is not what they expected from public education as evidenced by comments left on the video…
The idea of a transition closet, though, is widely used. And when it comes to adults, there’s little controversy around it. They’re largely considered a positive idea by all. The question being considered now is:L at what grade level should these be made available?
At Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, they have a transition closet which some believe has been a lifesaver for a number of students. This particular closet is filled with clothing that not only helps students define themselves, but also offers a place transgender and gender-nonconforming students can go to browse clothing without judging eyes locked onto them.
“It was nice to find something that, first of all, fit me, second of all, sparks my interest, and thirdly, not get judged for it,” said one student who asked NBC News to refer to him as CJ to protect his identity. The Marshall University “Trans Closet” (which is what it’s called) gets its clothing from student donations and also from the surrounding community. “We started the trans clothing drive so our students who were particularly trans or transitioning could have a space to come and try on the clothing for free in a private, comfortable yet welcoming space, and not have that fear of having people talk about them or getting the murmurs or stares,” says Shaunte Polk, director Marshall University’s LGBTQ+ Office.
Polk started the transition closet a few years back with student volunteers and was amazed just how quickly the closet filled in the first month. She says clothes were stacked to the ceiling. “I was just completed blown away,” she said. According to Polk, the transition closet now houses over 1,500 items.
On the campus of Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, they recently put together a transition closet to assist students in need. “It is so important for students to have access to gender-affirming clothing the same way it is for a cisgender individual to have clothes that meet their style,” said Isabelle Levesque-Du Bose, Fran’s House co-affinity leader. “Whether you realize it or not, what you wear is simultaneously how people perceive and treat you. By giving students access to clothes that allows them to wear what makes them most comfortable, this takes a lot of stress off of their shoulders and more time and energy to focus on other things that matter to them.”
Missouri State University’s transition closet is seeing a change in location after the campus had to deal with management changes, renovations, and the destructive COVID pandemic. Along with creating a safe and comfortable place for students in transition to shop, MSU is also looking at the price tag involved. “Transitioning from one gender to another can be quite expensive, especially if the individual decides to go through surgery, so we are just looking to help them defray some of the costs with that switch,” Kimberly Martin, director of Multicultural Programs, said to The Standard.
This takes us back to the initial point. College students are adults and do not need parental permission to do anything, especially for something as personal as this. It is, however, generally accepted that parents of minors should be aware of what their kids are doing, and from a legal and ethical perspective, have control over what their kids wear. Critics say that giving public school kids transition closets and then actively encouraging them to hide what they’re really wearing from their parents violates the basic moral pact parents have with teachers and the education system.
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For now it’s unclear how widely transition closets are being used in schools, but given that the very idea is based on lying to parents about them, it’s easy to imagine they may be widely used right under everyone’s nose. If your kids are in public school, it’s up to you to decide how much power you want teachers to have over them. We’ll do our best to keep you informed.