Press release from Red Bank Regional High School
The staff of Red Bank Regional High School recently invited author, educator and advocate Seth Rainess to speak on the topic of supporting students who self-identify as Transgender or Gender Non-conforming. As the Trans-family Group Facilitator with the Jersey Shore PFLAG (Parents and Families of Lesbians & Gays) organization, Rainess is uniquely qualified to discuss this subject from both his professional and educational background (with masters’ degrees in Psychology and Rehabilitation Counseling), as well as through his own personal journey with transitioning.
Rainess, who has addressed a number of schools in Monmouth County, also spoke with the RBR Gay-Straight Alliance, the student organization advised by Stacy Liss, clinical supervisor for RBR’s School Based Youth Service program The Source. Several students received copies of Real Talk for Teens: a Jump-Start Guide to Gender Transitioning and Beyond, the Rainess-authored book that was written to help youth and families address transitioning, which is the process that transgender people may go through to align their body with their gender identity.
As Stacy Liss explains, “As the number of students who self -identify as transgender and gender non-conforming has increased, so has the need to educate staff and students on how to be supportive to ensure the safety of these individuals.”
Liss has worked closely with Rainess on ways to support students who are transitioning, and to assist parents in the process. Additionally, he has had conversations with RBR on developing protocol to ensure that the school meets the needs of Transgender and Gender Non-conforming students.
While Seth speaks to many groups on transgender support, he believes that educators are integral in helping youth, explaining that “a teacher may be the only person who the student feels comfortable speaking with. Perhaps the student needs help in talking to their family.
“It is important that the school faculty know they are the eyes and ears and most important the ally for these kids. It is very important to refer the student to a counselor and for the student to feel comfortable with the counselor.”
“Young people who identify as Transgender may be at greater risk for mental health issues, such as depression and suicide,” says Liss. “In addition, youth who identify as Transgender are at an increased risk for homelessness. It is important that the safety of our youth is assessed and supports are provided when necessary. In addition, resources may be provided for that student to support them outside of school, including referrals for family support and community resources.”
Rainess left the staff with a reminder that the process requires patience, using the analogy, “I always tell kids that you are running a marathon, not a 100 yard-dash. Kids have to be okay with that.”