Transgender Students Assimilating at Novato High


Esteban Bernabe

At Novato High, there’s always pressure for students to fit in. Yet, for certain students, fitting in might feel impossible. Nowadays, however, more teenagers are feeling welcome and comfortable expressing their true gender identities. 

For those who do not know, a transgender or “trans” person is someone of any age whose sense of personal and gender identity does not correspond with their birth sex. 

Because of the ever-growing amount of Novato High students that have come out as transgender, the school has begun to do more and more to accomodate to their needs. As of 2016, gender neutral bathrooms were added to the NHS campus. The gender neutral bathrooms have served as a safe space for trans students to safely and comfortably use the restroom without fear of harassment.

Novato High Assistant Principal Michelle Cortez described Novato High’s accommodations.

“We have two gender neutral bathrooms, and the single gender ones you can use through the counseling office,” said Cortez. “We have a club that is here to support our students, it’s called Saga. Ms. Romero runs that class and I think that has been supportive. The other piece, we’ve been including different materials for subs. Our belief is that every student gets to define their gender and the name they wish to be called. But the system forces us to list on the record the student’s given name and gender. So what we do is on our student records, we’ve modified the way that they look so that a students given name is included.”

Cortez also discussed how the school deals with on campus transphobia.

“The transphobia I’ve had to deal with at this school was about a lack of skill and education and not malice. I believe in restorative practices and I think that’s what a healthy community does, that it takes a conflict and instead of punishing people and silencing people, you actually bring people together,” Cortez said. “So, if we can get both parties together to have a conversation and give the person who feels harm an opportunity to empower them, to educate other folks in their community. Because you facilitate it, you gather and create a safe space to heal the harm and to educate. I think that’s what school is for. It’s not to be perfect and to not make mistakes, but rather to use opportunities to grow and learn and to broaden our perspective.”

Maria Romero, a Special Education teacher at NHS, described Saga (the Straight and Gay Alliance club on campus).

“So Saga basically is a space for the trans community and also the straight community, their allies, to come together and feel comfortable talking about any issues regarding their sexuality, their gender or sometimes even random internet things,” Romero said. “It’s just a place to build culture together and just to talk about life as a student here at Novato High School, in Marin county and the state of California. My rule is I really try to let the students lead it. I’m there as an advisor. I’m there, sometimes when they’re stuck on things to do, I try to bring contemporary issues that I know are happening to the table or even events in the area.”

Novato High is actively trying to establish a culture of caring around its campus, and its staff are always open to any comments or feedback. Inclusivity has been a main goal for Novato High and as a comfortable environment is built, more transgender students will likely feel safe enough to show their true identities.