During a county school board meeting in Arlington, Virginia, on Oct. 13, Carly Hughes, a teacher in Long Branch Elementary School’s Multi-Intervention Program for Students with Autism (MIPA), spoke against Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed public school policies for transgender-identifying students. Her reason? She believes her autistic students “may experience gender queerness more than other students.”
“I did my master’s study in queer inclusion in public schools,” Hughes told the school board. “My study told me that including trans students in all spaces is best practice. It also told me there are trans kids of every age — one I actually worked with in my student teaching. He was in the third grade.”
Youngkin’s model policies specify that taxpayer-funded public schools cannot facilitate a child’s so-called “transition” without written consent from a parent. Additionally, the guidance prescribes that bathroom and locker room access and sports participation should be based strictly on a student’s sex. These policies are a reversal of previous guidance from former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, which asked schools to hide a student’s “gender identity” from his or her parents.
Hughes herself identifies as a “queer” special education teacher. “I found that autistic students, the population I work with, may experience gender queerness more than other students,” she said. “These students … have helped me learn so much about myself as well.”