LGBT-Friendly Schools

Parent Q&A

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  • We are considering moving from Berkeley schools to private middle (and eventually high school) in part for academic reasons, and also because we think our kids would do better in a smaller school environment.  We have a transgender child, and we would really appreciate hearing about experiences and perspectives from families with transgender or gender diverse kids.  We would like to find a middle school that continues to high school, so we are considering Bentley and Head Royce, and also considering middle schools that don't have a high school, like Park Day, Black Pine Circle, and Prospect Sierra, and also interested in other recommendations.  Thanks in advance for perspectives.

    Hello! I just wanted to say you might also look into Berkeley Independent Study. My two sons - 10th and 12th grade now, but started in 6th grade here- have had a very good experience in terms of support. They are not transgender/ gender diverse themselves but have had classmates that are and the community is very welcoming, a diverse and supportive staff and a lot of chances to customize projects and studies that interest your child.  Also, the schedule is more  flexible, so if your child wants to do extra curricular activities, they have more time in the day to focus on their passion that might be outside of school. It goes all the way through highschool, and they can still join some electives at the Berkeley middle schools or  Berkeley High if they want, such as Music or sports! 

    My child is in 6th grade at Park Day and is nonbinary. We've had a wonderful experience in terms of gender identity at this school. The bathrooms are all gender neutral so no hard choices need to be made. The staff go through extensive training with Gender Spectrum. And the middle school GSA (gender sexuality alliance) is a really supportive group. The parent community and kids have also been welcoming and supportive. Even the sex ed program for middle school was affirming of the full gender and sexuality spectrum. They brought in an outside expert to run the sex ed program at middle school. 

    If you want a middle school that supports transgender/gender diverse kids I honestly think you can't do better than Park Day. I've got a gender diverse kid at PDS and it's been a great experience for them. They started at PDS part way through elementary school because we were looking for a smaller, more supportive environment than they were getting at a charter school in Oakland. The teachers, staff, other kids and families are very well versed in gender diversity issues and thoughtful about everything from the curriculum (super important for sex ed in middle school!), school layout (PDS has had gender neutral bathrooms from before we joined) to extracurricular clubs for both kids (the Gender Sexuality Alliance is a very popular middle school group that has many members spanning 6-8th grade that meets on campus as well as outside of school) and parents (the Gender Justice Alliance is part parent-support group/part broader social justice group for the school). 

    I wanted my kid to actively research middle schools because they didn't want to do that when we moved to PDS. They were pretty turned off by some of the other schools practices about locker rooms/changing for PE class and bathrooms in general. At best some schools have a completely separate bathroom which felt very isolating to my kid. I should note this was a couple of years ago so I have no idea what the bathroom situation is like but it made the choice to stay at PDS very easy for my particular kid. 

    FWIW my kid identifies as non-binary but their friend group includes kids that identify as non-binary, trans, asexual-aromatic, gay, lesbian, straight and gender fluid. 

    I should also add that some of the transgender kids choose not to join the GSA because they just want to be seen as their gender but really appreciate the fact there are other gender diverse kids at PDS and the care and knowledge of all the staff. Please reach out if you have specific questions about PDS or want to talk offline. 

    I have a transgender child at a private East Bay high school, and our experience is that transgender and gender diverse kids are common enough at every single East Bay school that truly, any choice would be fine. It's very, very likely that your child will not be the only gender diverse kid in their class wherever they go. My kid was extremely supported at his private middle school when he transitioned, and when we were searching for private high schools we found a welcoming environment, all-gender restrooms, and active LGBTQ+ alliance groups everywhere we looked. The only high schools we did not consider were parochial, mostly due to dress codes that would have been uncomfortable for him. My kid is now thriving in high school and many of his friends are gender diverse. 

    We moved to the East Bay last summer and chose Park Day for our two children, currently in 5th and 7th grades. Our kids have quickly adjusted to their new school and have thrived in the smaller, more nurturing environment Park Day provides.   Our 7th grader identifies as non-binary.  The faculty and staff, the other parents, and the students have all been supportive and welcoming.  There are a good number of LGBTQ+ students, families and staff at Park Day, to the point that gender-fluidity is just part of the fabric of the school rather that being something remarkable or unusual. 

    I would say that Bentley is behind other schools in terms of transgender support. While there are transgender, non-binary, and other gender diverse students the school has dragged its feet on providing gender-neutral restrooms. The high school is about to install one gender-neutral restroom and the K-8 campus has none. Students can use preferred names and pronouns that are other than their legal ones and there is a GSA at the Upper School but not at the K-8 school. Teachers and students are generally very accepting but I would not say gender diversity is celebrated the way it may be at other schools. My child struggled with being misgendered frequently by his teachers although that is likely an issue at other schools as well. Faculty do not receive training on working with gender diverse students. I can't speak to how it is handled at Head-Royce.

    Walden has been great for my transgender son. It's K-6.  The kids learn about gender diversity and the restrooms are gender neutral.  There's a lot of respect and it's so small.  It's in Berkeley on Dwight near MLK, and there are family from all over who commute there.  It is arts focused and the kids do 2 of Spanish/art/music/drama each day.  My son loves art and is mildly dyslexic so it's been great to have the arts and music to balance out the parts of school that are hard for him.  The Spanish teacher is from Chile and very kind.   Class size is small and because it does require an hour commitment from parents, it costs 10k less than other private schools.  The hours can be yardwork, cleaning, or helping out in music class, etc.  Check it out!

    My daughter is just finishing 8th grade at Park Day School (K-8).  A lot of of the students are gender non-binary and gender fluid, and from what I can see the school supports this as the norm, including all bathroom being all gender, language by teachers and students being up to date, etc.  If you contact PDS, I am sure they can connect you with some of the families who can give you more detail

  • lgbt parent homeschooling

    (2 replies)


    Would like to find others who are part of the lgbt community who are homeschooling. Does anyone know of any groups?

    Thank you


    You might contact HSC , HomeSchool Association of California ( )

    They have lots of resources for all types of homeschoolers and could probably point you in the right direction. They have a local advocate you can speak to as well as a listing of local groups. Just look through the drop-downs when you mouse over the main headings on their homepage. Good luck. I hope you find what you are looking for.

    I don't know of anything, but would be grateful if you would share what you find out!



Archived Q&A and Reviews


School for shy, gender fluid boy

March 2015

My son will be starting Kindergarten next year and I'm hoping some of you can help me by giving me some information. We have applied to Aurora, St. Paul's, Park Day and Prospect Sierra and have entered the public school lottery. We do not know where we will get in so maybe I'm being presumptuous, but I'd like to hear from parents about their experiences with these schools. Particularly if you have or know of a gentle boy. Our son is extremely verbal and creative, he is gender fluid and somewhat shy. We want him to be at a school where he can be himself! What has your experience been with these schools? Have you transferred out of one of them? Have you transferred into one of them? Are there any shortcomings or strengths that you can share with me? I would love to hear about how you think a my little pony loving little boy might fit into (or not) any of these schools. Thanks so much in advance. -A confused mother of an almost kindergartener

I know about 4 families with kids in K at Aurora. I'm not sure if they read the newsletter regularly. So I just wanted to say that all of them would be welcoming to a child who is gentle and gender-fluid. It seems like a caring community from what I can tell from the outside. Hopefully some of them will reply themselves too. anon

I agree, the process is terribly confusing. I don't have a gender-fluid boy, but here's my perspective as the parent of a kid who attended St. Paul's for kindergarten, then switched to Aurora. St. Paul's didn't work for us because it seemed too big and impersonal for our 5-year-old. A particular problem was the afterschool program (which we had to use because of work schedules), which mixes the littlest kids in with all the other age groups for much of the afternoon. This was pretty overwhelming for our kid - who isn't even particularly sensitive. Academically, I think the kids get a really excellent preparation at St. Paul's, but the pedagogy seemed pretty traditional and the administration fairly distant. We're very happy at Aurora. The size of the school is just right - no middle-schoolers, so the kids don't seem to ''age up'' the way they sometimes do in a K-8 school. We love the multi-grade classrooms, especially since our kid has often been more drawn to older kids academically, but younger kids socially. This is a place where the teachers really know our child well. I think Aurora would be a good place for your ''gentle boy.'' The parents, the teachers, the kids, are all different kinds of people - but all share a basic common value of compassion. That might sound gooey, but that's really how it feels. I'd encourage you to get in touch with Aurora and ask for the contact info of parents with kids like yours (there are many!). And I wish you all the best in your search, and your decision. You sound like a caring mom. Aurora parent

I've been a parent at Park Day for 6 years and I'm a therapist who works with gender-fluid children. Park Day is doing a fantastic job with gender over all with all kids, and specifically with gender-creative/non-conforming/fluid kids. There's a group for parents of gender-creative kids and if you ask Flo Hodes, the admissions director, she may be able to put you in touch with one of those families. All the staff are continually trained in their responsiveness to these kids, and how to create a open classroom without divisions or assumptions about gender, creating an atmosphere that is freeing for ALL kids. The school collaborates with Gender Spectrum, the leading organization that consults with schools on responsible approaches with gender (and actually founded and directed by Park Day parents). Kids at Park Day are all respected in their individuality, and differences are handled well with acknowledgement and celebration (when appropriate). Park Day has deep values in social justice and wellness of every child as a whole child, and, from what I observe, they are actively working to fulfill these intentions. The ''gentle boys'' in my son's class are his friends, they have many friends, and they are free to be the kind of kid they are. But you should probably hear the experience of those parents, so again, I'd encourage you to ask about this specifically with Flo or Jane. Best of luck!

Hi there, I wanted to respond to your question about Aurora School. I am a current parent of a 4th grade boy, and have another child starting Kindergarten next year. I can say a few things that would be relevant to you in your considerations of schools. First, Aurora is committed to seeing and valuing each child for the person that they are. They have been supportive of my son all along, and in several different ways. Each Aurora student is a unique individual, and the staff at Aurora respects and honors that--in their interactions with students, and in their flexible approaches to solutions for things that may not be working for a child. Aurora scaffolds the emotional and relational development of the students throughout their development. The teachers are actively engaged in creating a safe space for all students. One added treasure at Aurora is the *amazing* Extended care staff. Children learn a lot about relating with one another on the yard at free time, and all staff are attentive and supportive of that learning process. The second point I wanted to address is regarding Aurora's exceptional stance in terms of inclusivity of various gender identities. Gender is understood to be flexible, and celebration of all unique identities is explicitly supported. Aurora students interrogate assumptions about societal gender roles at the k-1 level. It's awesome. Lastly, I have seen many types of kids thrive at Aurora. (many, many types Aurora teaches and works with kids in the way that works for them. A more introverted student may be gently and safely scaffolded to step into a new place, while a more extroverted child may be supported in practicing a more quiet reflection (or something like that) but the point of it is not to shame or change a person's essential nature. Rather, it is to help all children grow, and only in ways that feel ok to THEM. All types of learners are validated, and Aurora staff has a developmental framework that understands that kids are growing and gaining more capacity each day. Good luck in your decision! sonia beers

My very shy boy started SPES in kindergarten. We transferred out after a couple of years. I would say that SPES is not the ideal school for a shy, gentle boy. Part of the problem for us was that it's a big school - K8 - so there are many more important priorities for the school besides what's going on in kindergarten, such as organizing massive school-wide events, and the need to continually focus on development and admissions. This can translate to an emphasis on the health of the school as an institution at the expense of individual students, and it definitely did at SPES in our experience. I don't have experience with Park Day and Prospect Sierra, the other K-8 schools on your list, so I can't say how they handle this. The other problem we had at SPES was the strict hierarchical structure of the administration, where decisions were made by a small number of people who all agreed with each other. I think SPES may be getting a new director so perhaps this will not be the case now. But when we were there, there was a vast distance between the administration's priorities and those of the teachers, and there was a lot of teacher turnover. What this meant for our kid was that if a teacher had an approach that worked for our kid, but it conflicted with the administration's goals for the school as a whole, then the teacher (and our kid) were trumped. We were disappointed to discover after a few years at the school, that the administrators not only didn't know our child's name, but they were comfortable assessing him and making decisions about him without accepting any input from his teachers. Personally I would be looking at smaller schools for a shy kid. My shy kid is now in a big public middle school and doing great, in part because he had such a good experience in the much smaller private school he went to through 5th grade. local mom

Hi! My transgender daughter is in 1st grade at Prospect Sierra, and I wanted to strongly endorse our experience here at the school. She was really shy in Kindergarten-although she is the youngest with two older athletic brothers and can be ''tough'' with them- at school she was reticent given her recent social transition as a transgender girl. Prospect Sierra brought in Gender Spectrum for the full staff/faculty training last year, parent education training both years, installed gender neutral bathrooms, and has great school policies to protect all children. The school has done so much around expanding the gender binary for all children - transgender, cisgender and gender fluid-that even when she was teased explicitly this fall, she now feels safe. They helped institute a culture of diversity and inclusion, of kindness and of respect- so much so that she has excelled academically, socially and emotionally and now is flourishing as her true self.

We just had parent-teacher conferences and heard about her school experiences. We know that the school is very active in ensuring that each student can thrive and express themselves according to their true gender expression and identity where ever it is on the spectrum. There are many sensitive boys in each grade at Prospect that My Little Pony would be so welcome- and that is the idea at Prospect-to create the mutually respectful space where each student feels safe to be themselves so they are ready to learn and to play in their school community. Prospect Sierra is also a partner for the Bay Area Rainbow Day Camp this summer from June 22-July 3, the first day camp for gender creative youth age 3-17. That is how committed they are to aligning themselves with gender expansive youth! Email me if you have any questions! I'm so proud to be a part of this progressive school community. Sandra C

My son is also very verbal and creative, with a gentle, compassionate spirit. Although not very shy, he is doing great at SPES. There they really attend to the whole child, have a very strong emotional/social component to the curriculum and are working well with the different temperaments and personalities of all the kids in his classroom. I visited five private and three public schools and feel so lucky to have chosen SPES. Good luck in our search and decision. cantamissa

We were in your shoes last spring and we decided to enroll our son at Park Day and we couldn't be happier. After diligently visiting public and other progressive private schools PDS was our first choice for many reasons, definitely including its cutting edge reputation for welcoming diversity in all its forms - gender fluidity, race, ethnicity, family structure, socio-economic class, and more. Park Day has a strong focus on community and embracing diversity. Before school started, the K teachers offered to do a home visit with each family so that the teacher could get to know each student and family. As a result, on the first day of school our son's teacher was already a familiar, comfortable and friendly presence as he transitioned into the classroom. (We were expecting tears and sadness and instead he happily went with his teacher into the classroom without us.) My son STILL talks about how his teacher visited his house. There are 13 children in his K class and there is a big emphasis on building community and taking care of each other, learning about each other's similarities and differences and being kind and respectful citizens of the classroom and school communities as well as the outside world. Our son has made great progress in learning kindergarten academic and social skills, but most importantly he LOVES school. He gets to play on the awesome campus, be in the learning garden, build with natural materials in the Nature Zone, create in art, sing with gusto and joy about how, ''Mistakes are ok! Mistakes are ok! You can make them ten times a day!'' in music, and much, much more. The adults all know him, have a connection with him, and look out for him. My husband and I say to each other several times each week how glad we are that our son attends Park Day, especially when we talk to our friends whose children attend other schools. Park Day is truly a special place. couldn't be happier at Park Day

Your post resonated with me, I was exactly where you were just 2 years ago, with my sweet-natured son completing his last few months of pre-school full of wonder, while I anticipated his first year of school, kindergarden. Understanding his gentle and cautious demeanor, I wanted to make the best choice, knowing the impact it would have. Like you, the decision was not clear initially. I now consider it one of the best one's I've made for my child. He is a 1st grader at SPES, and thriving. His kindergarten experience was incredible to witness, the growth was beyond measure, and I could see through him, the support and nurturing he received from teachers, and classmates. St. Paul's has a diverse community and while that was a high value for me, I did not want that to diminish the importance of other considerations. What I've come to realize and most appreciate for my son, is uniqueness of the SPES community, the beauty of diversity and tolerance. Admittedly, the service-learning aspect was intriguing as well. Sometimes I remind myself how different 'school' and 'learning' may have been if we were not at SPES. I feel fortunate to be where we are, and know wholeheartedly the importance of it for my son. Wishing you the best with this process. Amanda

Dear Kindergarten Mom We chose SPES for our sensitive boy and have been very pleased with the experience so far. The message I remember from my own elementary school experience: “People look different on the outside, but are the same on the inside.” I’ve observed that SPES takes a very different approach to difference: From the first day of kindergarten, the children are acknowledged for their differences and celebrated for them. Students are constantly encouraged to articulate the qualities that make their classmates unique and special—and the subsequent gifts they each bring to the community. It follows that there is less of a tendency for SPES students to make generalizations about or pigeonhole one another—even by age 7 or 8 they are navigating difference with compassion and ease. If you ever have the pleasure to sit in on a child’s classroom birthday celebration at SPES, you’ll quickly observe that kindness is held in high regard there. The students take turns expressing an appreciation for the birthday child (who sits in the front, saying “thank you” to each one—it is a sincere moment.) Some of the things I heard on my son’s last birthday: “I appreciate that you are always a good friend to me”; “ that you are good at math”; “ that you always let others join in your games”; “ that you always make me laugh”; “ that you are kind to everyone”. I can honestly say that even I have a more complex understanding of my own child after several years at this school. I’m less likely to refer to him as a “sensitive” or “quirky” kid, even in my own mind. He is simply himself, with a store of unique gifts and the confidence to offer them to the world. Best of luck with the school search! A Happy St. Paul’s Parent

My son attends St. Paul's Episcopal School. He has a highly-sensitive artist's personality and does not have a whole lot of interest in sports. Though not particularly shy, he mostly likes to play quietly building models with Legos or constructing art. I can say for St. Paul's that he really likes being at school. Often at the end of the day, when I pick him up at 5:30 PM, he complains that I've come ''too early''(!) and he's in the middle of things. He likes being at school THAT much. His teachers have all been very caring and effective at teaching to his specific personality traits and needs. They have also done a great job in helping him to foster new friendships and really feel like an integral part of his class. (He is now in 2nd grade and has been at St. Paul since kindergarten.) The ASP program is also excellent in that he really feels like he gets to choose his activities. I can't speak to the other schools on your list, but I can highly recommend St. Paul's Episcopal School for helping shy and reserved students to thrive while encouraging them to build their social skills. My son has never been bullied or teased. It is something St. Paul's takes very seriously from the top down and is reenforced by the students themselves. Bullying and teasing are NOT TOLERATED as acceptable behavior. These are some of the nicest kids you'll ever meet. KB

My son is currently in kindergarten at Aurora. He is gender creative, shy and loves to wear bright colors, sing, dance and draw. He also loves to learn, so last year while we were touring numerous schools, both private and public our goal was to find a school for him to be himself and that provided a warm and safe environment for him to continue to learn. We could not have found a more perfect fit for him than Aurora! At Aurora he has flourished. He wakes up eager to go to school. He loves his teachers! He has made friends that accept him for himself. He can focus on learning and not worry about being teased because he chose to wear his monster high shirt and pink sneakers. Even though, he has been at Aurora for less then a year I honestly can not picture my son at any other school. I know that we made the right decision for him. Hope this was helpful, - A mother of an almost first grader

Hi there, I can't speak to the schools you've asked about but couldn't help but notice that your son sounds like mine. I have two sons at Montessori Family School. The older one was in public school and we had to pull him out; he was being bullied. He is also extremely sensitive, and is super creative and a gifted writer. After we visited MFS, I felt strongly that it was the right place for him. MFS consciously and consistently builds a culture where uniqueness is celebrated. There are a lot of very special square pegs there, kids who will grow up to follow their own paths as innovators and creatives instead of feeling outside of society, thanks to the self-esteem MFS nurtures in them. My son felt he was ''weird'' and his self-esteem was very low when he started there. He now thinks he's a pretty neat guy after just a year and a half. Plus he has kind, fascinating friends who ''get'' him. My other son is a tiny jock with a strong interest in fashion. He is a self-adorning athlete and he is totally accepted too. We're such huge MFS fans at this point that I had to share. Good luck finding a great fit for your little guy! Grateful in El Cerrito

Aurora is an amazing school for a gentle boy! It's also a great school for just about any kind of child; because of its small size (k-5), its combined classes, and its unique commitment to community (all-school assembly every week, all-school lunch dance parties, buddies across classrooms etc.), it fosters acceptance and allows for the students to both know each other across the grades and be exactly who they are without fanfare. One thing that we really liked about Aurora (we looked at some of the other schools on your list, but not all), was that it definitely felt progressive in action; there was an authenticity to it that we felt when we toured and that we notice every day. There are all types- gentle, shy, introspective, energetic and extroverted (and those in between), but what is evident is that all of the kids seem to feel ''known,'' safe and accepted at their school.

Hello, I am the mother of a boy who used to play with My Little Pony and has now ''grown up'' to American Girl Dolls. He is extremely verbal, very emotionally aware, his favorite color is pink and his favorite place on earth is on stage. We transferred him to Aurora in late September of his 2nd grade year, 6 months ago. We moved him because we felt that he was not being encouraged to express himself, or celebrated for his strengths and uniqueness. He was also consistently frustrated with the separation of boys and girls - for lining up, for PE, for birthday parties... Eventually this also led to him feeling less confident.

Our move to Aurora has been fantastic. They celebrate our son for who he is, they have helped him become more comfortable in his own skin and his academic confidence has soared. I think Aurora truly excels in teaching and considering emotional development alongside academics. For example, our guy would often be extremely distracted after recess. Aurora has a ''calm down'' table, where kids can go for a few moments after recess to take a deep breath, watch a sand-flow or bubbles thing, and prepare themselves to be open to learn. This has helped his academics, but it is also giving him important life-skills in how to take a deep breath and focus on a new task.

In such a short time, Aurora has gotten to know our child and is helping him flourish. For example, he and his (male) teacher planned to wear their purple t-shirts with pink motorbikes on them on the same day. (The t-shirts were made by an Aurora parent who started a company called Handsome in Pink - just another example of the community being gender-aware, open and supportive of any child's true self). These small gestures reiterate that he has a place in this world and who he is is awesome, all of which is leading him down a path of self-acceptance and confidence that we thought was at risk in his previous school.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me privately, I am happy to answer questions regarding our experience at Aurora. pccckk

Best public k-5 school for transgender shy kid

Nov 2014

We are hoping to find an east bay elementary school with good academics, a nurturing environment that will help a shy child blossom socially, and a proven track record dealing well with gender variant children. We have heard of several private schools that are good and are hoping to add public schools to the list.

We'd like a school that is willing to make accommodation to support our child's gender identity when they are needed, and a student body with an inclusive culture. I prefer not to sacrifice good academics for our bright child but feel that academics will mean nothing is our child does not feel comfortable.

Does this school exist? We are willing to move. Worried parent

Well, I don't want to single out the child in question by identifying the school, but I will say that from my perspective as the parent of another child in the class, my child's WCCUSD public school has been very welcoming and accommodating of a gender variant child. I think overall in the Bay Area the awareness is high and support is there (my preschooler also has a gender variant peer). It's just not as unusual as it used to be. I wouldn't think that by itself is a reason to choose private school. There's lots of opportunities prior to kindergarten start to meet with the teachers & principal, no matter which public school you attend; express your concerns and your ideas for solutions. I think they will be given a lot of weight. Because we know two families with gender variant kids, I am also aware that there's multiple support groups around the East Bay for parents, so you can seek experienced advice there too. Best wishes! WCCUSD parent

I don't know very much about the transgender environment specifically, but you might want to check out NEA Community Learning Center in Alameda. They are a Public Charter School for K-12 located near the College of Alameda. They have been around for 6 years and are sister schools with ACLC (Alameda Community Learning Center) who is in their 20th year as a Public Charter school for 6-12th grades in Alameda.

Three of my children went to ACLC from 6th grade on and I found it to be very accepting of gay and lesbians, students from all races, socio economic backgrounds and with a variety of interests. The kids are really empowered to take charge of their own learning and to express themselves in whatever way they want. Check out the website Nea Community Learning Center is based on an educational model that empowers youth to take ownership of their educational experience, to celebrate their diverse community, and to actively participate as members of a democratic society. anon

Have you considered Kaiser Elementary in OUSD? Throughout the years the school has been a welcome respite for children in LGBT families as well as non-gender normative children. The school believes in inclusion and supports the social-emotional development of it's learners to build a community that is accepting of everyone. As to academics the school received California Distinguished School designation in 2012. I hope this will help you. Parent at Kaiser Elem.

Check out Peralta in N. Oakland. Tours are starting soon. It's a wonderful school! The kids, teachers and parents have worked with Gender Spectrum. The principal and teachers are great! Anon

I would STRONGLY suggest checking out Aurora. Even though it is private, it is a lovely welcoming environment. they have financial aid, and I would suggest talking to them before you rule it out. With such a young child, with such specific needs, I applaud you for being so sensitive to their schooling environment. I wish you the best of luck a parent too

I am the parent of a gender-variant, gender-nonconforming, whatever the latest term is, child. My child attended Malcolm X Elementary in Berkeley from K-5th grade. It was the most amazing place for not only my kid, but our whole family. I credit that school community and the staff who supported us with keeping me together. This is a tough and lonely road at times and I found so much support at Malcolm X. I never had to advocate for my child because the staff was always one step ahead of me in understanding what my child needed. From bathroom access to non-gendered costumes for dance performances, right up to changing the language on the forms sent home for 5th grade social groups to include my child in the group of choice regardless of birth sex. These people are seriously amazing. My child is now in 8th grade at Oakland School for the Arts (another incredibly supportive place to consider for kids like ours come the dreaded middle school search) and is a confident, independent, and fiercely gender non-conforming 13 yr old. Please feel free to contact me for more info or just get some support from someone who is a few years ahead on this journey. And please consider Malcolm X! That school made all the difference for us. R.

Hi! I have two kids at Chabot Elementary School and one kid at Claremont Middle School in Oakland. My kids are not dealing with this issue, but our wonderful K-5 principal (Ms. Cannon) said this when I approached her about responding to this query: I definitely think Chabot should top the list! We have had a handful [of trans kids] move through with so little concern, you may not have even heard of them. We have a universal curriculum on gender diversity and a partnership with Gender Spectrum. In addition, Ms. Cannon is personally very committed to dealing with this issue openly and affirmatively. I agree with her that Chabot should top your list! Happy OUSD Parent


Choosing a high school for gay son

Feb 2008


My son recently told me he might be gay. He's going to be in high school next year and we have some choices about where to send him to school - We've applied to a couple of private schools and we are in the process of moving and so could include this new information in choosing a neighborhood for public high schools (Berkeley, Marin, Albany?). We ( and he) have wondered before about his sexual orientation so this isn't totally out of the blue, although he's feeling a bit more sure of it. Obviously this can't be our only consideration, but it's a big one. We want him to figure things out for himself, but also to feel safe and supported! I did search for archived information but didn't find much. Thanks in advance for sensitive advice! anonymous

Hello, It's smart you are considering the right school for your son as his high school experience will most likely be greatly influenced by his sexuality and how others perceive/respond to it. I have had (one is passed now) two brothers who were/are gay and I can say with confidence that the acceptance or lack there of (as was the case with the younger of the two) of who they were and what their preferences were had consequences that lasted and will last their whole lives.

I cannot speak to which school you should send him to, but certainly at public schools there is less tolerence and far lesser resources to deal with the consequences of that intolerance.

I can also tell you that your son telling you that he ''might'' be gay is his way of breaking it to you easily, giving you (subconsciously) the hope that there might be a chance he's not. If he's admitting that he might be, he most definitely is. This is not a choice for him. And you said this is not a surprise for you, indicating that there were signs earlier on. I'm only telling you this so you might have a realistic perception of what's to come. But it sounds like you support him, and I would encourage you to continue on, and just encourage him to be himself and love him no matter what. The best thing you can ever do for him is let him know that you are on his side, gay or not. wish my brothers had parents like you

Maybeck High School in Berkeley has a wonderful, accepting and progressive social environment. My second child is there now; my older one graduated from there and is doing very well in college. Maybeck is definitely a place you can be gay/bi or ''on the spectrum'' and be totally accepted.

Check out an open house, and talk to the teachers and students who give presentations. Also, each of my teens were sold on the place after they spent a day visiting classes during 8th grade. They are very different kids, and it has been great for both of them. By spending a day at school, your son will really get a feel for the program. Maybeck is academically rigorous (without being overwhelming), so if your he is a reasonably strong student, it could be a great match. Satisfied parent

I don't know how arts-oriented your son is, but have two daughters at Oakland School for the Arts , and we have found that there are many openly gay kids at this school. These kids (mostly boys that we know of) seem very well liked, and well accepted. In fact, the school does a great job in making kids from various backgrounds, interests, and family structures feel included and part of the school community.

OSA is moving into the newly-refurbished Fox Theatre next year, and has a great college-prep curriculum. Students can choose acting, music (instrumental or vocal), dance, visual arts or theater tech as their area of emphasis. There is an audition required for admission. OSA parent

Being a gay teen is difficult in any high school, even in the ''progressive'' Bay Area. All high schools, private and public, in this area seem to have Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) These are student groups with faculty advisors. It will be important for your son to join the new school's group and establish a support group of other lbgtq kids and straight allies.

When choosing high schools you might would to ask the administration if there are any ''out'' teachers, staff members (who are usually fantastic resources for the gay, questioning kid); also ask how much school support is there for the GSA, how many active members, how does the school deal with biased/hate comments? Is sexual orientation discussed in classes? Is there a school counselor who kids can talk to about coming out issues. I'd suggest going with a small school like Marin Academy or maybe even CPS. The main thing is you want a place where an adult can keep an eye on him, just to make sure he's doing okay and not being targeted--this is difficult to do in hugh schools like Berkeley High. Although if you think your kid would prefer to be ''anonymous'' Berkeley High could work. Hope this helps. --an ally

I am the parent of a sophmore at Berkeley High School and based on the discussions she and I have regarding gay teens (she's heterosexual but accepting of the LBGT community) kids are able to be themselves because there are other kids just like them. Also there are staff members who are lesbian and gay (and open about it) and there are support groups for these teens and the school has a health center that also offers counseling for kids to have an outlet to talk to someone. For the most part from what I've observed from being on campus is that these kids are more welcomed opposed to being outcast. I also would like to say my daughter has a teacher who falls in this catergory that we absolutely adore (my daughter stops by her class just to hang out and chat afterschool) because she is a good educator which is all that matters.

I'm responding late to your posting, but had a few comments. My daughter declared her bisexuality in 8th grade. She was at a Berkeley public middle school and joined the strong Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). It was a really good move for her. It helped her to define herself (or to resist definition-depending on how you want to look at it). It was a great group of kids that did many activities together. The school counselor was the adult facilitator. When she moved to Berkeley High, I asked her if she was going to join up. She didn't, but knew many members. I can't speak to how the openly gay kids are treated, but I can say that my daughter has never come home saying she was picked on or beat-up or whatever. The culture at Berkeley High is a mixed bag, but it seems to me that these days being gay or bi is not what it was when us parents were teens. It's MUCH more accepting, at least in our little bubble of Berkeley. I'm not so sure about that when venturing out into the hinterlands of Richmond or San Leandro. I tell my daughter to be careful and not be too openly affectionate with her girlfriend when she's in places that I think are less accepting. Maybe that's wrong, but I don't want anything to happen to her. She's quite aware of the homophobia that is prevalent elsewhere in the world. I think in her experience (from what I know) the public schools really do try to deal with the issues and are supportive. Now, it could be VERY different for boys. I'm not aware of openly anti-gay behavior towards the gay boys that I know. But I would encourage your son to search out the GSA at his school. It's a place to start to feel accepted in the world outside of home, and a great place to talk about feelings and issues that come up with peers. good luck!


East Bay Schools for child of same sex parents

April 2007


Our daughter is still a year from kindergarten, but we are trying to find out where the kids of same sex parents go to school. This question has been asked before, and the responses I have seen are primarily private schools. I want to know the experience of same sex parents (2 moms specifically) sending their kids to the public schools. We live in West Contra Costa County. We would like to send our daughter to public school, but we don't want her to be the only child in the school with this family model. We are open to private school as well, but were hoping to save her college savings for college, and not kindergarten. We would also like to know of any positive school experiences related to being a child of same sex parents, or any challenges you have hit along the way. Looking forward to hearing your stories! 2 mom family with awesome daughter


Other advice:

As one Mom of a two Mom family with a soon-to-be second grade girl, we have found that we were often the ''first 2 Mom family'' or the ''first Identified 2 Mom Family'' at our daughter's infant care, Small Trans Depot; preschool, Aquatic Park School and elementary school, Joaquin Miller in Oakland.

At the infant care and preschool, many other 2 Mom families joined, and by the time we left there were at least 8 at each facility. We NEVER felt slighted or out of place at either school. Some of the 2 Mom families felt more comfortable that they had another family like theirs attend first. We spent a LOT of time at the first two places answering questions about how our daughter came to be. Most people were rather appalled that although I gave birth, her other Mom had to go through a legal adoption - which our home, finances, relationship and so on were scrutinized. Most said that if traditional families had to go through the same rigor, there would be fewer children on the planet.

Then we went joined Joaquin Miller ... (GREAT school!) and thought that we would have the same questions, concerns, comments. We asked the principal how many other two Mom families there were. She said she thought there was one - but wasn't sure. From the first play days at the Roberts Park until today, we have been nothing but welcome. At the back to school picnic, the Dads Club barbequed burgers and dogs, my daughter asked about the Dad's Club and how there were no Moms, I told her ''well, that's one volunteer club I can't join.'' At that, one of the Dads said, \x93yes you can, we welcome anyone who wants to make our school the best it can be\x94 - within a couple of months I was in the Dads Club.

There are at least 5 other two Mom families at Joaquin Miller. The Principal, Teachers, PTA, Committees, Children and other overall environment has been nothing but inclusive and generous. If you are lucky enough to get to become a Joaquin Miller family, know that you will have many families who welcome you and a few that are like you.

Good luck to you! My advice is to answer the questions, join the groups and show your daughter that you are more like the school community than you are different. Another 2 Mom Family of a Terrific Daughter

You asked specifically about public schools, but you also asked for positive experiences generally, so I thought as one mom in a two-mom family I'd share some things about our daughter's private school that I think might be useful to look for in either kind of school. (1) The school has out lesbian faculty members, including some with kids. (2) The school does a unit on families in second grade that includes watching ''That's a Family'' and discussing gay and lesbian families. (3) The school library has books and videos that deal with gay and lesbian families. (4) The school provides parents of prospective students with contact information for current parents with various ''affiliations,'' including gay/lesbian (as well as adoptive, various racial, ethnic, and religious groups, etc.), who've agreed to be available to talk about their experiences at the school. This last probably isn't so applicable to public school (no admissions office to put it together), but that's what this list is for!

My impression from friends with school-age kids in the East Bay is you'll do fine (and not be alone) at pretty much any public or private school around here. Good luck!


Kids of GLBT: Where do they go to School?

April 2005

We are lesbian parents of 2 kids (one a preschooler) and are starting to look into schools. Are there schools that glbt parents tend to send their kids? Are there any that don't cost more than my college education? Our daughter attends a preschool where everyone is very gay positive but she is really starting to get bummed that her family is different than the other kids and we would like her to ''not be the only one''.


  • Aurora School
  • Black Pine Circle
  • Oxford Elementary School
  • Thousand Oaks Elementary School
  • Walden School

    Other advice:

    We are a lesbian couple living in El Cerrito and have found our neighborhood public school to be welcoming to ALL families. The teachers are excellent and my child's closest friends all live in the neighborhood, most are within walking distance.

    I would assume that most public or private schools in the East Bay would welcome a family like yours and you are more than likely to find at least one or two gay/lesbian families at any given school.

    I have been very fortunate because my kid's friends have nice parents who are very cool. I have also gotten to know a great many wonderful parents who are active/involved in the school. As far as I know, almost all of them are straight.

    Also, please keep in mind that all schools have good/bad stuff about them and a lot of ''experts'' will try to tell you that you should look for a school that will be the perfect match for your child's temperament/learning style/interests. Often these schools come with a hefty price tag or they tend to be the public school with the highest test scores and the longest waiting list. It puts a lot of pressure on parents who agonize over making the right choice. The truth is that with supportive loving parents, most children thrive in almost any school.

    BTW, we also attend the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley. It is a welcoming congregation so our children are getting a fair amount of exposure to gay families while they attend Sunday school.

    Best of luck with your search!


    Gay Friendly Private Schools

    Feb 2005

    We are in the process of applying to kindergartens for our son. Every school we look at claims to have diversity in family structures but its not always evident. Does anyone have feedback on the environment for gay families at Aurora, Black Pine Circle, Berkeley Montessori, Bentley or Redwood Day? mom of pre-schooler


  • Aurora (2)
  • Park Day School
  • Redwood Day School
  • St. Paul's Episcopal School