When children are born, they are designated as either male or female and treated as such. Boys get blue blankets and girls get pink ones. Toys, activities and other things are divided along distinct gender lines, and children who step across those boundaries are looked at as violating the norm - or at least they were in the past.
Last year, the American Psychiatric Association removed "gender identity disorder" from its list of mental health ailments, a move that reflects the view shared by many experts that the gender spectrum includes those who are transgender and those who are gender variant, or gender nonconforming.
The removal of gender identity disorder from the list of mental health ailments reflects the reality that many more kids are challenging the boundaries of traditional gender, and going public about their non-traditional gender roles at younger ages.
"Now these kids are beginning to have a voice and I think that's what's been making things interesting and challenging — and difficult, sometimes — depending on the family, the kid, or the school," says Dr. Robert Garofalo, director of the Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV Prevention at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
With the number of alternative gender students on the rise, schools must now figure out how to accommodate them. It’s not always easy, but making life easier for these students could save lives, The New York Post reported.
According to a 2010 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 41 percent of transgender people surveyed said they had attempted suicide. That figure rose to 51 percent for those who said they'd also been bullied, harassed, assaulted or expelled because they were transgender or gender nonconforming at school.
With schools starting to give their transgender or gender nonconforming students a chance to live more openly, things might improve.
"I'll be really curious to see what this next generation looks like," says Masen Davis, the executive director of the Transgender Law Center. "I'm hopeful."