In 2010, I began my final descent to becoming a teacher; a semester long practicum. Being in the classroom wasn’t new – my program had me in different schools for at least fifteen hours a week each term. But somehow I had this sinking feeling that I would struggle with something I’d noticed lacked in schools: visibility of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) teachers. Would I need to be closeted about my LGBTQ identity? This is something I continue to question even five years later.
Being a member of the LGBTQ community and a teacher can feel isolating at times. With every step we take, we’re aware of different legal issues like: can I be out and keep my job? The National Center For Transgender Equality shows that only nineteen states right now have employment protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity.
When I began my first teaching job in the fall of 2010, it was assumed by many what my sexual orientation was based on my butch appearance, though I never formally announced it. I stood out like a sore thumb alongside my feminine colleagues. I stood proud and didn’t feel that anyone was rude, but we kept our conversations safe: work talk, hobbies, etc… never venturing into the questions of the unknown. What would happen, though, if I got married to my girlfriend? We’ve all seen the articles of teachers being fired for simply talking about getting married to someone of the same sex. I didn’t end up having to confront those fears, but instead one that was just as daunting.
Internally at this time I was struggling, questioning my gender identity. When making the necessary decision to transition from female to male, I was terrified and had worked myself into a tizzy feeling that I’d be thrown out of the profession. I scoured the internet and other resources looking for signs of past trail blazers in K-12 education who were successful in transitioning on the job. Alas, I didn’t find anyone. It came time to make a decision.The fact that I received negative messages personally made this process and necessary step that much more risky. In the end, I was able to take my leap.
I’ve changed around my colleagues. Every little squeak of a voice, facial hair, and structural change was visible. But, was it? I’m living my life and hope that other transgender individuals will live their dream of being in education.
As I approach my fourth year of full-time teaching, I’ve become more and more comfortable and ready to start advocating. It’s time to have more active voices to show that you can be an educator and of trans experience.
I’m a special educator, writer, advocate, and man of transgender experience.