Transgender Teachers: In Their Own Voices

Transgender Teachers: In Their Own Voices

NPR  LA Johnson  Clare Lombardo

NPR Ed has been reporting this month on the lives of transgender educators around the country. We surveyed 79 educators from the U.S. and Canada, and they had a lot to say – about their teaching, their identities and their roles in the lives of young people. We reported the survey findings here, and followed with this story about how educators are coming together to organize and to share their experiences in the classroom, and in their lives.

We asked our survey respondents to send in a selfie and tell us what they wish others knew about them as a trans- or gender nonconforming (T/GNC) educator. Here are some of their responses.

Benjamin Kennedy, early childhood and higher education, Vermont

"The one thing I wish people knew about being a T/GNC educator is how resilient you must be! Each choice about what pieces or how much of your identity to share is extremely intentional, and fighting off the fear of being 'found out' by unaccepting colleagues or families is exhausting. At the end of the day, it's all worth it – my kids have taught me more about myself and unconditional acceptance than I ever imagined."

Deena Dawn Larsen, English teacher, Manitowoc, Wis.

Courtesy of Deena Dawn Larsen

"A year ago, I legally changed my name. This fall, I fully transitioned at work, presenting as my authentic self in front of my students for the first time. My fear was that my transition would adversely affect the learning. In reality, my transition has been a non-issue. The staff, students, and parents have been amazing. I am able to focus on teaching and students can focus on learning. I am comforted knowing that my students see me as an educator who has their best interest at heart."

Jennifer Eller, tutor, Washington, D.C.

"Because I am a transgender woman, parents and colleagues assume I am muddling through or that my gender handicaps me. In fact, I am highly qualified, hold multiple degrees, and scored in the top 1 percent nationally on the Praxis content exam. My gender adds to these skills, rather than detracts; my experiences have taught me sensitivity to differences, the importance of representation and inclusivity in education and the importance of practicing empathy in the classroom.

"The one thing I wish people knew about being a T/GNC educator is the social and professional weight of transgender and gender non-conforming identities. We are under constant scrutiny by administration, colleagues, parents and students who hyper-focus on our identities and the 'wisdom' of allowing trans- and gender nonconforming instructors to teach. In the face of this bias, we are forced to work twice as hard as our colleagues to be considered half as capable. If we did not have to invest large portions of our time and resources into defending ourselves and our right to basic dignity, we could be even more invested in our students."

Ei Meeker, English and health teacher, New York City

"The one thing I wish people knew about being a T/GNC educator is how remarkable it feels to see my students perceiving vulnerability as a strength, and then take action to educate their community."

Read the full article here: NPRed How Learning Happens