Teachers, a group of adults that are probably one of the largest influence on both my struggles and acceptance of my transgender identity. I haven’t always known I was transgender, but I have had the sense of feeling male since early elementary school. Prior to the fun and excitement of puberty, my dysphoria was more social than physical. I would often feel extremely uncomfortable and awkward whenever teachers addressed me as a “young lady”. I would also become very angry and jealous whenever I hear teachers refer to one of my male classmates as a “gentleman” or a “nice young man”. I got very jealous, simply because I knew I would never be acknowledged as male.
Besides the struggles with gender dysphoria, I also struggled with the fears of the potential consequences of teachers figuring out that I was trans. I was horrified by the possibility that this piece of information about me could circulate back to my family. From seeing a teacher scolding a female classmate for wanting to be called by the male version of her name (I do not know for certain if my classmate is trans identified), to hearing another teacher state out loud “I can’t believe there’s a gay club in this school” when he learned about the establishment of the school GSA.
All of these experiences had caused me to feel tremendous amount of fear, shame, and frustration in regards to my transgender identity. I was fearful of the prejudice I could face, ashamed of my inability to be female, and frustrated with the fact that I will likely face lifetime of discrimination solely because I was transgender. Even though I have never been directly threatened or scolded by teachers, the things that they have said continue to linger in my mind years after I have graduated from high school.
I certainly have had many difficult experiences, but I feel extremely fortunate to also have had positive experiences as well. In one particular situation, roughly about a year ago, I came out to a former teacher who had known me since I was in junior high. Even though it has been years since have graduated from junior high, I have continued to volunteer at school camps organized by my teacher. I made the decision to come out only because I could no longer tolerate being addressed by my birth name. I walked into that situation fully expecting him to cut off all contact with me, or at the very least feel extremely awkward interacting with me. Prior to the day I came out to him, I had mentally prepared myself for the possibility of being cut off from volunteering and contributing to the school camp that I have enjoyed being a part of since I was a junior high student. Contrary to my fears, my teacher did not react with any intense emotions, or make any attempts to invalidate or question my identity. The one thing that he told me, that really stood out for me was that “this was never something that ever concerned”, and that he knows that I’m a “quality person”. It truly meant a lot to have the acceptance of someone who was like a dad to me.
I was not out to any of my teachers until I had graduated from high school out of the fears of the repercussions if they did not react positively. They are obviously not my biological family, but I surmise that coming out to some of my former teachers is likely how it would feel like to come out to parents. In my particular situation, this is likely as close as I will ever get to how it feels to be fully accepted and respected by a parent. I know that I am incredibly fortunate that despite knowing about transgender identity the former teachers that I have come out to are still able to see as a whole person, not just as a trans person. To have the complete and almost immediate acceptance of the teachers who were and still are important mentors in my life has allowed me to more fully accept the trans aspect of my identity.