BOSTON – Transgender teachers have it really rough, according to National Public Radio.
NPR recently highlighted several transgender teachers to relay their trials and tribulations in the education field, particularly the alleged discrimination they face when transitioning to a different gender at school.
The transgender teacher feature comes amid a national debate on how transgender folks fit into public schools – including school policies on bathrooms, locker rooms and sports participation – and is clearly designed to solicit sympathy for educators who make the decision to transition to a different sex.
“Everybody told me it was a horrible idea,” Kelly Jenkins, a Boston teacher’s aide, told NPR about starting a career in education. “They said, ‘Nobody will ever hire you as a transgender woman.”
Jenkins, who was born male but “feels” female, initially took the advice and became a firefighter, but later decided to pursue her passion for teaching. At first, Jenkins worked as a male teacher at Knox County Schools in Tennessee and secretly transitioned to female while at home.
“I didn’t tell anybody anything,” she said.
She later told a co-worker about her situation and was fired when her contract expired.
Jenkins repeated that pattern in other school districts, where she was allegedly ostracized by her coworkers and shunned by parents.
“In some of my classes,” Jenkins said, “like half of my kids were pulled out.”
Jenkins quit teaching and became a pizza delivery person, though she eventually landed a job in Boston where she now works with transgender students as a teacher’s aide while she pursues a Massachusetts teaching certificate.
She’s now adored by her principal and hosts a local TV show about transgender stuff.
“First and foremost, Kelly is an excellent educator,” David Lussier, superintendent of Wellesley Public Schools, told NPR. “Having Kelly’s guidance on (transgender issues) has been a huge help for us.”
The publicly funded news service also highlighted the plight of Nathan Williams, who taught English in at a Georgia high school for a decade before becoming Natalie Williams.
Williams’ story mirrored Jenkins’, though she was never fired for her gender confusion.
At first, Williams went to work as a man and dressed up like a woman at home. But one day when she ventured out as Natalie to a local cosmetic store, she was busted by one of her students.
“She came up to me and I was like, ‘Well …uh,’” Williams told NPR. “Does this freak you out?”
“And without missing a beat, she just said, ‘No, you always told us to be who we really are.’”
Williams said she later came clean to school officials about her gender issues, and transitioned to a woman at school.
Some parents complained, and some of her coworkers now give her dirty looks, but she’s otherwise endured.
The bottom line: both teachers faced difficulties for choosing to change their gender, but things worked out, and now they’re both doing pretty well for themselves.