By: Alexander Walker
Bullying isn’t isolated only to students at school. It affects the teachers, administrators, and staff as well. For many LGBTQ teachers this is a common occurrence.
Earlier this month, Karis Anne Ross’s mother Jill Grienke came forward to make sure Milwaukee Public Schools handle future bullying situations differently. Karis was a transgender woman who was a long time special educator of the German Immersion Public School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In November 2014 she committed suicide after being bullied for years. Her own colleagues were said to have bullied her before and after her transition.
As a native Wisconsinite, a man of trans experience, and a special educator, it pains me to see another life lost within the transgender community. When I transitioned, I made a decision to keep my trans status private. One of my biggest fears was not being able to stay in the teaching profession. I was lucky to be able to start a new job and have a clean slate to build my career. In the past few months, I’ve become more open, but I still walk a fine line of being out about my past or not each day.
As current and future educators, we need to support not only our students, but also our fellow colleagues. Our students need role models that are of all different experiences. This includes LGBTQ teachers. All too often, LGBTQ educators feel a need to be closeted in order to keep their job. If students see their teachers being bullied, they will reciprocate this to others. Does this help develop students’ ability to be inclusive of all people? No.
So how can we build a model of respect of our fellow educators? Educate yourself. Take some time to follow current news on the climate of being transgender. A good place to do this is Advocate.com. Read a book to understand the different aspects of transition. Start with Trans 101 By Nicholas Teich, Redefining Realness By Janet Mock, Getting Bi By Robin Ochs, and Fingind Masculinity By Alexander Walker and Emmett J. P. Lundberg. Consider watching a documentary or web series about and by trans people (here’s a good starting point: Web Series or Documentaries on LGBTQ Lives) and Eden’s Garden. Seek out information and resources like: PFLAG’s Our Trans Loved Ones: Questions and Answers For Parents, Families, and Friends Of People Who Are Transgender And Gender Expansive.
Our students need role models of all kinds. Transgender individuals are still working for rights to simply be themselves. We’ve lost too many members of our community to suicide and violence. Will you be a part of creating a climate of acceptance and change?
Alexander Walker is a special education teacher, writer, man of trans experience, and community activist. He holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from DePaul University and an M.Ed. in Special Education from Lesley University. Currently he teaches students with dyslexia in the elementary grades. He is the co-editor and contributor to the newly released book Finding Masculinity: Female to Male Transition In Adulthood published by Magnus Books an Imprint of Riverdale Avenue Books.You can read more of his writing about creating inclusive schools for LGBTQIA youth at www.evolvinggender.com.