Trans identities and trans lives have often been presented as a set of issues to be encountered and somehow solved.
Frequently the two - encounter and solve - are separated by vast amounts of panic.
Often trans lives are seen as needing to be owned; paternally, and resolved by the non-trans world (cis).
Meetings are planned and vast amounts of oxygen are wasted as the non-trans people, say in a workplace like a school, decide what needs to be done, who needs to be told, what toilets need to be used/adapted. How the curriculum should change, for how long it should change, how much time do parents, carers, governors, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all need to digest and come to terms with this trans presence.
What will it mean for standards?
What effect will it have on the children?
The meetings have often spiralled downwards, tumbling into offensive rhetoric; when will you look like a woman, a man? When will you pass, wear more makeup, less makeup? When will you dress like a man/woman? When will you have surgery? Have you had surgery? Are you gay/straight/lesbian? Do you have sex? Have you had sex? I bet you can't wait to have sex?
Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex...
It goes on and on. A long line of drivel driven by panic, ignorance and privilege.
On the other side of this barrage is a person, a human being who has pushed through darkness, often depression and fragility to a place of utter bravery, pure bravery. Often but not always they are alone and may have lost connections, loved ones, friends and intimate family to get to this point. Yet at this point they are sometimes dehumanised, interrogated and rationalised.
Thankfully in schools the situation is changing, very slowly, sometimes school by school, area by area, diocese by diocese, Academy by Academy.
Our very fractured educational system doesn't help; but networks are being created, networks of trans teachers and their allies. Great Heads who have realised what I have been saying since I started the work, I do that;
- Transitioning in schools is only a big deal if you make it one.
- That trans teachers are aspirational, they embody the qualities we should all seek - courage, determination, resilience to name a few. Certainly these are qualities we should want our young people to encounter on a daily basis.
- That trans pupils (they are in every school) need role models and happy, successful teachers are great role models, especially if they transition without fuss and with the support of all concerned. If their process is celebrated as part of the schools daily business.
When I first tried to transition as a teacher the language, the structures, the cultural reference points were not there, it was like I had asked for the impossible. Now when I go into schools and other educational spaces there is a real openness and desire to get this right. To embrace and create policy from kindness and respect.
We know that people denied their right to express themselves authentically are incredibly unhappy, unproductive members of our society, why wouldn't schools and other places of work support someone's most personal need to be true to themselves.