Teachers who came out as transgender people at school motivate students and colleagues to practice their truths

Michael Megenbir is a person who usually separates his personal life from work. That is, until a certain day in June 2017.

Sitting among other educators in the Regina school library where he was working at the time, the strongly supportive teacher stood up at the year-end staff meeting and announced to his colleagues that he was transgender.

“I really love and respect all of you, and I think you all feel the same for me,” recalled Megan Bill, 37.

He continued to tell them that when they returned to work in the fall, he would change his name to Michael and use his/his pronouns.

Megan Bill looked at the room, her palms sweating.

He said: “I remember looking out, seeing faces, focusing on a few staff members I was very close to, just looking at them and smiling.”

Then came applause.

Megan Bill said: “To be honest, it’s a bit overwhelming, but it’s a good way.” “It gives me a little confidence, it just lets me know that I’m doing the right thing.”

In 2018, Megenbir underwent the long-awaited top-of-the-line surgery. This is the first time in decades that he said he “feels comfortable with his skin.” (Submitted by Michael Megan Beer)

Allison Boulanger had known Megenbir many years before his transition. He was his friend and colleague. He remembered smiling and applauding in the crowd.

“When he got up and told the staff, you could see that this was correct for him, and that he needed to live his own life-and live his own life truly,” she recalled.

Megenbir is convinced that he has the support of his colleagues and school management; what he cannot predict is how his openness to his identity will inspire his students and colleagues to practice their truths and pave the way for more conversations about integration into the school Level road.

‘Business as usual’

Fast forward to the new school year that fall, and Megan Bill said it was a welcome surprise to notice that the way people treated him was “almost unchanged.” He joked that it was almost like his colleague was practicing in the summer.

“It’s the same as usual,” he said with a smile.

Megenbir pointed out that seemingly small things, such as his use of pronouns and new names, have the greatest impact on feeling accepted. In case people mess up, they will correct themselves quickly without attracting people’s attention.

“This is his happiest time,” Boulanger remembered to notice. “You can say he feels like himself.”

In the second year, Megan Bill had been waiting for a long time Top Surgery — Mastectomy and breast plastic surgery. “Since I was about nine or ten years old, this is the first time in my life that I feel comfortable with my skin,” he said.

Megenbir dressed up as Kenny Rogers for Halloween in 2019, while his friend and colleague Allison Boulanger dressed up as Dolly Parton. (Submitted by Michael Megan Beer)

Make students feel “a little bit better”

When Megenbir had the opportunity to help establish the Gay Alliance (GSA) in the school, it naturally sparked a conversation with the students about his gender identity.

On the first day of GSA, when he asked everyone to introduce themselves, he said: “I am very happy to be here and become a member of GSA, because I am a transgender person”-which surprised some students.

I hope that all my students learn from any encounter with me is that it is okay to be yourself.–Michael Megan Beer

Some children told Megenbir that he was the first person they met in the LGBTQ community. At that time, he knew to share a person, and he added a layer of support for those children who needed it.

He said: “I hope my students learn from any personal encounters with me that it is okay to be yourself.” “As an educator, if this is the only thing I teach students, I will feel that I have finished my job.”

Megenbir and his former student Rylan Moir showed off their matching beards at the 2018 Regina Pride Festival. Megenbir said the support he received from students and their parents during the transition was “very positive”. (Submitted by Michael Megan Beer)

As a teacher outside the LGBTQ community, Boulanger stated that using Megenbir as a resource for students throughout the school proved invaluable.

“I always tell students,’If you want to talk to me, I’m here,’ but Mike is just the person they are attracted to because he only knows what happened and how they felt,” she said. “He just has a way to make them feel more understood.”

Looking back at his childhood in rural Saskatchewan, Megan Beal wondered how much his gender identity journey might have been if he had a teacher who was open to homosexuality or a resource such as GSA.

He believes that if he has these positive influences, he may not be able to live out his truth until he is 30 years old.

He said: “It’s hard to feel that I’m different, and because of this, I feel that I have a problem.”

He cited a photo of himself wearing a skirt at his parents’ wedding as an example.

Michael Megenbir looked at his childhood photos and said that he didn’t know who he used to be on the outside; however, inside, he said that he “is exactly the same now, but with a different packaging.” (Jie Xidong/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

“When I was young, I never liked dressing up, especially skirts,” he said. “This photo is how my family explained who I am and what I have always been like: a little silly, dancing with my own drums, and not caring about what other people think of me.

“I am exactly the same now, but the packaging is different.”

LGBTQ in the classroom

Raylee Perkins, a teacher librarian at another school in Regina, said it is also important to talk about LGBTQ representatives among teachers.

“No matter what a person’s coming out story is, it is usually sad, immersed in trauma,” Perkins said. “Seeing someone as happy as Mike and exuding this kind of love and joy shows that you can have that kind of happiness in the future-and you don’t always see this kind of happiness in books or on TV.”

Raylee Perkins, a librarian in Regina, publicly stated that she is queer at the school. She said that it is important for teachers and students to see LGBTQ role models with positive experiences. (Richard Agkutai/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

This is part of the reason why Perkins is open to being considered queer in school. But it also means that despite the best efforts of her allies, the promotion of LGBTQ inclusion in the classroom often falls on her shoulders.

“Sometimes, it feels like I am the only weird voice in the room or a weird voice in conversation. It’s really tiring,” she said.

According to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education’s website, the government is “committed to ensuring that schools provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students, including those who identify with gender and/or sexual orientation.”

This includes encouraging school departments to formulate policies that specifically include groups such as GSA to create a safe space for LGBTQ students and their allies.The province Deepen the discussion: gender and sexual diversity The 2015 framework also includes courses for teachers and school administrators.

Regina’s public school board has also recently passed unanimously Train teachers and staff on gender and sexual diversity.

Although there is LGBTQ inclusiveness in the curriculum, Boulanger said there are still some teachers who do not cover it in the classroom.

“If they can start talking about it and talk to people who identify as LGBTQ, it might help them realize that this is not a terrible thing; it is something that needs to be learned and grown,” she said.

Create more spaces for transgender tolerance

To ensure that her classroom or library is clearly inclusive of transgender people, Perkins hung up posters describing the room as a safe space, and she wore rainbow pins and pronoun buttons.

“For some children, they will never notice those small details, but for children who need it, they will notice even the smallest details,” she said.

Perkins also emphasized not to shy away from answering difficult questions and having more complicated conversations with her students.

Megenbir’s friend and former colleague Allison Boulanger said that publicly LGBTQ teachers can give students a sense of belonging. (Richard Agkutai/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Boulanger agreed. She said that besides classes around diversity and identity, she found informal chats with students the most influential.

Looking back at Megenbir’s positive “coming out story” at work, Perkins said that it created a safe place for other LGBTQ people.

“Both [students and teachers] Think of him as a role model or hope-whatever it is to them,” she said. “The more we can see it and talk about it, instead of being afraid of these conversations and facing them head-on, I think we will achieve more More progress. “

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