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Transsexual Teacher in Vancouver, BC, Canada

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In mid-December a news story broke about an elementary school teacher who had been teaching successfully in the Vancouver, BC school system for a decade. The popular teacher had taken the Fall semester off on leave and is returning in January. Why is this newsworthy, you ask? This particular educator left at the end of the school year as a man, and is returning as a woman.

I watched with interest to see how the media would handle this hot potato. And I was pleasantly surprised. The school district had prepared the students and staff about the issue of transsexualism in an accurate and dispassionate manner. The children interviewed seemed a little confused about why anyone was paying such close attention to what they had come to see as a corrected medical condition (which, of course, it is). The school staff was supportive as well.

It was only a few of the students’ parents who were upset, some even removing their children from the ‘offending’ teacher’s classroom. Fathers voiced flimsily-veiled homophobic concerns while the mothers cautioned that children of this age (grade five) were curious about sex and bodies and school was no place for them to learn this sort of information. They were concerned about protecting their children from any sexual information. They seemed to fear that transsexualism was contagious, and knowledge would make the tots susceptible to the disease. How sad.

Like all news, though, this issue got old fast, and the overall impression I got was that the students, the staff, and the school district were all squarely behind this popular and effective teacher, whatever the presentation. The TV stations and newspapers reported from many viewpoints and refused to vilify the transsexual condition. I’m proud of my city. This may well foretell a welcome adoption of flexible and inclusive values and attitudes. I’m hoping so.

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