Commentary

What a transphobic teacher needs to learn from an amazing 5-year-old transgender girl

Ellie
Ellie © Jill Promoli, All Rights Reserved.

Dear Ms. Kirksey,

In the Bible, the book of Proverbs advocates for using a rod on children in five different instances. In the book of Deuteronomy it mandates that rebellious sons who do not listen to their fathers or mothers be stoned to death. You may have a deep-seated religious conviction that everything the Bible says is true and literal, and you may feel a duty to follow it. But I can assure you that if you followed it to the letter with one of my children in your care, I would not stop at getting you fired. I would seek to have you arrested and put away for a long, long time.

There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that addresses modern kids and the transgender process. And yet you assert that your refusal to address a transgender child by the right name and pronoun somehow flies in the face of your biblical learning. You have flouted parental instruction as to the needs of their child. Instead, you have chosen to challenge the child’s identity on a daily basis. Behavior by adults like you toward transgender children has resulted in this: More than 50 percent of unsupported transgender youth will have made at least one suicide attempt by their twentieth birthday. By contrast, when adults respect the identity of transgender children, according to a study by Trans PULSE, the number of suicide attempts drops by 95 percent.

Your behavior is monstrous. You do not get to cane children with a rod. You do not get to stone them. And you do not get to destroy their self-worth and image. You do not get to do any of that for the sake of your own selfish belief system. There is something greater than dogmatic belief: a common and enlightened sense of dignity.

There is a fabulous little transgender girl named Ellie. Her name means “shining light.” Your name derives from Mary Magdalene, a woman who witnessed such a light and a resurrection. And now it’s time you witnessed a child’s resurrection into the life they need to live in order to thrive and grow.

Your choice is clear, Ms. Kirksey. You could be the teacher whose image a transgender person remembers on the night they decide to end it all just to get your incessant voice repeating the wrong name over and over out of their head. Or, you could be one of their safeguards, the one who told them they could be the best form of themselves. You can be part of what helps them die, or you can be part of what helps them change the world. Vanessa and Ron—as loving, caring parents—have made their choice, as did the parents of your transgender student. They have learned the lessons of listening and love.

The role of a teacher is to guide and inspire. A person who picks denying a child’s very identity, thus nudging them down the path of self-destruction, is not fit to teach.

It is you, Ms. Kirksey, who needs to be taught.

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