During the winter of 2011, I was moving through some of the more overtly physical phases of gender transition. At the time, I was also a grade 6 teacher in a public elementary school. My presence as a visibly transitioning person in that environment was never intended to be a coming out; it was a choosing in… and there is a difference. I was “out” because I was visibly different, and I was visible because that difference was not expected. I - as a teacher of young children who identifies as a non-binary person, as genderqueer, as trans, and even as someone who is not willing to be ashamed of all that – was not expected. Well-intended and well-documented antidiscrimination policies defended my right to be an educator in theory, but there remained a distinct lack of people and/or practices in place that could help me to feel more welcomed in that role – or even less alone. I think that the less visible aspects of how we identify ourselves as humans are often labeled “secrets” when they are not expected, and considering that the keeping of secrets is often conflated with a rationale that encourages people to feel shame, social institutions have become very efficient at silencing unexpected differences as a matter of course.

Author Biography

benjamin lee hicks is a visual artist, elementary school teacher, and graduate student. They taught in JK – grade 6 classrooms in the Toronto District School Board for eight years prior to beginning an MA in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. benjamin is interested in how we can better support teachers to expect queerness and prepare for multi-dimensional gender identity in elementary school classrooms.



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