What happens when you hear the people you love say things like “And to think his mother wanted a boy” or “It would be easier if you transitioned in the south”? How do you navigate a world where you can’t be who you know you are without feeling shame and fear? And what happens when you finally do let the world know who you really are? These are the questions Claire Birkenshaw answered for us last night at our Speaker Series about the trans experience in education.
Claire was the first person to transition while working as a school principal in the UK. She now consults, advocates and speaks about her experience. Claire wants education, and society, to learn and adapt. She wants children to see her as a role model who lives her life with truth and integrity, so that they can too.
Claire’s talk was deeply moving. After she spoke, we heard from a panel of guests who have their own experiences in the trans community – parent Michelle Sparrow spoke about her teenage son who has transitioned, Cecilio Escobar spoke about his transition experience with his family, friends and school, and Gaela Mintz spoke about what she sees and teaches as a social worker with the Toronto District School Board.
Claire also visited a TDSB Grade 8 Roots of Empathy classroom where she told students the story of her transition. The students called her ‘inspirational’ and said it takes kindness and empathy to include those who are different in any way.
If you’d like to hear Claire take you through her journey, check back here soon. I’ll post the video link to her talk here. Until then….
– Cheryl Jackson