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By Cheryl Jackson

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 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. Since her talk, Claire has been nominated for Positive Role Model of the Year by the National Diversity Awards in the UK. We’re thrilled and we think she deserves the award.

While in Toronto, 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.

Claire’s talk was deeply moving – she took us with her on her personal journey. Here it is: