Waymon Hudson

A Trans Story of Support and Acceptance

Filed By Waymon Hudson | August 20, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: LGBT youth, Massachusetts, school, transgender, transition

If only all stories of transition turned out this way...

bonin1.jpgAn article in Massachusetts's Worcester Telegram tells the story of Brianna Bonin, a 54 year-old transwoman who is a night custodian at Clara Barton Elementary School. The article is about the acceptance and support Brianna is finding at work from both the school administration and coworkers as she begins her transition. Parents of the students at the school will be receiving a letter from both Ernest L. Boss, superintendent of schools, and Principal Norman P. Yvon, explaining Brianna's transition. Said Boss:

We alerted parents to make it easier on them. It's her life. We won't tolerate prejudice. We teach our kids understanding and tolerance.

The letter to parents will read:

Our night custodian has informed us of his decision to change his gender and, as we begin the school year, he will begin living and working as a woman. He has been a valued employee of the Oxford Public Schools for many years, and we expect his exemplary performance to continue as he changes gender roles.

Brianna said she was terrified that by transitioning she would lose her job, but has instead found support from the community and the school administration. She already had difficulties with her family when she began her transition. Her wife is divorcing her and her son has had issues with her transition. Her daughter, however, has been supportive. The difficulties with her family make the support of her coworkers even more important. As one of her fellow custodians, Stephen S. Anderson said,

I think it's fantastic. Whatever makes her happy makes me happy...

It is a wonderful story of workplace support that is too often not the case for transgender workers, who have little or no protection from firing or employment discrimination. Perhaps Brianna speaks about the weight lifted off of her shoulders best as she encourages other transpeople to be themselves:

It can be scary, but be yourself. You don't have to suffer. I suffered -- so did people around me. I was frustrated. Now, I'm so happy. I feel fantastic. I'm happier than I've ever been.

(h/t Queerty)

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My wife heard this one today and came downstairs to my desk to tell me about it. IT was nice to hear and made me a little glad that I live in Mass.

Remember the school didn't have to do this: Mass has employment protection for GLB, but not T.

There's plenty of Mass employers - including GLB owned ones - who would have summarily fired her. This time last year, I met a woman in Thailand from Boston, and she'd just been let go the day before leaving for surgery. Yes, a GLB-owned business too. They'd led her to believe that there was no problem until she was in no situation to complain. The letter from HR was very careful to explicity state that it wasn't because of her sexual orientation, but because she was transgender.

I glad for the support Brianna is getting from her coworkers and the school administration, but I fail to see why her transition is a matter of such importance that the school felt it necessary to inform the parents of every student in the school.

I think that's called "heading it off at the pass," Abby. LOL

Good for the school district.

First, awesome story, and I am glad that this woman is doing well at her job. We need more good stories.

I am very frustrated however that there is so much discrimination against trans people that we "have to " disclose our personal information to the world, just to keep a job. Disclosure to the public without education does little, and can lead to harassment by the community at large. (learned from personal experience.) It also puts the transperson in a position of having to be the educator to keep their job.

As Mila said, the only reason the school felt it necessary to "head it off at the pass" by revealing Brianna's transition to parents is the discrimination and prejudice that trans people face every day. What other medical condition do you know of that the school would have treated that way? Does the school notify every parent when a teacher or employee in the school office starts wearing head scarves because she is undergoing treatment for cancer and has lost all her hair? For that matter, do they inform parents when they hire a lesbian or gay teacher? Of course not!

Brianna's transition is a private matter between her employer and herself. The only people that needed to be informed were the students, if any, and other employees with whom she comes in contact during the normal course of her job.

When are employers going to develop the guts to say that transition is just one more thing that people in our society go through and is not something they need to feel defensive about or explain, and that personal feelings about the appropriateness of transition is something that people just have to deal with on their own? I hope I live long enough to see that day.