Johanna (she/her) reflects on how a quiet act of allyship from her favourite teacher made a world of difference to her while she was closeted at school.
Quiet support at school made a world of difference to me as a closeted trans teenager. I was 17, aware that I was not cisgender, and absolutely terrified. Although I felt unable to truly come out, I still experimented with my gender expression, namely by maintaining long hair and painted nails.
In my sixth and final year of high school I took Advanced Higher Drama and began to show a keen interest in writing about LGBTQ+ theatre for my final assignment. My teacher, Miss Marling, was very supportive of me doing this. She encouraged me to read key plays such as Angels in America and the drama department even arranged for me to meet and chat with trans playwright Jo Clifford.
Miss Marling took me to an evening event which brought together a number of LGBTQ+ creatives to discuss future events which could be held in Glasgow. I found this event to be genuinely inspiring and exciting as I heard about people’s projects and ideas for queer art in the city.
After the event, Miss Marling asked how I saw my gender. I told her that, even though I was still uncertain, I was pretty sure I was not a boy.
She was understanding and empathetic, not making a big deal of what I had told her. However, she also made it very clear that she was there for me if I needed to talk to anyone about how I was feeling.
This meant the world to me, as although I had spoken to my friends about my gender, I was still nervous about talking to any adults in my life at that point.
This quiet act of support and allyship on her part helped me to accept myself in a small way. It was important for me to know that there was a supportive adult in my life, who I could turn to if I needed to discuss this with someone.
There is a lot of panic in the media at the moment surrounding teachers being aware of their students’ questions around gender identity. This overblown debate ignores the many reasons why children don’t feel safe or comfortable talking to their parents about their gender identity.
It also ignores the massive support that teachers can offer to trans students, emphasising to them that there are safe adults to discuss their identity with.
I remained closeted for a few years after leaving high school, not fully coming out as trans until I had nearly finished University.
It was a long and difficult, but ultimately rewarding process. Having that early support in school, from a teacher who simply let me know that, whatever my identity, I had her support, made a huge difference to that journey.
It set me off on what has been a positive, life changing and beautiful path and reinforced that there were always going to be people in the world who would support me for who I was.
If media reports about the schools’ guidance are true, the Government may force teachers to out trans students to their parents, if they were to have conversations like I’d had with Miss Marling.
Children and young people need space and support to fully explore their identity. A caring, listening teacher can provide that, as Miss Marling did for me.
If this guidance had been in force while I was at school, I would have been denied that space. It would have made my journey of self acceptance even more challenging than it already was.
Instead, I was listened to, understood and supported. This was life changing in a small but important way. Miss Marling’s support became an important stepping stone in my journey to self acceptance.
We’re building a world where all students can feel supported and embraced at school. Help us make change by writing to your MP today to ask them to stand up for trans students – it takes two minutes.