Louisville’s Transgender Students: How Schools Are Places Of Support And Stress

Yesterday, we heard from Henry Brousseau, who talked about the importance of pronoun usage to transgender students. Today, we’ll hear from Max St. John who shares his story about what happens when appropriate pronouns aren’t used.

St. John attends Doss High School and says staff and teachers have been supportive since he came out as transgender. But the classroom can also be stressful because many students and teachers don’t know much about transgender culture.

During his sophomore year, an issue arose when his history class had a substitute teacher.

“My teacher didn’t leave a note explaining anything,” says St. John.

The substitute had students in class help with attendance, “so students had seen by birth name before I had actually had it changed,” he says.  ”It led to students using the wrong name, because my birth name is rather feminine.”

That’s when students also began challenging St. John’s gender identity.

“It made me really upset because the substitute teacher didn’t do anything about it. He was sitting there watching as it happened. It was right in front of him and I was almost to the point in tears,” he says. “He pulled me out of the classroom saying, ‘Don’t listen to them. You’re a beautiful young lady.’ Even though I kept trying to explain to him, ‘But I’m not a lady, I’m a boy.’”

Eventually, St. John “ran” to the counselor, who better understood his situation. Immediately he was switched classes, and school staff spoke with the substitute teacher. The students were also reprimanded, but that didn’t stop rumors from spreading. Some of his peers began asking “very intimate questions that was none of their business,” he says.

St. John says the educators and staff at Doss High are very supportive.

“I haven’t had any problem with any teacher. I’m best friends with all of my teachers. They are very supportive,” he says.

We’ll continue exploring the difficulties transgender students face in schools throughout the week. Stay tuned.

Devin Katayama

Devin Katayama host middays for WFPL and reports on education and other Louisville issues.

@DevinWFPL

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