US: More Than Half Of Transgender Teachers Surveyed Tell NPR They Are Harassed At Work

More than half of transgender teachers face harassment or discrimination in the workplace, according to an NPR Ed survey of transgender and gender-nonconforming educators.

The survey of 79 trans and gender-nonconforming teachers from the U.S. and Canada found that the harassment they face ranges widely: from 20 percent who reported verbal harassment, to 17 percent who said they'd been asked to change how the present themselves, such as their clothing, to two teachers who said they'd been fired.

"I was horribly harassed by a coworker and very little was done about it," said Lauren Heckathorne of Evanston, Ill., who identifies as nonbinary. "The focus was on making [the harasser] more comfortable."

These findings come from our online survey, and follow-up interviews by phone and in person with two dozen of the 79 teachers who responded.


Despite the challenges they face, a majority of these teachers also said they have tried to integrate LGBT-related topics into their teaching. Many also mentioned advising LGBT awareness groups for students, training peers or addressing the topic in venues such as school assemblies.

And, they told us, they see schools as crucial spaces not only of learning, but of safety, for the next generation.

"I don't think I've ever seen a supportive parent for my LGBT kids," says Chris Smith, who teaches many recent immigrants in a high school in New York City. Considering the high rates of bullying, homelessness and even suicide among LGBT youth, these teachers say their work can be a matter of life and death.

Forty percent of the teachers told us their students were more accepting of them than were the adults at school.

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