A transgender first grade teacher told a group of kindergartners, first graders, and second graders that when babies are born, doctors “guess” if they’re boys or girls — but the teacher added that “sometimes the doctor is wrong” and “makes an incorrect guess.”
The teacher, Ray Skyer, posted a Facebook video last month showing the “Identity Share” Zoom session with elementary-aged students from Brooke Roslindale, a charter public school about 30 minutes south of Boston.
Here’s a clip of the transgender portion of Skyer’s address to the young students:
So something that’s really cool and unique about who I am is that I am transgender. […]
So when babies are born, the doctor looks at them, and they make a guess about whether the baby is a boy or girl based on what they look like. And most of the time that guess is 100% correct; there are no issues whatsoever. But sometimes the doctor is wrong; the doctor makes an incorrect guess. When a doctor makes a correct guess, that’s when a person is called cisgender. When a doctor’s guess is wrong that’s when they are transgender.
So I’m a man, but when I was a baby, the doctors told my parents I was a girl. And so my parents gave me a name that girls typically have and bought me clothes that girls typically wear, and until I was 18 years old everyone thought I was a girl. And this was super, super uncomfortable for me because I knew that wasn’t right. The way I like to describe it is like wearing a super-itchy sweater. The longer you wear it the itchier it gets, and the only way to make the itching stop is to have everyone see and know the person that you really are. So when I was 18, I told my family and my friends that I’m really a boy, and it was like this huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders, and I had the freedom to be who I truly am. And even though this experience is super-challenging sometimes … it made me the person I am, and I’m super-proud to be transgender.
The text accompanying Skyer’s longer Facebook video of the Zoom call is titled “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN??” It reads as follows:
Whenever there are bills introduced targeting trans youth, we always hear the argument that these laws are “protecting” their peers and “preventing confusion.” At this point, I’ve had many conversations with many young children (I’m a 1st grade teacher) about what being transgender is and never once have I been met with any fear or confusion. I’ve even been the recipient of a group hug! Children just get it, it’s as simple as that.
This is a video from an Identity Share I did yesterday over Zoom with many of our kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade students. When I opened up my classroom’s Zoom room immediately after, here are some things my students said:
“Great job, Mr. Skyer!”
“I think my family is a lot like yours!”
“How did you grow a beard?” (My answer was just that I grew up!)
“Where are you in those pictures?”
“Your brother is taller than you AND has a bigger beard!” (Thanks, friend.)
“Who is the homework leader for today??”
Learning about and embracing differences is something that comes naturally and is exciting to children. Let’s follow their lead.
Feel free to share!
On the day of the 2020 presidential election, Skyer shared on Facebook about starting a letter-writing campaign called “Friends of Marsha” — named after trans “trailblazer” Marsha P. Johnson — to “provide LGBTQ+ youth with a sense of hope and connection in the form of a physical, handwritten letter (by yours truly), something tangible that they can hold on to.”
On March 31 — the Trans Day of Visibility — Skyer posted on the Friends of Marsha Instagram page that “it seems fitting that on today of all days one of my first graders asked me what my favorite part of my identity is. I talk to my students about what it means to be trans all the time, to the point where they now ask other adults in our school community whether they are cisgender or transgender. It has been so meaningful to 1. even be able to talk about LGBTQ topics in school 2. be open and visible about being trans and 3. have students see trans individuals like Marsha P. Johnson and @lavernecox as inspirational leaders. I’m looking forward to the day where my experience is not a unique one and all trans individuals can visibly exist without fear.”
Brooke Charter Schools “is a network of tuition-free, public charter schools providing an academically rigorous education to students from Boston and Chelsea. Admission is based on a random lottery. There are no admissions applications or interviews, and there is no tuition fee. All students in Boston Public Schools and Chelsea Public Schools — including English language learners, limited English proficient students, and special education students — are encouraged to apply through the lottery.”
Reporting from The Blaze.