Coming out can be a difficult and delicate situation for anyone -- but it's even more challenging for those who are in the public eye in some way. Which is why the brave decision of a transgender teacher in Pasco County, Florida to publicly let students know about the transitioning process is so important.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that Robert Konrad, 30, a social studies teacher at Mitchell High School, chose to inform the entire community that he no longer identifies as a man, and is in the process of transitioning to present as a woman. On Thursday (October 23), principal Jim Michaels sent emails and robocalls to inform parents of the situation, and the rest of the student body and staff were told while at school.
"Mr. Konrad has begun the process of gender transition and is anticipating presenting as a female no later than August of 2015," Michaels wrote in the email. "As you can imagine, this is a very private decision, but Mr. Konrad has indicated that he will respond to appropriate questions you may have about the transition process." The email was also read at a staff meeting in Mr. Konrad's classes. He has been a teacher at the school since 2010, and his wife also works at the school.
While Konrad declined to comment to the paper, his decision to be this open about the transitioning process is a crucial one. What better way for students to understand and respect the transitioning process than by seeing someone they know openly go through with it while still working and teaching in the community?
Given the backlash that many transgender people face -- from being denied the opportunity to use the restroom for the gender they identify with, to losing their jobs or dealing with suicidal thoughts, and much more -- the bravery that went into Konrad's choice to come out is commendable.
Employee relations director Betsy Kuhn said the decision was up to Konrad alone and that he has the full support of the school district during this process.
"It's something that this teacher wanted. He wanted this to not be through rumors when he starts to change appearance," she said. "We believe instruction is not affected by a person's gender, and the district is committed to providing an educational environment that respects all members of our school community."
If you want to learn more about transgender issues, watch MTV's special “Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word" to get informed.