The Punxsutawney Spirit

Transgende­r teacher ponders disclosing to students

- Harriette COLE

DEAR HARRIETTE:

I am a transgende­r educator. I am not visibly transgende­r, and my students refer to me with she/her pronouns, which I prefer. I was given the choice when I was hired whether or not to tell my students that I am transgende­r. I still have not decided. The kids are so young — third grade — and I don't know whether or not their parents will have an issue with an openly trans teacher. Should I disclose the fact that

I am trans to my students? — Trans Teacher

DEAR TRANS TEACHER:

The big question for you may be what is important for your students to know about you in order for you to be effective at doing your job. It is unlikely that your trans status has anything to do with that. I imagine that they need to know that you care about them, that they are safe in your company and that you can effectivel­y teach them the subjects that are part of your curriculum.

I point this out because cisgender teachers do not typically feel pressed to reveal anything about their gender identity — or their sexuality or relationsh­ip status, for that matter — to their students. It is often by choice as they build closeness with their students that those aspects of their lives emerge. You may want to follow the natural course of engaging with them. Never lie. If they ask you questions about yourself and your life, answer in a manner that is appropriat­e to the listeners' ages. Do not hide who you are, but do not feel the need to wave a flag either. Be you. Let them get to know you as a person. Find comfort in that.

DEAR HARRIETTE:

My father lied about the amount of money I owe him for a surgery I had. My father told me that he received a bill last year for the remainder of my copay, and I've been paying him once a month ever since. Today I found out that my surgery didn't actually cost the amount that he claimed. He was charging me almost $1,000 more for no reason. How should I move forward? — Overcharge­d

DEAR OVERCHARGE­D:

If you can get your hands on that medical bill, have it in hand when you confront your father. Calmly ask him why he inflated the cost of reimbursem­ent for your surgery. Show him the bill and point out the discrepanc­y. Did he need the extra money? If so, why didn't he say something? Point out that you are shocked that he would overcharge you for something like this. You trusted him, and he betrayed your trust. Listen to learn if he has anything to say about why he would do such a thing. Give him the chance to make you understand his logic.

More important, stop paying him. If you have already overpaid, you can ask for the money back, but it is unlikely that he will give it to you.

What you need to do now is get your own insurance policy. This is an expensive next step, but it is the only way to keep this situation from repeating itself.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylis­t and founder of DREAMLEAPE­RS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriet­te@harriettec­ole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndicatio­n, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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