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News & Politics News & Politics

California teacher returns to school as a woman

Posted by on Mar. 25, 2014 at 3:25 PM
  • 29 Replies

Image: Karen Scot prepares her wig before her first day teaching as a transgendered woman

A California high school science teacher gave students and colleagues a new lesson in biology Monday, showing up for the first time as a woman a week after her plans to switch genders became suddenly public.

The former Gary Sconce, 56 — an award-winning educator, husband, father and grandfather who has taught at Yosemite High School for 24 years — will now be known as Karen Adell Scot, she said.

“I’m actually going to work as my real 'out' self,” Scot told NBC News. “I stand in front of the class and I’m so filled with joy.”

Under a long auburn wig and makeup, wearing a blue flowered dress and size 12W open-toed shoes, the transgender teacher said her brain will now match her body after a transition that has been a lifetime in coming.

“I will not return as my male persona ever again,” she said.

Image: Karen Scot prepares for her first day teaching as a transgendered woman
Max Whittaker / Prime for NBC News
Karen Scot, 56, gets dressed at her North Fork, Calif., home before her first day teaching as a transgendered woman at Yosemite High School in Oakhurst, Calif. Scot has been a science teacher for 30 years.

The change has stirred controversy in the small town of Oakhurst, Calif., in the Gold Rush territory just outside Yosemite National Park. One neighbor, Kathi Bales, wrote a letter published in the local newspaper last week telling Scot to quit her job and urging the community to reject her.

“I see this as an assault on the minds and morals of our children,” she wrote. “It blurs the lines of what is right and wrong.”

Others, however, have rallied to support Scot, saying she’s a role model for integrity, courage and authenticity.

“Karen is truly an inspiration to everyone,” said Julia Cruz, 34, of nearby Coarsegold, Calif., whose 18-year-old daughter, Erin Asis, was a student of the former Mr. Sconce.

"I never expected it, but I'm very happy for her," Asis said. "She'll still be the same excellent teacher that she is."

Image: Karen Scot shows a note from one of her students
Max Whittaker / Prime for NBC News
Karen Scot shows a note from one of her students.

Students presented Scot with a giant card and cookies in class Monday.

"Ms. Scot: No matter what anyone says you are courageous and beautiful for being who you truly are," wrote student Charlotte Smith. "You are my hero."

Scot notified district officials and colleagues earlier this year that she had started the medical and social process to transition from male to female and that she would return after spring break in April as a woman.

"Being transgender is not a choice," she wrote to colleagues.

But someone from the school — a colleague, Scot guessed — leaked her letter to the local paper, sparking a firestorm of reaction.

"Being transgender is not a choice."

Administrators also sent a letter to parents of the school’s 650 students advising them that the school district is bound by California law, specifically Education Section Code 220, not to discriminate against Scot because of her gender identity.

"The District recognizes that Mr. Sconce's transition may raise questions among students, parents, guardians and community members," Yosemite Unified School District Superintendent James Sargent wrote. "Counseling staff will be available to discuss any issue with students."

The result was that Scot's private decision was suddenly very public. Instead of waiting until after the break, she decided to adopt her female persona immediately.

“I was outed in a horrible way,” Scot said. “That was not the plan. It was supposed to be a quiet transition.”

School district officials did not respond to NBC calls and emails about the accelerated timeline.

Image: Karen Scot prepares for her first day teaching as a woman
Max Whittaker / Prime for NBC News
Karen Scot shaves as she gets ready for her first day teaching as a woman.

Transgender experts typically advise teachers and other public figures to make the change as quietly and unobtrusively as possible, said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, D.C.

There are about 700,000 transgender people in the United States, according to estimates by Gary Gates, a demographer who specializes in gender research at the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles. That’s about 0.3 percent of the adult population.

While it’s not common, Keisling said she has counseled several teachers about gender transition. “One of the first things I tell them is not to, under any circumstances, do any media and tell your school not to do any media.”

She would have advised the district against notifying parents about what is essentially a private personnel matter.

“School districts can’t afford to lose the kind of money they’d lose in a lawsuit if they discriminated against her,” Keisling said. “But that’s not the underlying reason they’re being decent about it. They have a good teacher and they don’t want to lose him or her.”

Gary Sconce received awards for distinguished teaching, Scot said, and he was a favorite for many of the thousands of students whose lives he touched. But Scot said she had known since early childhood that she was a girl, and tried to sublimate the feelings in typical male behavior.

“I did all the hypermasculine activities,” Scot said. “Playing college football, surfing, being a deputy sheriff, a martial arts instructor. I was a hot rodder and and I loved building cars. All of that hypermasculine stuff.”

Image: Karen Scot works out before her first day teaching as a woman
Max Whittaker / Prime for NBC News
Karen Scot works out at home before her first day teaching as a woman at Yosemite High School.

Last year, though, after extensive counseling, Scot said she had to tell the truth to her family, including a wife of 35 years and a grown son and daughter. She was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition in which a person’s gender is at odds with the gender he or she identifies with, causing clinically significant distress.

Scot's counselor, Carol Montgomery Brosnac of Fresno, Calif., who specializes in transgender therapy, said the conflict is acute.

"There's always a strong drive to present as the gender they are," she said.

In recent years, scientists have documented that the brain structure in transgender people is actually more like their preferred gender than their biological one.

For some transgender people, like Scot, that difference can cost them their families, their friends and their jobs.

Scot said she's in contact with her son, 32, but not with her daughter, 31. Her wife of 35 years wants a divorce.

She has begun taking drugs to block testosterone and adding female hormones to reshape her body. She practiced living full-time as a woman last fall while recovering from a car crash for several months. She’s planning gender reassignment surgery, but not for at least a year.

Already, though, Scot said the change is remarkable. “You’re congruent,” she said. “Your mind is a female mind and it knows what to do with those hormones.”

District officials have been clear that Scot can keep her job, but she’s under strict orders not to discuss her gender issues with her students. This morning, the school principal, Randy Seals, emphasized that point to the students, Scot said.

“One of the things I had to push, push, push is that Ms. Scot will be teaching science,” she said. “Ms. Scot will not be pushing any social agenda.”

Scot will likely face increased scrutiny because of wide attention to her case. If the transition had been made quietly, it could have been different, Keisling said.

“The other school employees and the students will find it interesting for about a minute,” said Keisling. “For the first 10 minutes, the kids will say, ‘This is unusual,’ and then it’s just boring old Ms. Scot.”

There might be a larger unspoken lesson, however, said Jennifer Levi of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, or GLAAD, an advocacy group in Boston.

“To have a teacher be authentic ultimately is good for students and for the community,” she said.

“I am totally my own best defense. I may look like I girl, but I can take care of myself.”

Scot acknowledged that the change won’t be easy. Not everyone will be supportive, she said. Some parents already have threatened to move their children from her classes or to switch schools entirely. She’s heard that some students whisper about which bathroom she’ll use. (Answer: The faculty bathroom, as always.)

Scot knows that transgender females are frequent victims of threats and violence.

But Scot said with years of law-enforcement and martial arts training under her belt, she feels confident about her ability to protect herself. After retirement in a few years, Scot said she might want to work teaching transgender youth how to defend themselves.

“I am totally my own best defense,” she said. “I may look like I girl, but I can take care of myself.”


http://www.today.com/health/transgender-teacher-returns-school-woman-2D79419535

by on Mar. 25, 2014 at 3:25 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Schauseil
by Silver Member on Mar. 25, 2014 at 7:04 PM
Good for her
denise3680
by Gold Member on Mar. 26, 2014 at 7:46 AM

Good for her, i aplaud her for finally not allowing society to dictate who she is.  I find it ironic that this is an award winning teacher and has been teaching for 25+ years and now some want to stop that because she is truly being herself:/ 

rocketracer
by Gold Member on Mar. 26, 2014 at 7:59 AM
Must be a bitch to have to shave like that...laser treatments or electrolysis on order...
Debrowsky
by Gold Member on Mar. 26, 2014 at 4:57 PM
1 mom liked this

very sad, that a man with intelligence can't manage to accept psychologically what he was born with biologically.   very sad.    and we pat them on the back and perpetuate their delusion.  wow.

Debrowsky
by Gold Member on Mar. 26, 2014 at 4:58 PM

since he truely is male with those pesky male hormones, it is very difficult to successfully get rid of male facial hair. 

Quoting rocketracer: Must be a bitch to have to shave like that...laser treatments or electrolysis on order...


denise3680
by Gold Member on Mar. 26, 2014 at 5:58 PM

 so what about all those women who have more facial hair than most men, maybe they should just accept what God gave them huh?

Quoting Debrowsky:

since he truely is male with those pesky male hormones, it is very difficult to successfully get rid of male facial hair. 

Quoting rocketracer: Must be a bitch to have to shave like that...laser treatments or electrolysis on order...

 

 

Sisteract
by Socialist Hippie on Mar. 26, 2014 at 6:08 PM

May she and her family find peace and acceptance.

levarfan
by on Mar. 26, 2014 at 6:40 PM

I support this teacher's right to dress and present however femininely he chooses.  However, I do not agree that Sconce/Scot's "real" sex is female.  We are a sexually dimorphic species; the difference between male and female organisms is that males have testes and produce sperm; females have ovaries and produce eggs.  As a father, Sconce is verifiably a fully developed, fertile, normal male.  This does not mean that he should be fired, or that he should be belittled for wanting to dress in a feminine manner, but it is undeniable that he is male.  There is no such thing as a "male" or "female" brain before hormones and life activities change and strengthen certain brain pathways.  The statement in the article: "scientists have documented that the brain structure in transgender people is actually more like their preferred gender than their biological one" is absolutely false.  Many scientists have tried to find something that showed this, but they have failed. If you search through the literature you will find that the "white matter" differences discussed here are typical of those with various body dysphorias and image issues, such as those with body dysmorphic disorder, anorexia, and dissassociative disorder.  Some studies have actually found that men who trans to a female persona may actually be hypermasculine -- that some sex-differentiated brain structures are more "extreme male" than those of other males.  Regardless, I hope that this teacher continues to be happy as a teacher and isn't too discouraged with how differently s/he is treated as a woman.  

Debrowsky
by Gold Member on Mar. 27, 2014 at 10:21 AM

they are still born as female, then stay as female and simply do whatever is possible to deal with the excess facial hair.  it's utterly foolish, and very unhealthy to deny what you are born as and go against it by being something else.  We all have to work with imperfections in our bodies, doesn't mean we try to alter what we are biologically or kill ourselves either.

Quoting denise3680:

 so what about all those women who have more facial hair than most men, maybe they should just accept what God gave them huh?

Quoting Debrowsky:

since he truely is male with those pesky male hormones, it is very difficult to successfully get rid of male facial hair. 

Quoting rocketracer: Must be a bitch to have to shave like that...laser treatments or electrolysis on order...




denise3680
by Gold Member on Mar. 27, 2014 at 10:30 AM

 how is it foolish for him to want to be what he truly feels he is because you do not agree with it?  unhealthy, for who him.  It seems to me that he is finally able to relax.  Being int he wrong body is not an imperfection, it is not that simple.  YOu are right about everyone deals with things, but not everyone is born feeling they are not who they are supposed to be either.

Quoting Debrowsky:

they are still born as female, then stay as female and simply do whatever is possible to deal with the excess facial hair.  it's utterly foolish, and very unhealthy to deny what you are born as and go against it by being something else.  We all have to work with imperfections in our bodies, doesn't mean we try to alter what we are biologically or kill ourselves either.

Quoting denise3680:

 so what about all those women who have more facial hair than most men, maybe they should just accept what God gave them huh?

Quoting Debrowsky:

since he truely is male with those pesky male hormones, it is very difficult to successfully get rid of male facial hair. 

Quoting rocketracer: Must be a bitch to have to shave like that...laser treatments or electrolysis on order...

 

 

 

 

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