When Heath School principal Asa Sevelius was thinking about how to come out as transgender to his school, he was worried about the community's reaction. But he was also hopeful that his coming out could be an opportunity for students to learn about gender identity — and perhaps even gain validation of their own identities. So, he crafted an email, The Boston Globe reports.
"Dear Heath Community, I am writing to all of you to share some powerful news about me...I am transgender," it began. "During my life, the decision to transition has always felt so personal; it remains personal. That said, I recognise that I play a very public role in our community." He told parents how they could explain what was happening to their kids and what they could read to better understand. As a separate coming-out for his coworkers, he gathered them in a classroom, and they hugged him afterward.
Sevelius had felt uncomfortable living as a woman since he was little, but because he didn't know about transgender people, he couldn't pinpoint what the issue was. "It was like wearing clothes that don’t fit all the time, and they don’t fit in 10 different ways," he told The Globe. "Without language, without models, without any resources at all, you don’t know how to make sense of it. The one thing that felt right was so damnable by society."
But once Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, and other celebrities started talking about being trans, he saw himself in them. He's hoping he might be able to play that same role for some of his students. "I was that kid who had no idea who I was, and nobody to show me the way," he said. "I don’t pretend to believe I am some kind of beacon, but if one kid thinks, 'That’s cool, that’s just like me,' that would be pretty awesome."
Once he was sure he was trans, he just came out to his family and close friends, and thankfully, they were supportive. When he started physically transitioning, he knew it was only a matter of time before his coworkers and students would notice, which led to his announcement.
"People ask me, why do you have to do this?" he said. "The funny answer is, 'Well, one of these days I’m probably going to have a beard and people might wonder why.' But I also deserve it. I deserve to be able to show up to my life as the person I am. And so much of my life is lived right here in this school."
We're still far away from a time when everyone can have as positive a coming out experience as Sevelius. But it's heartening to see people like him paving the way for more dialogue around gender identity and acceptance for the trans community.