Transgender Maine: “The Kids are Alright” by Gia Drew

GIA

It was an early January morning in Maine and the temperature outside was somewhere below zero. I don’t think it matters all that much once the mercury drops below freezing; it was cold.  I was sitting in my warm car trying to find the courage to walk across the parking lot and go inside.  I had cafeteria duty at the high school where I was a teacher for eight years.  During my tenure at this school and at all the other schools I taught at for seventeen years, I was know as Mr. Drew, but that was all about to change.

Like many trans people, I knew from an early age that my gender identity was special, and that I was more like my two sisters and my mom, than my four brothers and my dad.  I tried to explain my feminine feelings to my loving, yet bewildered parents when I was about twelve, and all I got was an invitation to talk to our priest. I passed on their offer and my life continued onward, or should I say, my two lives.  I lived outwardly as a boy, man, and eventually a husband, but on the inside as a girl and woman. By the fall of 2010, I was emotionally exhausted and had come to the realization that I needed to be honest with myself, to save myself.  But those words are easier said, than the reality of showing up to work, as a well known high school teacher and track coach in Southern Maine, as Ms Drew instead of Mr. Drew. What I didn’t know then was I was to become one of the first OUT transgender public school teachers in Maine, and one of the first transgender high school coaches in the country. 

The first steps were the most frightening.  I slowly began to shed my male shell and masculine persona, revealing the woman who had been hiding underneath my entire life.  So, wearing a cute scarf and hat, pretty jacket, skinny jeans, painted nails, and boots with fur on top, I turned off my car and walked across the snow covered high school parking lot towards the cafeteria with my head down.

Once inside the warm building I tried not to make eye contact with any students.  I dropped my bags and took off my coat and put them in the same location I’d had been leaving them all year. Of course, I thought they were all staring, but in reality they were probably too busy copying each other’s homework to notice me. I headed to the door on the other side of the cafeteria by the school lobby where I usually stood with a few other teachers.   I looked up, and said good morning and apologized for being late.  I actually had been on time, but was sitting in my car for last twenty minutes trying to find the courage to take those first steps.  There was a pause as they scanned my appearance, but thankfully only replied, good morning and mentioned the weather.

Across the lobby I noticed a student, noticing me. Oh shit, I thought. She had been in my class last semester, and I knew she could be a loose cannon.  She was a tough and attractive girl, who wielded a lot of power on campus.  She whispered something to her friend, and I thought, oh god what’s next, what was she saying?  She headed my way. Was she going to laugh, make fun and tease me in front of a hundred students and teachers?  All of a sudden she was in front of me, looking up and down.  She spoke quickly as the bell rung, and all I heard as she walked away was, “you look cute; I like your boots.”

In that moment, that wonderful moment, on that frigid January morning, a lifetime of fear began to melt away.  The simple kind words of a student were the some of sweetest and most encouraging words I had ever heard, like snowflakes on eyelashes.

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