This trans headteacher has become the first known to transition without leaving position

Meka Beresford November 19, 2016
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A transgender headteacher in England is believed to be the first to transition whilst still in her position.

Claire Birkenshaw was absent from her post as head teacher for six months whilst she began her transition journey.

Parents and staff were notified of the head’s decision, and pupils were taught about trans awareness in preparation for her return to the school.

Birkenshaw told the Times that the children in the school accepted her without fuss upon her return.

“Straight away one kid said ‘Hi Miss’. It was brilliant. There were no sniggers, it was just superb. It was a really nice morning.”

She began her transition with hormone-replacement therapy in September 2015, after informing governors at the Academy in Hull that she was planning to fully transition within the next three years.

Birkenshaw had feelings of gender dysphoria from the age of four, but now hopes by beginning her transition that she can become a role model for trans students who may struggle with the same feelings she did in her youth.

She said: “These children in schools need someone who is out there.

“I’m hoping to machete the way for somebody else, and then the next person comes along and the next person, and hopefully in future they will only need tweezers.”

Birkenshaw was inspired to transition when a radio presenter in Yorkshire, Stephanie Hirst, announced her trans status in 2014.

Since announcing her transition, she has been congratulated by Justine Greening who praised her openness as “absolutely fantastic” and said she was “going to make a difference to so many people.”

Birkenshaw said: “I still expect to be a headteacher. I still expect to be working with schools, with academies and ensuring that children are making progress – but also that children are happy.”

“If I look at education, it doesn’t seem to be that many role models. So I can try to do things under the radar, but how are people going to know? These children in schools need someone who is out there.”

“I think what people find really difficult to understand is that the essence of me has never ever changed,” she added.

The headteacher struggled with gender dysphoria since a young age, and confided in a girlfriend in her teenage years about her gender identity.

However, she only felt compelled to come out now at the age of 48 because of the progression in medicine and law, as well as the increasing number of teachers and pupils coming out as trans and being accepted.

“It was an age where there was little knowledge about transgender.

“You got these ‘outings’ of people. The puberty resulted in the fact that I looked like a man and it just seemed that it would be impossible to transition.

“I suppose I was waiting for society to catch up in terms of the legal framework and the medical procedures,” she added.

Related topics: headteacher, school, Trans, Transgender, UK

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