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On National Teacher Awareness Day, visibility in the classroom matters

"To have just one person understand me when I was younger would have been an amazing feeling," said Laveen teacher Sadie Redfern.

PHOENIX — The right to exist is not something many of us think about on a daily basis, but for transgender Americans, it is something they fight for every day of their lives.

Last month, during Mark Curtis's comments on Arizona's trans youth coming under attack by some of our legislature, Roger Ranch School teacher Sadie Redfern was moved to email the 12 News team. 

"Hello, I felt the need to speak out," said Redfern. "I just watched Mark Curtis's editorial from 4/16 on the trans ban that is going on in this state that I love and grew up in. I am a teacher at an elementary school who happens to be a transgender woman." 

Ms. Redfern has been teaching for nearly a decade. She currently teaches 5th and 6th graders. 

"I am a very rare mix in the culture of the community I work in, I like to think I add to the richness of my community," said Redfern. "As a transgender teacher, I am a beacon for children who might feel different, they see an LGBT+ professional walking proud, happy, and fulfilled." 

RELATED: On the Mark: Arizona’s trans kids are under attack by some in our legislature, and it’s embarrassing

2021 has seen a record number of anti-trans legislation, many targeting youth 

According to data from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), at least 117 bills have been introduced this year that target the transgender community.

This year GOP State Senator Wendy Rogers introduced SB1637 which would ban trans athletes from competing outside of their assigned biological sex. The bill ultimately failed to pass. 

LGBTQ students face increased risks for bullying

GLSEN is an educational non-profit championing LGBTQ-inclusive K-12 education. Research shows that LGBTQ students disproportionately report being subject to unsafe school climates, and thereby are denied equal access to educational opportunities and the opportunity for healthy social and emotional development. 

  • 59.5% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation
  • 44.6% felt unsafe because of their gender expression
  • 89.4% of LGBTQ students reported victimization experiences versus 71.4% of other students 

“As a teacher, that’s the number one thing we are concerned with, are my kids in a safe environment,” said Redfern.  

President Joe Biden spoke to trans Americans directly during his joint address to Congress last week. 

“To all transgender Americans watching at home, especially young people who are so brave, I want you to know your president has your back,” said Biden.  

Redfern feels the country needed to hear Biden's words. “To point out the kids. Acceptance into society is so important,” said Redfern.  

Visibility in the classroom matters

To have just one person understand me when I was younger would have been an amazing feeling. It probably would have changed my trajectory," said Redfern. "I like to think that when kids are in my class at the end of the year, they know they had a transgender teacher, and the experience was amazing.”  

Ms. Sadie ended her email thanking Mark for his words and being an ally. 

Hello, I felt the need to speak out. I just watched Mark Curtis's editorial from 4/16 on the trans ban that is going on in this state that I love and grew up in. I am a teacher at an elementary school who happens to be a transgender woman. I am a very rare mix in the culture of the community I work in, I like to think I add to the richness of my community. It is the community leaders who would like to see me erased and any transgender child erased, it amounts to genocide. The suicide rate is about 40% for these kids unless they are supported then the number drops dramatically. As a transgender teacher, I am a beacon for children who might feel different, they see an LGBT+ professional walking proud, happy and fulfilled. I wanted to thank Mark Curtis for his words and for being an ally.

Class of 2021: What to expect this school year

This year has certainly changed how we approach education during a pandemic. For more ongoing coverage of the Class of 2021 watch our YouTube playlist and subscribe.