Stress and resilience in transgender and non-binary K–12 educators : an explanatory sequential study.


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Two Spirit, transgender, intersex, non-binary, and gender non-conforming (2STING) and other gender-diverse teachers face significant additional stress in their careers. This explanatory sequential transformative mixed methods study (Quan -> Qual) assessed stress and resilience in 134 transgender and non-binary teachers in the United States and conducted semi-structured follow-up interviews with twelve teachers. By highlighting the experiences of gender-diverse people working in education, this work sought to improve the working conditions and long-term career prospects in education for 2STING and other gender-diverse educators. The results uncovered intolerable conditions for many teachers, even those in states with long-standing anti-discrimination policies. All professional educators reported experiencing harassment at work, at least one hostile colleague, and at least one supportive colleague. Many participants reported colleagues passively hostile to them but actively hostile to the LGBTQIA+ students in their care. Participants also reported difficulty in accessing medical and mental health care, sometimes because of exclusions for care in teacher health plans due to a gender identity disorder diagnosis. Some teachers experienced nightmarish doxxing campaigns and other forms of harassment online and at work. Many participants did not have safe, accessible gender-neutral restroom access. Many participants worked for educational leaders who claimed to be supportive but did not demonstrate actual support. Non-binary teachers faced daunting circumstances with hostility and deliberate and persistent misgendering. Gender-diverse teachers have strengths that are essential assets for any learning community. Participants’ strengths included perspective-taking with diverse student experiences, modeling empathy, creating safe spaces for students, and disrupting homophobia and anti-trans bias. Twenty-five percent of participants interviewed have already left their careers in education. Participants reported alarming rates of non-suicidal self-injury, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts. All learning communities must change the culture surrounding these issues to help keep LGB and 2STING educators and students alive.