An Open Letter to My Transphobic Substitute


(photo illustration by F. Dent)

Faye Dent, Staff Writer

Transphobia: irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against transgender people


You know who you are,

You may not know it, but the amount of transphobia present in our high school is dangerous and upsetting. There are people who are passively transphobic (like people who make transphobic comments unintentionally), and then there are others who are transphobic on purpose (not respecting gender identity, pronouns upon correction, chosen names over deadnames). 

Ignoring someone’s gender identity because you don’t “believe in trans” is blatantly disrespectful. And I don’t know, maybe I’m being a “pronoun-having blue-haired liberal,” but I do have blue hair, I am a liberal, and everyone has pronouns. (There’s an English classroom directly across the hallway if you’re confused about that one.) 

You have trans kids in the classes you’re covering. On Wednesday, March 29, I had a horrible experience in one of my afternoon classes. I had an extremely transphobic substitute who disregarded preferred names and shared sub plans containing confidential student notes with a student. Pretty sure that’s not allowed.

Some people insist that “there are only two genders.” You aren’t even correct if you’re speaking of biological sex. There are three biological sexes: male, female, and intersex. There are, separately, several gender identities as well. If you are confused about gender identities, Google is free. 

We’ve seen a slew of anti-trans legislation sweeping across the country recently. Just Wednesday, the entire state of Kentucky made harmful, hurtful bans toward the transgender community. The number of safe spaces we have are dwindling. I don’t want my school experience to become another casualty of transphobia. 

If I have to correct you a multitude of times about my gender identity and my pronouns, you are being transphobic. An accident is an accident, yes, and I understand that. However, if I have to correct you, and in the next sentence you misgender me again, that’s transphobic.

I am so sick of constantly biting my tongue about my pronouns, name, and gender identity at this high school. I have to worry about how people will respond when I tell them who I am even when my teachers have left notes that should prevent me from having to say a word. Emboldened, written in bright ink, anything, and still, I am called out by my deadname. There are subs who do a good job; but that doesn’t stop the sickening feeling I get when it’s time for attendance and they don’t check the sub plans and instead, read from Skyward. They don’t care; they probably forget before the end of the class period, but that feeling follows me all day. 

Substitutes, if you are looking for ways to improve, here is a way that could make sure students feel safe and comfortable with you. When you take attendance, call students’ last names and allow them to tell you their first names or simply say “present.” 

With all the love in the world,

Faye Dent



To that one substitute from earlier this week, I still haven’t stopped feeling aggravated, unseen, and defeated, and I know I wasn’t the only one in the room.