When Connecticut high school teacher Dustin Rader was a student teacher in college, he was hesitant to come out as transgender. But after some students found his Facebook profile and outed him, he was determined not to let it be a problem.
“I want people to see that I am trans, and that’s not going to stop me from being a good teacher,” Rader told NBC Out.
Before Rader took his current job as an English teacher at Canton High School in 2016, he told administrators that he was trans. He later came out to his students during the national discussion on HB2, the North Carolina “bathroom bill” that would exclude transgender people from using public facilities that matched their gender identity.
“I said [that] when a bully doesn’t get checked, when you don’t stop a bully, eventually they just keep being a bully, and they keep being a bully until you get to the North Carolina bathroom bill, and the only thing it does is it humiliates trans people,” he said.
Rader, who transitioned when he was in college, said he didn’t have any trans role models growing up. He said he wants to be the role model he could have looked up to back then.
“Even if it’s hard to come out, even if it’s scary, somebody’s got to do it, and I’ll do it. And I have no problem with that,” he said.
Rader wants his students to see that people who are trans have normal jobs — like being a teacher.
“People who are transgender do not always end up being sad and can have really wonderful lives,” he said.
The teacher said he has received emails from parents thanking him for being an inspiration. “It was pretty great. It was really just an affirmation that I was doing the right thing,” he said.
Rader is using his voice as a sounding board for trans students, who he said are few in number but “deserve to be heard.” He travels to school districts across the country to talk to school board members and administrators about the importance of supporting transgender students.
“My message is always, ‘We can do this. We can be good to each other. We can have a happy existence here on planet Earth and America and help each other do better,’” Rader concluded.
Pride Means: "Loving yourself and extending that love to others. If you love yourself — and I don't mean just being selfish, I mean really loving and caring for yourself — you become happier, and (this is going to be cliche) happiness is contagious. That's why Pride parades are so exuberant. It's people loving themselves and sharing that love with others."