I am a... transgender teacher

When my mom was pregnant with me, the doctor told her she was having a boy—then out popped a girl. I was born with a female body but never felt like a girl or a woman.

I came out as a lesbian when I was 18, and then as trans when I was 20. I started on hormone therapy right away, taking testosterone to look more like a man. At 22, I had surgery to have my breasts removed. I filed legal name-change documents and had my driver’s license changed to say I’m male.

A couple years later, I got a job with the NYC Department of Education as a junior-high-school teacher. No one at work knows I was born biologically female, and I’m okay with keeping it that way. What’s between my legs shouldn’t matter, and I care a lot less about being discovered than I used to—but I have to be careful. They have nearly lynched teachers for less unusual things.

Using bathrooms at work isn’t too bad. I make sure to always use the stall in the men’s room and try to go when no one else is there. Sometimes I avoid using the bathroom altogether when the school or other public places are too crowded or feel threatening.

Overnight trips cause more anxiety. We took the kids to the woods for a couple of nights last year and I came out of the shower with my towel around my waist. The teacher I was sharing a room with asked about the scars emerging from under my arms. I told him I had surgery on my lymph nodes and he didn’t inquire further.

Every once in a while another teacher flirts with me or asks me out. I usually tell her that I don’t date women at work, even though I might be interested. I’m afraid of being found out. I find myself single more often than I’d like, but I have two decades left to teach before retirement; a single slip of the tongue could leave me jobless and banned from the city system.

I’m generally attracted to sporty girls, and most of my exes have been self-identified lesbians. I don’t have a problem telling the other guys at work that I like tomboys, and when I do have a girlfriend, I bring her to school functions. Nobody thinks anything of it. They just see a guy with a girl, no trouble.

One day last semester, a student came up to me to ask what a transsexual was. My heart leaped into my throat; I thought I’d been discovered. Kids are very sharp, and sometimes they catch on to things that adults refuse to examine. Thankfully, this was just an inquisitive kid, curious about life or something he saw on TV. I was especially scared of being outed before I got tenure, and now that I have it I am still somewhat worried. I think parents especially are judgmental and would come after me with all they’ve got if my biological identity were revealed. What upsets me most, though, is the discrimination from inside the lesbian community. I have been kicked out of a lesbian bar, turned away from a lesbian softball team and turned down on dates from women who think I’m too male to be allowed in their circles.

As told to Michael Freidson, Allison Hope, Kate Lowenstein and Lauren Shopp