On National Coming Out Day, A Transgender Teacher’s Story of Being Authentic in Catholic Education

Amanda Cossai

In the U.S.A., today is National Coming Out Day, so we present a story of how living authentically can benefit not only one’s self, but a whole community.

A transgender educator in Malta has called her experience teaching at a Catholic school “amazing,” which seems to be due in large part to the the teacher’s decision to come out from the very beginning.

Amanda Cossai, who began transitioning genders nearly three years ago, needed to complete a teaching practicum as part of her master’s program in education. Cossai was assigned a Catholic school where she was to teach business-related topics to young teenagers. The assignment at first scared her given the school’s religious affiliation, but in reality the experience turned out to be quite positive. The Malta Independent reported:

“When you consider religious teachings, they always call for respect for one another, even for those who are different, Amanda said. Church schools, however, she noted, tend to lack diversity in terms of the students’ and staff’s backgrounds, who are not exposed to different cultures and people like her.

“This school, however, wanted someone there to show the students and staff that being different is ok.”

Both students and staff welcomed Cossai.  The teacher attributes a large part of that positive engagement to her decision to come out at the start of her teaching. She told The Independent that doing so earned her respect even if when she first told students she had “never heard that level of silence again.” Her openness was about building trust, but also educating students and warding off negative rumors:

“When asked if the students asked her any questions, Amanda said not really, but they did end up talking about LGBT related subjects . . . At the end of her teaching practice, Amanda asked for feedback from the students and some did comment that they appreciated her being so open and someone even mentioned that they had an LGBT family member and that now they could relate better to them.”

Having finished her practicum and soon her degree, Cossai will be looking for teaching jobs. She acknowledged that that process may not be as positive as her junior teaching position, but that she would not be closeted either in applying or being employed:

“Based on her experiences, Amanda does not fear discrimination when it comes to applying for a job, saying that she owns her identity and she has no problem answering any questions. She does admit though, that church schools might be a bit more difficult to get into.

“Although her experiences have been positive, she does have friends in the LGBT community who have worked in church schools who had ‘horrible’ experiences. Amanda adds, although discrimination might be a worry for some, she would anyway not want to work in any place she was not accepted.”

On National Coming Out Day, Amanda Cossai’s story is a reminder of the impact that living authentically and openly can have not only for oneself, but for others. Students and staff alike learned and grew from her decision to come out and be vulnerable. While not every LGBTQ educator can or should come out, especially in Catholic education, where such a step is possible it is a great blessing to the community. That is precisely why officials should make Catholic education not only safe, welcoming, and affirming for LGBTQ students, but for faculty and staff, too.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 11, 2019

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