Debra Davis

“Coming Out” talk

When Debra Davis transitioned at her work place,
this is the talk she given to her staff at
Minneapolis, Southwest High School.
Monday - May 4th, 1998



Good afternoon,

       I would like to welcome the teachers, staff and administration here at Southwest High School, those from 807 who were kind enough to join us, and those from my family, who are here this afternoon.

       This is one of the most important days in my life!

       My name is Debra Davis. Most of you know me by a different name. You know a person who has been in education in Minneapolis for over 28 years. I am still that person, only now you will know my secret. A secret that I have lived with and have been keeping from the world, my entire life. I have literally lived two, very different lives. One as the person you all knew, and a second life as Debra. You should know that Debra, the person you see now, is the person I really am. The other person, David, only existed here at school! Most of the world knows me as Debra.

The reason I am here today is two fold,

       One to introduce you to me - and to try to let you know who I am and about my life, - and why I have decided to do what I am doing today.

       The other is to ask for your help. I plan to spend the next few years, until I retire, here at Southwest, doing what I have always done, educating young people, helping them learn and develop into productive adults. And helping you, the staff. Only I will be doing this as the person I truly am, Debra Davis.

       This is what will I would like to happen in the next hour or so.

*       I want to tell you a little about myself as a Transgender person.

*       I want to give you a chance to ask questions to find out a little more about transgender people and what the transgender community is all about - because I know you will have questions..

*       I also want to let you know that it is OK to be a little uncomfortable right now. The majority of you are probably coming in direct contact with this concept for the first time.

*       We need your help as we develop a plan of what we will do here at Southwest High School. How and what to tell the students and parents.

*       We need to talk about the questions you will probably be asked by the students and parents, and ways to answer those questions.

*       And most important, give all of you some time to relax and catch your breath before the parents get here for conferences later this afternoon.

       We know that this is one of the first times that a transgender person has transitioned on the job in secondary education in the United States.

       I would love to tell you about what my life has been like as a transgender person. Because of time, I will make the offer talk to whoever would be interested at a later date. I have no problem talking about what it is like to be tansgender.

       Where I am now - & why I am doing this?

       I want to share with you some of the things that are going on inside of me as I stand here in front of you today.

       How I feel at this moment is how I imagine the first person of any minority must have felt when starting to work for this district. The first person of a non Christian religion, or the first person of a different ethnic group or nationality, or the first physically handicapped person on crutches or in a wheel chair. Wondering how I will be accepted by you - my staff, by the students, by the parents and even the “powers to be” at 807(the school district office). Concerned about safety and wondering how I will handle it if people are inappropriate or impolite.

       I am also concerned about the students, other staff and parents in our school and district, who are transgender like me, or those who are gay or lesbian or bisexual, and are afraid, like I was, to be who they really are.

       This is the first time the Minneapolis Public Schools will be going through this, but I can guarantee you, it won't be the last.. My hope is that together we can make this work.

       My sincere hope too, was that this would have been a “non - event.” That I could just work and live as I really am, without anyone noticing. How wonderful it would be if everyone could just be themselves and the world wouldn’t care one way or the other. But I’m afraid I won’t ever see that in my lifetime.

       Last Tuesday I learned of the decision to send a letter about me home to the households of all of our 1500 students. That evening I made the final decision to grant an interview with the Star Tribune. It was a very difficult decision to make, but in my mind - a positive article about what is happening is far better than other things that could happen in other media. We expect the article on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.

       So - Why am I doing this now?

       I spent a summer a while ago - thinking about a new position & curriculum I would be going into in the fall - a position that would be very challenging, in a new and unfamiliar situation. I spent much of the summer, dreading the coming of the fall. It was a difficult summer. Some of you may have had similar experiences and know the feeling of living through an entire summer worrying about the challenges you would be facing in the fall. I do not want to have this happen again.

       Another reason is, and this is to the credit of you here at Southwest High School, there has been very little sharing of private information about me here in the last few months. In fact most of you here did not know what this meeting was about until very recently.

       However, in other areas of the school district, there have been several incidents of what we call “outing,”- the sharing by other people, of information that should only be mine to share - about myself. In the face of those rumors - I chose to stop the gossip and innuendo, and share with everyone who I am. There need be no more secrets.

       In most situations where a transgender person transitions on the job, a two week notice is given to the employer. We have been working on my transition for two months now, at the district level, and almost a month here in at Southwest. Now is the time. I will not continue to hide in shame until next fall, or next year, or three years from now when I can retire.

       (In a way, this is part of my PDP (Personal Development Plan,) and I am asking each and everyone of you to be on my team.)

       At this point I should acknowledge some of the support I have been given. Many people at the district level have worked very hard to make this process a positive one. But Geoffery Blanton, director of the Out for Good program has lived most of this transition with me. Here in the building I need to acknowledge some special people. Clarence & Jan (co workers) . . Bob McCauley (principal) . . Family, brother & sister in law, who are here today. . .and Connie, (my partner).

       On a personal level - Why am I doing this?

       I am an extremely proud person - proud of who I am!

       I am tired of not being able to tell the truth about myself. I am tired of the deception. I am tired of worrying. I am tired of hiding. Tired of the closet. I make no apologies for being who I am. I have done nothing wrong.

       My discomfort in the closet outweighs the risk of penalty. Freedom beckons. Whatever the consequences may be, I am prepared to accept those consequences, good or bad. However, that is not to say that I will shrink from defending my rights should anyone abuse them. But in this, I will need all of your help.

       Soon the world out there can know exactly who I am. But as we know, not everyone out there is a friend. I realize that. It is a risk I am prepared to take.

       So this is the bottom line for me. The results of a lifetime of struggling with self-definition. It is okay to be me, who I am. It is okay to tell people the truth about myself. It is okay to live and work as I truly am. It is okay for the world to know who I am. In fact, it's not just okay to do that. It is absolutely necessary.

       I am Debra Davis. I am a proud human being. And in the words of Virginia Satir, “I am me, and I am okay.”

       David is not here anymore - Debra will be working here from now on.

© May 4, 1998 - Debra Davis


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