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Member & Activist Spotlight

Sam Long: Transitioning to Teacher

Sam Long is a Science Teacher in Denver, Colorado
Sam Long
Sam Long
Published: March 28, 2022

Parker Palmer once said, ‘We teach who we are,’ and my proudest achievements as an educator have all bloomed directly out of my identities. I am Chinese American, and I'm the first in my family to be born here in the United States. I come from a long line of scientists and scientific thinkers, but I'm the first in my family to come out as transgender.

I started transitioning while I was in high school without much support from my parents nor from my teachers. I'm one of the kids who skipped class to survive because I couldn't stand to be laughed at one more time or to be called by the wrong name and pronouns. I managed to graduate and after that my focus was on becoming financially independent as soon as possible.

I love science and although I fancied becoming a doctor or a researcher, I landed on teaching as an ideal career. People did warn me that some schools would not want a trans person teaching their students and while that remains true in many schools, I'm privileged in that it has not held me back.

Every child deserves to have teachers who share their experiences and identities because these adults provide hope and proof that a fulfilling life is possible. For our growing number of trans and nonbinary and questioning students, I get to be that proof.

In 2019, I started CO-Ten, the Colorado Transgender and Nonbinary Educators Network, to amplify support and visibility for these uniquely talented educators. In 2020, we passed the Right to be Out rule, making Colorado the first state to expressly forbid harassment of individuals for being open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In science class, as well, when students learn biology, they are entitled to see their lives reflected in this so-called study of life. I grew up learning that a baby is made when a sperm cell from the dad meets the XL from the mom and that's not good enough. For today, that language doesn't represent our diverse genders, sexualities, and families in our schools. So, I created, a growing collection of resources and training on how to teach accurate inclusive and future-ready biology, and I look forward to continuing the work of creating classrooms where every student belongs.

Teacher with elementary school students

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