An Oregon elementary school teacher who identifies as “transmasculine” and “genderqueer” has recently been awarded $60,000 by her school district as compensation for the suffering she’d endured on the job after coworkers referred to her by the wrong pronoun.
Leo Soell, a female fifth grade teacher at Hall Elementary School in Portland, was compensated by the Gresham-Barlow School District after she complained to school officials that her coworkers kept calling her “she,” “lady,” or “Miss Soell.” Soell said she does not identify as male or female and would like to be referred to as “they” instead of “he” or “she.”
Soell had announced she was transgender last spring after she survived breast cancer and had her breasts removed. She had entered the hospital a female, and after having transgender reconstructive “top surgery” performed on her to giver her a manlike chest, she left a self-identified penis-less man with a different name.
“Soell began telling friends and family that they did not identify as a woman,” Oregon Lives reported using Soell’s preferred pronouns, likely because reporting reality is a bummer and to most, not worth losing $60K over.
Upon returning to work, Soell’s coworkers struggled with what to call her and some even asked her what sex she identified as. Soell would respond to them that it was a private matter not open to discussion.
The school district hosted an hour-long transgender awareness training in response to Soell’s complaints, but she refused to back down because she felt harassed from other members of the school whom she alleged insulted her, smeared Vaseline on her cabinets, and even conspired to prevent her from using the school’s all-gender bathroom. Soell said she and her coworkers felt frustrated and distracted from the lack of clarity in the school halls about her transformation.
An investigation within the district, which was kept confidential by school officials, found no proof that Soell was harassed. Nonetheless, school officials agreed to the settlement compensating Soell for her emotional “damages.” Additionally, district officials agreed to add all-gender bathrooms to all schools in the district and create mandatory transgender awareness trainings for all principals and staff.
"I actually feel safe now," Soell said following the settlement. "There will always be people who push the boundaries, but I'm not worried about them anymore because I know that my district supports me."
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