Sam is a Grade 9 student who – at age 13 – began to realize that he didn’t feel like a girl, even though he had a girl’s body. At the time, his name was Samantha, and he expressed his confusion and pain by withdrawing and losing interest in school. Gradually, he began to express his identity by dressing in boys’ clothes and having his hair cut very short. His classmates noticed, and teased and mocked him. The aggression began to escalate, until one day Sam was followed and threatened during an entire lunch hour and was unable to eat his lunch. When Sam was harassed and followed home by some boys from his class, he finally told his parents out of fear for his safety.

Sam and his parents decided to approach the school, which had an explicit policy of support for all kinds of diversity. They were supportive of Sam’s desire to be himself, in whatever way he defined it, and were seeking the support of the school to ensure Sam’s safety and well-being as he developed in a way that felt comfortable to him. The school suggested a meeting with Sam, his parents, his teacher, and the social worker to discuss Sam’s needs. Sam said he felt really alone and different, like a freak, and that was the worst part.

The group decided to do some research, to find out about what Sam was going through. They discovered, by exploring the internet and talking to an organization specializing in sexual identity and diversity, that many other people have experienced what Sam was going through. They developed a short, simple workshop, drawing on the personal testimonials they found on the internet, and presented it to both classes in Sam’s grade level.

During the workshop, they referred to other initiatives offered by the school, advocating respect for differences, and made a connection to the issue of people who are trans-gendered. They reminded students of the school’s code of conduct, which they had all helped to develop and which they had made a commitment to follow. This groundwork enabled Sam’s classmates to understand that sexual diversity is another kind of difference that needs to be respected in a civil society.

With the support of his parents, his teacher and his classmates, Sam started referring to himself as a boy. He came out of his shell and his classmates discovered that he had a great sense of humour. It was at this point that he changed his name from Samantha to Sam.