An elementary school principal in Massachusetts came out as transgender in an open letter this week.
Principal Shannon Daniels announced her identity to faculty and the parents of students at Stanley elementary school in Swampsott, about 15 miles north of Boston. In 2015, Swampscott became the 12th jurisdiction in the state to add gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy.
In her letter, Daniels states that she identifies as genderfluid, but intends to present as female and use her middle name, Shannon, moving forward. She asked students to continue referring to her as “Principal Daniels” as they always have, and specified that the pronouns “she,” “he,” and “they” are all acceptable.
“I have struggled with gender identity since I was in elementary school,” Daniels confessed in the letter. “I did my best to suppress those feelings for over 40 years, and while I was successful to a degree, I never felt completely happy or at peace. I got to the point that I thought I would never be able to reveal my true self.”
“Frankly,” she added, “the prospect of doing so was terrifying.”
She added that that had changed and that, following a series of challenges the previous year, she’d let herself imagine what life would be like if she was honest with herself and her community. She concluded she could no longer defer her happiness, but acknowledged her transition might cause some waves.
“While my decision is intensely personal, I realize I play a public role in the community,” she wrote. “I know there will be questions, and I am aware of the likelihood that my transition won’t necessarily be easy for everyone.”
School officials appear to be supportive of Daniels: In a separate letter, Superintendent Pamela Angelakis offered resources to help parents talk to their children about Principal Daniels’ transition and promised to create a forum for community education and discussion. She applauded Daniels for her “courage, honesty, and transparency.”
“In all my years at Swampscott I know the community to be caring, considerate and accepting,” Angelakis wrote. “and I am confident we can provide the level of support and understanding necessary to help Principal Daniels on this journey.”
In her own letter, Daniels acknowledged just how important the school’s acceptance has been to her.
“I am proud to be the leader of this school, and I sincerely believe that the ability to live my life openly and authentically gives me a great sense of serenity and will make me a more sensitive, empathetic and effective leader,” she wrote. “I feel tremendous gratitude for being part of the Stanley family. I humbly ask that you support me as would any family member going through a profound life change.”