Being transgender hasn't stopped Juline from pursuing a career she loves: being a school teacher.
How long have you been teaching for?
I’ve been teaching for more than 30 years and 10 years as a school principal.
I like my pupils, I like to work with my pupils and working on a lot of subjects like sports, history, geography. Each year is different, and that’s a good thing.
What would you say is the definition of a good teacher?
First, I think a good teacher respects their pupils. Each student is different, each one needs attention and you have to recognize them as people - it’s very important. You also need a lot of good and positive energy and bring it to them. You need to be navigating the ship, it’s your duty to try and make them enjoy and learn as much as possible. A good teacher makes her students want to go to school. It’s a human exchange.
You need to remember that you are not their parents, you are just the teacher. You have a job, and they have things to learn. However, they need to feel comfortable around you, they need to be able to trust you.
How long have you been working at your current school?
It’s my third year in this school.
How did the principal react following your transition?
My principal didn’t say anything. I had been asked questions last year because I was between two genders but they always respected me so they never asked too many questions. And I have always been fully transparent on the subject. I always respected their questions, and they respected my answers. It was easier for me to stay in this school because they know me very well - in another school, they probably wouldn’t have accepted me, or they would have just considered me a ‘special’ person.
I may have transitioned but I am still the same person.
How did your colleagues react at work?
My colleagues were really nice and accepting toward me. They’d heard and seen of transgender people on TV shows and movies, so they understood. One of them had warned me that it would be difficult and not everyone would be so accepting, but in the end it worked out really well for me, I was really lucky and felt supported.
Do you think your students understood the situation?
I have 26 students, and they are 6 years old. I think they respect me, simply because I respect them. We all work together 6 hours a day, so we need to support each other and act like a family.
Whether trans or not, a teacher is there to teach. I think it’s great that schools have transgender teachers, because it shows that they are just teachers. It should be the same everywhere. I may be trans, but in the classroom I am a teacher - I am not a ‘trans’ teacher.
The same goes for my pupils. To them, I’m not a ‘transgender’ mistress. I’m their mistress, they love me and I love them! For the students who knew me before, it’s a good experience to show them so that they can be aware of transgender people. Next time they meet someone transgender, they’ll understand. It’s a part of life. They become more tolerant and accepting toward transgender people as being simply people.
I've had no questions from the parents. Sure some of them talk outside of school but most of them smile when they see me and just call me ‘Miss’ and I’ve really had no problem. I was a little bit anxious but that's why I say it's a very intelligent attitude and I think that it's a good thing for the population. I think that for most of the population it's not a problem being transgender, they only want to live in peace, like me.
Do you still talk to last year’s students?
I do. They show great maturity at such a young age. They respect me and ask me questions like how and why did I go from being a male school teacher to a female teacher. It’s not important to me if they make mistakes and call me ‘Master’ instead of ‘Mistress’, because it’s a learning process for them too. Funnily enough, very often they will correct each other and say “No, don’t say ‘Master’, it’s ‘Mistress’!”
I remember the first time my students called me ‘Miss’ - it was the first day of the school year and it was a total liberation, I felt free. I was quite anxious at first of course, I had a lot of emotions. I felt very lively, I felt like I existed.
Before, I felt like I was locked up in a tower, and in my tower I could only play music, and I was just waiting for someone to take me out of these walls. Now I feel like all the walls disappeared, and I am finally out of jail. I smile a lot now, I am discovering the world.
What is it like being transgender in France?
I have protection because I work for the state and my work status is quite comfortable. I don't know if a lot of teachers are like me - I don't think so. I hope other teachers like me don't have any problems at all and could live as I'm living.
In France, there is progress for the transgender people, but it's very fragile and we need to work, mobilize and fight to be accepted more and more. We need to be considered as only French citizens - with the same rights and the same obligations as the other French citizens.
In other schools, in other places, in other companies, transgender people could have a lot of problems and my experience is a good experience, unlike many others. And that's a real problem of integration for transgender people, whether in the business world, the housing world etc., it's hard sometimes for us. Here I am accepted but it’s not the case everywhere.
What role does education play in fighting discrimination?
Education is a place for fighting discrimination because school is the first place where children and pupils are together and live together with all their differences - they are out of their house. So it's really important to teach them to accept each other, regardless of their genders, races, cultures, religions, and their different sexualities too.
In primary schools, sexual orientation is not so important because the children start discovering theirs by the end of primary school, but they need to learn to be tolerant with each other. Maybe it would be a good idea to have LGBT characters in children’s books, for example, so that it opens their minds and they learn to embrace and respect differences.