Every day, I lead a community of students, teachers, and families who come together to create an environment where holistic, rigorous instruction is intertwined with a deliberate approach to empowering students to make the world a more just place. At the International Community School, a K–5 public charter school in Decatur, GA, we believe that differences are not a challenge to overcome but an asset that strengthens our community. As principal, I continuously preach this to my staff and students, encouraging them to be their authentic selves in all that they do. As a community, we can’t appreciate differences if we don’t celebrate and uplift them from within.

My own perceived identity often clouds and conceals my story. I’m usually perceived as a white, straight man, with a wife, three dogs, three kids, and a picket fence at home. People are then surprised to find out that I am transgender. I was born female, having transitioned to male shortly after college when I found the tools and language that I had been searching for to better understand myself.

Transgender individuals are often at the center of political discourse these days. Newspaper headlines are full of stories about the policing of bathrooms, transgender students and sports, and other topics sensationalized by the media. Rarely are the stories of transgender students, teachers, and principals heard, which leads many to conclude that we don’t exist.

But we are here. Just because you don’t “see” us doesn’t mean we’re not there. We are living in the midst of—and in spite of—the political debates, where everyone talks about us but never to us. The question isn’t whether there are any transgender principals or educators, but rather, when will society create space for us to tell our stories?

That’s why today’s International Transgender Day of Visibility is such an important time to speak out and to celebrate. It allows us to recognize the many transgender individuals (those we know and those we don’t) who contribute to our society.

I celebrate those who are questioning their gender and those who are trying to find the courage to come out for the first time or the 100th time. I stand in solidarity with those who struggle to find their place in society. And I honor people who’ve come before me and continue to pave the way so that trans people have a voice.

As a school leader who happens to be transgender, I don’t talk about it that much at work because my focus is on what’s best for my students and the teachers who support them. But I believe it’s important to encourage people to be themselves and to speak out and engage in work guided by their own core values. I don’t think you can motivate and inspire others if you’re not comfortable or able to take risks and authentically share your own story.

I also think that it’s critical that as issues around gender and identity become more polarizing, politicians and the public understand that there are actual people who are at the center of these issues. Trans people are often objectified and rendered invisible, and people often don’t even know we’re in the room. Trans Day of Visibility gives us a chance to celebrate the (sometimes hidden) diversity of all the transgender and gender-fluid individuals who make up the fabric or our larger society.

Visit https://www.nassp.org/lgbtq-school-leaders-network/ to learn more about the LGBTQ+ School Leaders Network.

About the Author

Alastair Pullen, PhD, is the principal of the International Community School in Decatur, GA, and a member of NASSP’s LGBTQ+ School Leaders Network.


  • Valerie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing yourself with students, colleagues, and community.

  • David Payne says:

    I only recently came across this by way of the NHS website. Thank you for posting this, and for your leadership. I was very happy to see that President Biden celebrated Transgender Day of Visibility this year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *