By Blake Neff
A “transmasculine” teacher at an Oregon elementary school has been awarded $60,000 by her school district as compensation for harassment she claims to have suffered on the job, including being referred to by the wrong pronoun.
According to The Oregonian, Leo Soell was born a woman, but now prefers to identify as “transmasculine” and “genderqueer,” meaning she does not consider herself to be male or female. After getting breast cancer in late 2014, she had her breasts amputated to create a more masculine appearance and changed her name to Leo. Once she returned from medical school in May, 2015, Soell was fully public with her gender-neutral identity.
Once she returned to work, Soell claims she fell victim to relentless harassment from her co-workers. She says employees persisted in calling her hurtful terms like “Miss Soell,” “lady,” and “she.” If a student asked Soell’s sex, she says she was ordered to reply it was a private matter not suitable for discussion at school.
Some teachers were even worse, Soell said. She claimed one teacher screamed at her in the hallway that her gender choice was offensive to God, and she said teachers conspired to use the school’s only gender-neutral bathroom so Soell would have to wait a half-hour or more to use it.
The school conducted an internal investigation after Soell complained, but found no proof of harassment.
Eventually, Soell was able to cut a deal with the school to have her referred to by her preferred pronoun, “they,” but Soell said the harassment didn’t stop, so she finally hired an attorney and prepared to file an official complaint.
Oregon is a very friendly state for individuals who claim they have suffered discrimination based on gender identity. The state’s labor commissioner, Brad Avakian, forced a bakery to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple they wouldn’t bake a cake for, and he has also compelled a bar owner to pay a whopping $400,000 to a group of transgender customers he tried to ban from his bar.
Eager to avoid meeting a similar fate, district officials agreed to pay Soell $60,000 in compensation for her emotional distress, and they also agreed to adopt a whole battery of new policies to make the district more transgender-friendly. Among other things, the new policy will require all teachers to refer to their co-workers by their preferred names and pronouns, and it will also ensure transgender employees and students have their bathroom needs met. Teachers who refuse to comply with the pronoun command may be fired, the school district warns.
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