Gary Sconce, 56, has been an award-winning science and multi-media teacher at Yosemite High School for more than 20 years, but when he returns to campus on April 22 after spring break, he will be totally transformed from Gary Sconce to Karen Scot.
Scot, her new preferred name, has taught college level courses at Yosemite, says she has known from an early age about her gender preference but had not acted on it because of a medical disorder called gender dysphoria, described by psychologists as people who experience extensive discontent with their original gender assignment.
"I was always transgender from my very first memories as a tiny child," Scot said in an exclusive interview with the Star. "I am just now finally becoming completely authentic as a person. I will still deeply care about my students, will plan great lessons, run a conservative and disciplined class, and will continue to be involved in the school community ... adding to the legacy of academic and athletic excellence that embodies our great tradition at Yosemite High School."
Yosemite Unified School District said in a prepared statement that the school will remain focused on educating future generations of the communities youth.
"The Yosemite Unified School District is dedicated to educating the youth while ensuring that our schools operate within the law that afford equal employment and educational opportunities," said the statement. "Gender identity and gender expression are protected under the law. This includes transsexual, transgender, and intersex persons, and others whose gender identity or expression is, or perceived to be, different from their birth-identified sex. YUSD is committed to upholding the dignity and worth of all students and staff, and is committed to protecting the rights of all members of our school community."
Scot said it wasn't until last April, after discussing the matter with her psychologist, that she made the decision to embrace the true nature of how she felt.
Due to her dysphoria and fear of societal backlash, Scot said she tried everything in her power to convince herself of her masculinity, including engaging in hypermasculinity. Scot played college football, joined the military, became a sheriff's deputy and learned to teach martial arts all in an effort to cope with her gender identity disorder. According to Scot, none of these changed her inner-self.
"It was all part of my subconscious trying to prove to myself I was not really the girl I was inside," Scot said.
Since her decision last April, Scot who has undergone significant counseling as well as estrogen hormone treatment, said the decision was a wonderfully tremendous relief and has allowed her to embrace her true feelings.
Scot will continue to teach at Yosemite, making it clear that she will remain the same award-winning teacher she always has been in hopes that parents, students and her colleagues can understand her situation and support her during, and following, this difficult period.
"There are a lot of people that will disagree and think I made a choice but I didn't ... It's not a choice," Scot said.
"All transgenders' want is the same thing any human being wants," Scot said. "We want to be part of the community and be treated like anyone else. Nothing special, nothing worse, because we care about other people and we do have feelings too."
Scot said she just wants her students to understand that some people are different and her being different is no threat to them.
"I just want them to treat me like any other women at the high school," Scot said. "The package is the same, the wrapping paper is different."
Scot is a multiple Who's Who in America's Schools teacher, being awarded that accolade more than 10 times. She has been awarded the Eastman Kodak Award for Excellence in Teaching, and is a California Distinguished Educator. She has been teacher of the month on several occasions, and has educated more than 5,000 students.
Over her 30-year educational career, she has coached and trained California State Champions in Science Fair, Science Olympiad and Odyssey of the Mind, with her OM team taking fifth place in world competition defeating Russia. She has received honors for excellence in teaching science students by the Department of Energy/Cray Research Foundation. Scot's Native American Science team took fifth place in the All Tribe Western Native Science Championships.
Evidence gathered over the years from different health and psychology departments suggest that people who identify with a different gender than they are originally assigned, do so because of biological causes related to their genetics and makeup of their brains.
Although studies show conflicting information, roughly one in every 100,000 people in the world are transgender.
As far as the school is concerned, California educational code 220 clearly states no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation ... in any program or activity conducted by an educational institution that receives, or benefits from, state financial assistance.
According to Scot, Yosemite High School administrators have been appropriately supportive of her transition and she hopes that the students and parents will show similar compassion.
"My goal for the future is to teach my heart out for a few more years and to care about Yosemite students, then maybe do some service after I retire and help people," Scot said.
The main focus Scot wants the public to take from this is that she is still the same person with the same memories, same thoughts and the same ideas.
"I respect the feelings and beliefs of the parents of my students," Scot said. "I am not going to be pushing any social agenda in my class, but will be conducting business as usual, doing my best to share science, computer knowledge, and information about film making to better my student's lives."
Yosemite High School Principal Randy Seals says the school is going to great lengths to ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible for Ms. Scot, YHS students, parents and his faculty, and in no way will tolerate inappropriate behavior.
"We are aware of the sensitive nature of Ms. Scot's transition and its potential impact on our community. This is a unique situation, one that challenges traditional ideas, philosophies, and belief systems for many people. We want to encourage parents and families to sit together to discuss the issues surrounding this situation with their children. It is the parents' right and duty to analyze sensitive issues and instill values and beliefs in their children. We recognize this mindset and wish to support our families," Seals said.
According to Seals, the high school will provide counseling to all students, parents and faculty who feel the need to better understand the current situation and may be struggling to cope with the issue.
"Yosemite High School is a tremendous school with amazing people at its core," Seals said. "As is always the case, we are looking out for our community's children. We have a variety of counseling services available to our students for any issue, but wish to assist parents just as importantly. We care deeply for our kids, and will continue partnering with our parents and community to offer the highest quality education possible."
A letter, explaining the district's position on the matter, was sent out this week to all parents who have a student attending Yosemite High.
Note: This issue comes 90 days after California implemented the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266) which reinforces existing laws that have mandated a safe and supportive school environment for transgender individuals, including the rights to fully participate in all aspects of school activities.
The bill has been supported by numerous Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning (LGBTQ) organization including the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers, Parent Teachers, Parent Teachers Associations, the California Association of School Counselors, The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California , Transgender Law Center, and Gender Spectrum.