It’s been one year since Karen Adell Scot, formerly Gary Sconce, made the decision to openly transition into the person she knew she was since she was 2 years old. One year after her public transformation, the transgender Yosemite High School science teacher said joy has returned to her heart.
Since first going public in a March, 2014 Sierra Star story, Scot’s story went viral and reached the far ends of the earth. She has been featured in more than 175 national newspapers and magazines across the globe, found herself engaged in public speaking and educational presentations, and has become a leading advocate for the controversial issue.
Scot said despite an initial negative backlash, the vast majority of people have been supportive throughout her transition. Since her announcement Scot has seen her Facebook page soar to thousands of friends and more than 218 followers. She has been contacted by countless transgender individuals who have applauded her for her courage to go public, especially in a small rural town like Oakhurst.
“I have had some wonderful people come along side me and help me,” Scot said. “I have had a wonderful person take hours to teach me how to do my makeup. You would be surprised how many people in our community have cared about me all the way through and that has made a huge difference.”
Scot said she has received an overwhelming amount of support and has been touched by the kindness of so many out there including those at Yosemite High.
“My fellow teachers have been extremely good and the administration has been very supportive,” Scot said. “I’ve been very pleased they have transitioned with me. I know it has not been easy for them.”
Since her transition Scot said she has lost roughly 1 out of every 10 students, who have been removed from her class either on their own accord or by the request of their parents and Scot said she does have problems with a few individuals on campus but said she always greets everyone with kindness.
As part of the process, Scot has gone through an extensive legal process to change her name and gender identity. According to Scot the process includes a petition to the courts for a name change. The court then approves the name change at an appointed court date.
After her name was officially changed Scot sent her court paperwork to the DMV to get a license with a name and gender change. After that it was on to the Social Security Office and received a new name with her old social security number. Scot said she was able to keep her old number and simply changed the name associated with that number. Last step was to change the birth certificate which now reads F, for female.
When asked why she choose Karen, Scot said it was derived from a conversation she had with her mother at five years old.
“I asked my mom what my name would have been if I was born a girl, and she told me a few choices of names she had thought of, one of which was Karen Adell,” Scot said.
Lucky for Scot, California is rated as the number one state for transgender individuals to live in according to deadspin.com, and California provides more rights for transgender individuals than any other state in the country.
But despite its broader acceptance in California there are still hundreds of hate crimes targeting transgender individuals and making the transition from a male body to a female body has not been without controversy.
Scot said the biggest misconception is that transgender individuals are fixated on sex something Scot says is far from the truth.
“The problem is fallacious thinking. They are following the paradigm that is widely held in the United States that a transgender man is just a woman pretending she’s a man and that a transgender woman is a man pretending to be a woman. They think we are doing this because we are fixated on sex, and if we are fixated on sex then we are probably going to be pedophiles and we are going to be child predators and perverts.”
Scot said this form of thinking is “insane,” creating a false fear and creating animosity to that false fear.
Following her transition Scot says she was ostracized and asked to leave the very same church she had been the worship leader for 11 years and helped develop after members of the congregation threatened to leave if Scot was permitted to stay. Scot was previously on the board of that church where she acted as chairperson of the pulpit committee.
“It’s heartbreaking that the very things that Jesus taught, which was to love unconditionally and to accept everyone, that got him ostracized and got him killed are the very things that the people who say they are his children are doing to transgender people like myself,” Scot said.
Being of a strict Evangelical faith Scot has since run out of options in the Mountain Area for what church she can attend and now makes a 100-mile round-trip commute to attend a church in Fresno.
“They think they are protecting their children and many think I am the degradation of society...but what they are really teaching their children is bigotry,” Scot said.
On top of her church experience Scot continues to be verbally attacked through her Facebook page and even purposely mis-gendered by several nation-wide newspapers and magazines, including one article written in the Daily Caller which throughout the entire article Scot is purposely referred to as a “he.”
“It’s rude,” Scot said of the comments written in the Daily Caller.
In order to combat these harsh individuals Scot says she has adopted a Zen-like mentality.
“I can’t control what other people do or don’t do. I can only control myself. I choose to care about other people, I choose to be kind to other people even if they are not kind to me. In spite of how they act towards me I choose to feel joy and I choose to be happy,” Scot said.
One of the hardships Scot never expected was the loss of her privacy. Since her exposure to the rest of the world Scot said it is difficult to go places without being identified by those who have heard about her story.
“I don’t have any privacy, it is completely gone. It’s getting better, but I don’t need it to come back,” Scot said.
Despite the social hardships Scot said the hardest part of her transition has been her family relationships, which she says has always been an integral part of her life.
“It’s really hard on family, they have to transition with the transgender and when they choose not to that’s when you have shunning,” Scot said.
Scot said her family is beginning to come around and said it has made life so much easier now that she is getting the support she needs.
“I am personally very blessed because both my children are communicating and they are trying, that means so much to me,” Scot said with a smile.
And despite the negative treatment Scot sometimes receives she said she is happier than ever and says she would not change a thing.
“It’s been magnificent. The ability to be your true, real, authentic self after hiding being a phony persona is almost inexpressible in words the joy you feel.”
Since her transition, Scot has become a leader in transgender advocacy. She continues to help others who are dealing with the transition or are having difficulties committing to their authentic self.
Scot has already spoken in front of crowds at Fresno State and the University of Nevada, Reno, discussing the struggles transgender individuals experience prior to and after their transition.
“I enjoy helping people. It rocks” Scot said with a smile. “Transgender people don’t know who to talk to, they are terrified. They are afraid to lose their job, families and friends. When I stand up in front of the public it becomes something that educates them about who they are and it helps them while they’re transitioning and that’s a great feeling.”
In order to help transgenders across the world, who are constantly at odds of what to do, Scot is in the process of creating a website called transcare. The transgender awareness website will work as an avenue for those dealing with the hardships that accompany transitioning from one body to another and offer answers to questions about hormone treatment, what to expect from your body, and other transgender related issues.
The website will include interviews with doctors, psychologists, and leaders of the transgender community.
“The goal of transcare is to help transgender people deal with their issues so they do not end up another suicide statistic,” Scot said. “My hope is that Transcare will become a national clearing house for information with videos, live chat, and education.”
Scot hopes to have a map application on the “transcare“ website that would display locations for health, therapy and surgical treatment including a listing of the doctors available in that specific area. Though the website is still in the development stage Scot hopes to have it up and running soon.
Scot said she feels it is important to be an advocate because of the limited amount of advocacy and organizations set up for transgender individuals.
“What we don’t have is a large national organization that helps people with their transitions. There are a few Websites, but there need to be a place where you can call a human being to talk to. We don’t have a lot of clout politically.”
With suicide rates that are highest per capita in the nation Scot knows the importance of reaching individuals before they are pushed to their limits.
In a National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality at UCLA showed more than 41% of transgender individuals commit suicide. That far exceeds the 4.6% average for the overall population in the United States. It is also nearly double that of lesbian, gay and bisexuals (10-20%).
When asked how this compares to the LGB movement 25 years ago, Scot noted the biggest difference is the number of transgender individuals.
“The difference here is the number of people that are transgender,” Scot said. “We make up on 1/3 of 1% of the population. We are the ultimate minority. We are being worse than lynched. Even today I have to watch where I walk at night.”
Some studies have shown that one transgender woman is killed every 32 hours.
“More than 270 of us (transgender) were violently murdered last year and no one cares,” Scot said with tears in her eyes. “If people realized how many of us were being violently murdered every year they would rise up with larger numbers than they did in Ferguson. But they don’t, which is why I am starting transcare. We have to be our biggest supporters.”
Scot says she will continue to pursue her advocacy and educating the public on this important issue despite any backlash she receives. She will continue to fight for the rights of transgender human being and never let bigotry or hatred change who she is.
“I am a survivor,” Scot said “I have survived things people wouldn’t understand. But I am a survivor.”