Born in England in 1940, Gayle Roberts taught high school science for thirty years and holds a Masters in Physics from the University of Victoria. During her life, Gayle endured years of therapy because psychiatrists said she had multiple personality disorder. In the end the therapy was unhelpful because Gayle’s struggle was to accept that she was a transgender woman.
Coming out meant taking the risk of losing the things that mattered to her most, namely her wife and her job. But her gender dysphoria was so severe that the choice was between coming out or death. Gayle came out.
In 1996, Gayle became the first teacher in the Vancouver School Board to transition on the job. Her transition in the workplace was a very positive experience – the students, parents, and coworkers at Lord Byng Secondary were very respectful and accepting. Gayle attributes this to the progressive nature of Vancouver, where employers have accepted that the workforce is diverse. She also feels that on a practical level, it is in the employer’s best interests to facilitate the smooth transition of trans employees because these employees have already been oriented to the job and gained valuable experience that generally makes them a better employee than someone just learning the ropes. Gayle continued to teach at Lord Byng and serve as head of the science department until her retirement in 2002.
She then began devoting her time to delivering workshops to employers and school districts throughout the Lower Mainland about creating safe and welcoming working and learning environments for transgender and transsexual students.
Her proudest moments as a trans advocate include co-authoring Supporting Transgender and Transsexual Students in K-12 Schools: A Guide for Educators (Canadian Teacher’s Federation, 2012) and shepherding the passage of a Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH, 2010) policy statement declaring gender to be an issue of identity rather than pathology.
Most recently, she is helping to revive the Zenith Foundation, a peer support and advocacy group that supports trans people in a variety of ways, including through the delivery of workshops about respecting the rights of trans employees.