Transgendered teacher files complaint over work loss
An Edmonton teacher has filed a human-rights complaint against a local Catholic school district after the district stopped employing him as a substitute teacher because he was changing his gender.
"In discussions with the Archbishop of the Edmonton Diocese, the teaching of the Catholic Church is that persons cannot change their gender,"wrote Steve Bayus, the Greater St. Albert school district's deputy superintendent, in a letter to Jan Buterman dated Oct. 14, 2008.
"One's gender is considered what God created us to be."
Mr.Buterman, who worked as a substitute teacher in the district -- which covers the Edmonton area of St. Albert, Morinville and Legal -- from March to June 2008, told the district at the end of that school year that he was transitioning from female to male. He said he wanted his paperwork changed so that he would be known as Mr. Buterman instead of Mrs. Buterman.
Mr. Buterman said that after resuming teaching in September 2008, he received a phone call from Mr. Bayus,asking more detailed questions about his medical condition. At thattime, the superintendent counselled Mr. Buterman to teach only in the younger grades while the matter was worked out, because of the confusion it could create in adolescents, Mr. Buterman said.
"Your gender change is not aligned with the teachings of the Church and would create confusions and complexity
with students and parents as a model and witness to Catholic faith values,"Mr. Bayus subsequently wrote in a letter that informed Mr. Buterman that he had been taken off the substitute-teacher list. "I under stand that you have served the schools well in your role as a substitute teacher."
Mr. Buterman, whose background is Lutheran, said he was shocked.
"It brings back horror, fear," he said. "It felt like my existence was being questioned .... I believe we are all part of creation."
Mr.Buterman said his is a diagnosed medical condition -- equivalent to someone having cancer, for instance -- upon which employment should not depend.
He said the Greater St. Albert Catholic district,which receives public funding, has a right to its beliefs about transgendered people, but "that doesn't mean they get to ignore human rights."
Mr. Buterman had one year in which to file his complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. He said he waited to file in the hope that the school district would change its stance,and because he needed to seek legal advice on how to move forward.
Heis currently living full time as a man, and has been working as a substitute teacher with schools in the Sturgeon County public school system. He said he has an official medical diagnosis of gender identity disorder, and doctors have given approval for him to receive gender reassignment surgery, which can cost up to $80,000.