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Alex Myers Discusses Gender Identity With Masters Community

Issues of gender identity and inclusion were front and center on Tuesday, November 27, as writer, teacher and speaker Alex Myers joined the Masters community for the day to discuss these concepts.

Myers, who grew up in the small town of Paris, Maine, was raised as a girl named Alice and came out as transgender while attending the boarding school Phillips Exeter Academy. He was the first openly transgender student at Exeter, and then at his college, Harvard.

By sharing his personal story of how he came to understand his own gender identity, Myers was able to convey to students how gender identities are felt and defined, and why this should be relevant to everyone. “Gender is at the core of our identities,” said Myers at the Upper School Morning Meeting. “[It] is very much about who we are on a deep, instinctual and knowing level.” He added, “Gender is also words — the words we have access to and the language we are given to translate ourselves to the rest of the world.”

Panther TV Student Interview With Alex Myers

Myers explained that as he grew up, he learned different words that helped him understand himself. He first identified as a tomboy, then later, a lesbian. Eventually, he discovered the definition of transgender, which became the identifier that he felt was most accurate. Myers also noted that while gender is “profoundly, deeply internal,” it is also “profoundly external,” since it serves as a helpful sorting mechanism and a form of cultural and personal expression.

During his conversations with students, faculty and parents, Myers also told the story of his ancestor Deborah Sampson Gannett, who is the focus of his book Revolutionary. Gannett ran away from home in 1782, successfully disguised herself as a man, and fought valiantly in the Revolutionary War.

Myers message to The Masters School is essential to the School’s work around inclusivity, said Director of Equity and Inclusion Karen Brown, who coordinated his visit. “It is important that we understand all facets of diversity, which includes understanding gender and gender identity, one of the cultural identifiers.” Brown also noted that “It is important for us as educators to be knowledgeable about gender identity.”