Sat, Jan 20, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Teacher in sex-change drama

PRIVATE DECISION Janet Huang, who teaches at a Christian middle school in Chiayi County, said counselors had not been instructed to 'keep tabs' on him, despite reports

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

For Concordia Middle School math teacher Janet Huang, 45, there is no formula explaining why God trapped her in a man's body.

For modern medical science, however, freeing Huang from her corporal cage is as simple as adding and subtracting above and below the waist, respectively.

"Since I was three or four, I've felt like a female," Huang said to CtiTV yesterday following a scandal over whether Huang's Christian school in Chiayi County would fire her for seeking "sex reassignment."

Although her metamorphosis from man to woman isn't unique in a country boasting a few transexual celebrities, Huang's case puts the phenomenon of sex change in an everyday, small-town light.

Huang isn't young and sexy like TV talk show host and former man Li Jing (利菁), whose wildly successful sex change is the stuff of Hollywood.

Huang probably can't belt out a tune, either, like transexual singer Tang Fei (唐飛), or direct a stage play like transexual director Tim Wu (吳心午).

Huang, a homely teacher in rural Taiwan, drives home the reality of how a community reacts to a husband and father of four deciding to dress in drag, grow breasts and trade in his penis for a vagina.

"One day in class, before I announced that I intended to get a sex change, a student said to me, `Mr Huang, your chest is getting big!'" Huang was quoted as saying in reference to his estrogen therapy.

Huang said he has been popping hormone pills for two decades in an attempt to grow breasts.

Stoking a media maelstrom was Huang's recent announcement that he is seeking sex reassignment, a two-year process of medical evaluations culminating in a surgical operation.

The local media has reported that Concordia was nonplussed by the announcement and pressured Huang to quit after 17 years of teaching at the school.

Speaking to the Taipei Times, a secretary to the school's principal yesterday rebutted reports that the school had pressured Huang to quit.

"We have a counselor helping Teacher Huang through the evaluation process," the secretary said on the condition of anonymity.

In a statement yesterday, Huang confirmed that Concordia hadn't tried to fire him, and that the counselor wasn't "keeping tabs" on him, as some reports said.

However, Huang said that he felt pressure when the school allegedly asked him if he wanted to resign.

"I don't feel that [my superiors seek] to provide me with psychological counseling; my mental state is stable," Huang added.

Also receiving "counseling" are Huang's students, who are experiencing mixed reactions to Huang's gradual transformation, the secretary said.

"Teacher Huang's colleagues and students are reacting differently to this. Some support his decision, others oppose it," the source said, adding that Huang's rights as an employee would be protected.

How much at loggerheads Huang is with his school and family over his plans to become a woman isn't clear beyond official statements.

What is clear, however, is that Huang represents the reality of changing sexes in a society used to seeing transexuals on TV, not in the classroom.

And while Huang's change draws media spotlight, more significant changes are afoot in the thinking of his colleagues, students, children and wife, who are said to be learning to accept Huang for what he, or she, is: a good person.

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