Asa Sevelius, the principal of the Heath School in Chestnut Hill, Mass. came out to his students as a transgender man

By Julie Mazziotta
June 09, 2017 12:15 PM
Credit: Lane Turner/The Boston Globe/Getty

As his medical transition to male progressed, Asa Sevelius, a Boston-area school principal, could no longer hide the truth from his students. On Wednesday, he made the decision to come out as transgender and be “my most authentic self.”

He announced the news in an email to the Heath School community, a public school serving grades K-8 in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

“I work with almost 600 kids every single day and I need them to not exist in some weird, confusing place, but to really be able to be brought along in a way that is developmentally appropriate for them and not to be surprised when changes to my body occur — my voice deepens, for example, or I’m suddenly able to have a mustache when I’m greeting them at the front door,” Sevelius tells WBUR.

Sevelius knew for almost all of his 45 years that he was meant to be male, not female. He had the support of his parents as he chose to cut his hair short and wear boy’s clothes, but growing up in Georgia, he had trouble fitting in with the community and struggled to understand why he was different.

“It was like wearing clothes that don’t fit all the time, and they don’t fit in 10 different ways,” he tells The Boston Globe. “Without language, without models, without any resources at all, you don’t know how to make sense of it. The one thing that felt right was so damnable by society.”

Asa Sevelius
| Credit: Lane Turner/The Boston Globe/Getty

Sevelius eventually moved to San Francisco and came out as lesbian. He met his now-wife, with whom he has two kids, and they settled in Massachusetts after the state legalized same-sex marriage. But something still felt off.

He finally realized that he was meant to be a transgender man after Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner came out publicly. Sevelius started his transition privately but quickly realized that the Heath School community needed to know.

“People ask me, why do you have to do this?” he says. “The funny answer is, ‘Well, one of these days I’m probably going to have a beard and people might wonder why.’ But I also deserve it. I deserve to be able to show up to my life as the person I am. And so much of my life is lived right here in this school.”

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While Sevelius recognizes that living and working in a liberal area puts him in a better position than others to publicly transition, he was still afraid of backlash.

“Suddenly, the thing you thought you’d never tell anyone in your whole life is public knowledge,” he says. “Something I’ve been trying to control so carefully and meticulously and thoughtfully is out of my control.”

And he’s prepared to help the parents and students in his community through the process.

“This is a conversation that I’m ready and willing to help them have with their kids, either collectively, or help them to have it at the dinner table,” he tells WBUR. “I think there are all kinds of ways to be in this world. And I believe that I also have the right to bring my most authentic self, as do their kids. I’m hoping that those are the kinds of things that emerge in this moment for these families and for me.”