In a story that has been making its way around the media for the past few weeks, a former teacher at a Roman Catholic prep school in Queens suing after being fired for coming out as transgender. Mark Krolikowski, who prefers male pronouns, was popular and well liked among students at St. Francis Preparatory School, where he taught for 32 years. Students particularly praised his “Human Love and Sexuality” course, which he developed and implemented 15 years ago.
Several students said they had noticed that he dressed in more feminine clothing, but stated that his appearance was never an issue for them. Krolikowski agreed to “tone down” his appearance after the parents of a ninth grade student complained and apparently received excellent reviews for the 2011-12 school year. Still, Krolikowski was terminated in August, before the school year started.
Cristina Guarino, a former student of Krolikowski, has started a petition on Change.org asking the school to formally apologize. In her letter, she states, “In a school that preaches love, respect, and acceptance, we are appalled to see that their lessons come with hateful fine print.”
Media outlets often struggle when writing about transgender people, particularly when it comes to pronouns. Mark Krolikowski confirmed his preference for male pronouns with several outlets, but many times transgender people are repeatedly misidentified by journalists who are unaware of how to accurately write about transgender subjects. The article on the Huffington Post included an editor’s note that addresses the issue in a sensitive manner, stating that they had reached out to Krolikowski about pronoun preference and had not yet received a response, but “because Krolikowski's attorney, Andrew Kimler, and the various news reports we have seen regarding this story use male pronouns when referring to Krolikowski, we are doing the same until otherwise instructed.”
The Roman Catholic hierarchy has been one of the most ardent opponents to LGBT equality. Last year, several people were fired from their jobs because of support for marriage equality. Additionally, some LGBT and allied Catholics were denied sacraments. However, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, more than three-quarters (76%) of Catholics agree that Congress should pass laws to protect transgender people from job discrimination.
Many news outlets, even those that have done some wonderful reporting on LGB people, still fail to provide fair, accurate, and kind reporting when it comes to transgender people. Just last year, the New York Times ran an article on Lorena Escalera, who had died in a house fire, that focused more on her appearance and how her neighbors perceived her than on who she had been as a human being. The article, along with the Times’ lackluster response to criticism, led to a “very frank, off-the-record discussion about issues that uniquely affect trans people.” Hopefully, news outlets will continue to report on issues affecting transgender people in a manner that is respectful and humanizing.