US: Teacher and symbol of trans movement dies

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A teacher who came to symbolise the trans rights movement in New Jersey has died aged 80.

Lily McBeth dedicated much of her life to teaching and helping young people meet their goals. For many years she worked as a substitute teacher in Eagleswood Township, New Jersey.

In 2005 she underwent gender confirmation surgery. But vocal opposition from some parents concerned about the impact of a transgender teacher on young students led to a contentious debate that ended with her rehiring. She later substituted at the Pinelands Regional school district as well.

The schools’ 2006 decisions to keep her on as a substitute were hailed around the US as a model of tolerance and acceptance of transgender Americans.

But she resigned in frustration in 2009 after getting only a handful of assignments. The schools said they had permanent substitutes and outside subs were only called when the permanent subs were unavailable.

AP reports Steven Goldstein, founder of the Garden State Equality rights group, said McBeth never wanted to become a symbol of anything, but became one nonetheless.

“It is so much easier to understand an issue with a human face, and Lily became the human face of transgender rights for many people,” he said. “She did so much to increase understanding and awareness of transgender people just by being strong and being who she was.”