Rhode Island Home to 1st Transgender High School Coach
Stephen Alexander has been coaching boys’ soccer at Ponaganset High School in Gloucester, R.I., for the past three years. But what separates Alexander from the average high school coach is that he identifies as transgender.
Alexander made history recently when he came out as transgender in an interview by Outsports.com, making him the first openly transgender public high school coach in the country. Alexander sat down with EDGE to discuss his transitioning from female to male, and the reactions from family, friends and others.
Growing up in the tiny rural community of Chepachet, located in the northwest corner of the state, Alexander was a female who went by Jen Dandrow. Alexander was a tomboy, involved with sports, like football and basketball, and was a star athlete on the girls’ basketball team.
Though Alexander excelled in sports, he was having an internal battle with his emotions.
"I felt different," Alexander told EDGE. "I was always jealous of boys. I wanted to be a boy."
At the time, there was little to no discussion of LGBT issues at the school and there were no openly LGBT students or faculty members to go to for support.
"It was never talked about," Alexander said. "No one came out as gay. Looking at social cues, it was frustrating not to be myself or to reveal myself, so I never felt comfortable in the dating world. It felt unsafe for me to do that."
Despite having an inner conflict regarding his gender identify, Alexander focused his attention on sports and his studies. He was friends with mostly girls, but also palled around with a few male friends.
After high school, Alexander attended Stonehill College where he was a religious studies major. He also studied philosophy and psychology.
While in college, Alexander never imagined changing his gender from female to male, but after researching into gender identity and sex reassignment surgery, as well as meeting with other trans people, the idea of transitioning became more viable to him.
"[I thought] if other people could go through [the transition], so could I," Alexander said.
Telling his family was another challenge, however. He first told his sister, who initially had a negative reaction to his announcement. He then told his parents, who had a difficult time with the news as well.