Mx. Leenders, from HCP student to HCP teacher

Mx.+Leenders+teaches+Daily+Grammar+Practice+to+their+fourth+hour+English+class.

Becca

Mx. Leenders teaches Daily Grammar Practice to their fourth hour English class.

Becca Jolly, Reporter

Kat Leenders comes back to Hcp after graduating to teach tenth grade English during the 2022-2023 school year. 

Leenders is a former graduate from Harding. From Harding, they decided to go to UCO to pursue an education degree and ultimately a teaching career.  

“I figured out I wanted to be a teacher I think my junior or sophomore year of high school,” Leenders said. “I was in Mrs. Boomer’s class and we were chatting because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. When I was talking to her, she was like, ‘yeah, you like reading you like writing and you can teach it’ and it just sparked,” they said.  

“After that it was just like everything fell into place. I can’t see myself doing anything else,” Leenders said. 

The road to finding their authentic identity took some time, starting in high school and arriving about two years ago, when they came out as non-binary, identifying as they/them.  

“Coming out was probably two years ago at this point, but realizing took a longer time,” Leenders said. “In high school I would play around with clothing, but not hair or makeup.”  

“After that it was just like everything fell into place. I can’t see myself doing anything else,””

— Kat Leenders

“I thought right now I would focus on the sexuality thing and put off everything else until later.” 

“I vividly remember my dad and I; we were at S&B Burgers for dinner and I think it was a weekend during senior or junior year,” Leenders said. “He questioned me about what I was wearing and I remember telling him I wanted to look for androgynous clothes and he had this weird look on his face so I think that my dad realized his kid wasn’t cisgender before I did.” 

Coming out isn’t easy. Everyone has obstacles, including Leenders. When asked about their personal struggles, Leenders said, “there’s obstacles with myself; the dysmorphia is real. But really, it’s just small bits of gender euphoria but, they don’t happen as much.”  

“I want to say If I came out earlier in life I would have more gender euphoria,” they said.  

Leenders has faced discrimination from people in their life. While working for Independence Charter Middle School, Leenders said students would purposely mis-gender them.  

“That was really frustrating,” they said. Leenders said it is difficult navigating the issue because not everyone knows what the suffix ‘Mx.’ means, how to pronounce it or even how it relates to them at all.  

Not very many people know what the suffix ‘Mx.” is. ‘Mx.’ is a suffix used by non-binary people who use they/them pronouns in a professional work place. It is pronounced ‘mix.’ 

“Honestly, I had an easier time coming out as bisexual as a teenager then I did as non-binary as an adult,” they said. 

When meeting new students, Leenders said they have a special gift. 

“I don’t know if it’s an English teacher thing or a queer person thing but I have always been able to pick out the other queer students,” they said. “You know the meme that says ‘oh you know the queer students find their English teacher and bond with them?’ It is true!”  

Leenders has things that they like that make them them. For example, if you pass them in the hall, you will notice the many tattoos they have. Their first tattoo was a small crescent moon outline on their collar bone.  

“I got it at the same time as my ex, and it was this stupid Friday the 13th flash sale so I got it for like $30 from the shop apprentice, so it’s a little wonky now,” Leenders said with a laugh. “The tattoos generally help with the body dysmorphia.”  

Leenders said they feel more collaborative with the English department here than at ICMS.  

“I’m not sure how I feel about everybody in the 10th grade department, but I’m glad the school year is off to a great start,” Leenders said. “This year feels like a more well-oiled machine administration-wise than my last school’s administration did.” 

Leenders has big plans for their future. Currently, they are attending the University of Central Oklahoma to get their master’s degree.  

“If everything goes great, I can graduate this time next year,” Leenders said.  

Leenders thinks they will stay in Oklahoma to teach for a while, Preferably at HCP. 

“Working here is kind of a dream come true experience,” they said. “But maybe 10 years from now, I would like to teach in a different state maybe, possibly Maine.”  

Why Maine? Leenders said they always loved it there.  

“In Freeport, where my aunt and uncle live, they are an hour away from the beach, 30 minutes away from hiking trails, and 20 minutes away from shopping and civilization, so it’s the perfect little area of where I want to be.” 

If you or someone you know is struggling with queer discrimination, you can call the Trevor Lifeline at 1.866.488.7386 or visit TheTrevorProject.org .