Swampscott elementary school principal Tom Daniels is now Shannon Daniels.
In a letter to the school community Tuesday, which was forwarded to the Globe, Daniels came out as transgender, a decision Daniels made after struggling for decades with her identity.
“I have never felt completely happy or at peace. I got to the point that I thought I would never be able to reveal my true self. Frankly, the prospect of doing so was terrifying,” Daniels said in the letter. “That has changed.”
Daniels, who was born biologically male, said she identifies as both male and female. But moving forward, Daniels plans to present herself as female, and use her middle name, Shannon, as her first name.
“An Irish name meaning ‘wise river,’ it is used by both males and females, perfectly denoting my fluid gender identity,” Daniels said in the letter to staff and parents at the Stanley Elementary School, where she works.
Daniels said in the letter, dated Tuesday, that as she nurtures her new identity, she will “most likely be presenting myself differently.” Daniels asked that students refer to her as Principal Daniels but said the pronouns “she,” “he,” and “they” are acceptable to use.
“While my decision is intensely personal, I realize I play a public role in the community,” the letter said. “I know there will be questions, and I am aware of the likelihood that my transition won’t necessarily be easy for everyone.”
Daniels, who has struggled with gender identity since she was in elementary school, provided parents with a set of guidelines for how they can talk about the change with their children, including telling students at the school that “there are many different ways boys and girls express themselves.”
She promised she would “do everything in my power” to ensure that her decision to come out does not have any negative effect on the school community and thanked the district for its immense support.
“I sincerely believe that the ability to live my life openly and authentically gives me great serenity and will make me a more sensitive, empathetic, and effective leader,” Daniels wrote. “I feel tremendous gratitude for being part of the Stanley family.”
A separate letter to parents sent from Superintendent Pamela Angelakis applauded Daniels for her “courage, honesty, and transparency” as she publicly embraces this “profound life change.”
“As pointed out in [Daniels’s] letter, getting to the point of being willing to share those feelings has been a long and challenging process,” Angelakis said. “I hope you will join me and the entire district leadership team in offering Principal Daniels our acceptance, understanding, and support.”
According to MassEquality.org, in 2015, Swampscott became the 12th community in the state to enact a policy adding gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy.
Angelakis, who provided parents with a list of resources about being transgender, said in the letter that the district would provide opportunities “for education and conversation” about the topic in the near future.
Read Shannon Daniels’s and Pamela Angelakis’s letters below.