SWAMPSCOTT — An elementary school principal announced Tuesday that he is transgender and plans to start identifying and presenting himself as female.

Stanley School Principal Tom Daniels made the announcement in a letter to members of the school community. He said he will begin using his middle name, Shannon.

"An Irish name meaning 'wise river,' it is used by both males and females, perfectly denoting my fluid gender," Daniels wrote. He signed the letter "Shannon Daniels."

Daniels, who became principal of the kindergarten through grade four school in 2012, said in the letter that he has struggled with gender identity since he was in elementary school. He said he suppressed his feelings for more than 40 years and considered the prospect of revealing them "terrifying."

In an interview, Daniels said he woke up one morning recently and said to himself, "'Who am I and what do I want?'"

"I said, internally I'm a female and I want to be one,'" Daniels said. "It gave me this incredible peace and happiness. It was just right. At age 52, I'm brave enough and maybe foolhardy enough to do the right thing."

Soon after his announcement, Daniels said his inbox was full of supportive messages.

"It's really nice," he said.

Daniels said he knows his transition won't be easy for everyone. In his letter, he said he will be "honest and transparent" and will do "everything in my power to ensure that there is no negative impact on our school community."

In her own letter regarding Daniels' announcement, Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said she applauded Daniels' decision and admired his "courage, honesty and transparency."

"I hope you will join me and the entire district leadership in offering Principal Daniels our acceptance, understanding and support," Angelakis wrote.

Daniels and Angelakis both offered suggestions for parents on how to discuss Daniels' transition with their children. In one example, Angelakis suggested parents could say, "Principal Daniels is the same caring person who wants the best for every Stanley student. That has not changed."

Daniels asked that he be called "Principal Daniels" and said the pronouns "he," "she" and "they" are all acceptable.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.

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