In this episode, Host, Bryan Stanton (he/they), talks with Jeanne-Anne Tye (she/her) a high school English teacher in North Texas. We dive into the "A" of LGBTQIA talking asexual/aromantic identities and masking.
To be a guest or to hear more episodes visit www.teachingwhilequeer.com.
You can find host, Bryan Stanton, on Instagram.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Teaching While Queer Podcast! Please help me out by subscribing and reviewing the podcast on your favorite Podcast service.
If you are interested in being a guest on Teaching While Queer please contact me at email@example.com.
Intro: Teaching While Queer is a podcast for LGBTQIA plus teachers, administrators, and well anyone who works in academia to share their stories. Hi, my name is Bryan Stanton, a queer theater educator in San Antonio, Texas. Each week I bring you stories from around the world centered on the experiences of LGBTQIA+ folks in academia.
Thank you for joining me on this journey and enjoy Teaching While Queer.
Host: Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of Teaching While Queer. Today I have the pleasure to talk with fellow Texas teacher, Jeanne-Anne Tye. Hello. How are you doing?
Jeanne-Anne: I'm good, thanks. How are you today?
Host: I'm fantastic. So tell us a little bit about yourself.
Jeanne-Anne: All right, so like you said, I am a Texas teacher. I've been teaching for six years now. In the North Texas area specifically been here for the whole six years. And I identify as ace and aromantic, although in a school setting and just kind of casually and publicly with acquaintances I kind of just default to identifying as gay since it's the more, since it's more easily understandable.
And I don't necessarily want to have a full explanation and conversation with every single person and child I ever meet. And so, within the six years of my teaching, I have been publicly out for about five and a half.
Host: Awesome. I love that you opened up the conversation a little bit with identifying how you feel comfortable in public settings versus like your own feelings for, you know, yourself your personal friends and family. And I actually had a conversation with a friend a couple of weeks ago who didn't understand the idea of romantics versus versus sexuality, and so would you be willing to give us a little crash course for anybody who may not know the difference between the two?
Jeanne-Anne: Heck yeah. Okay. So when we talk about, I, this is actually very funny because I had a conversation in class on Thursday with a bunch of students, not specifically about this, but we are about to read Romeo and Juliet. And so we were talking all about love and can teenagers fall in love? And it's a delightful argumentative time. And one of the things we talked about was about different types of attraction and you know, romantic attraction versus physical versus platonic versus aesthetic versus intellectual. And it was cool because they all kind of really quickly grasped that concept.
So, to anybody who's not familiar with it, when we think about when you meet somebody, when you initially first meet somebody, walk into a room, see somebody across, you know, an area, whatever you have some sort of gut reaction to them and that reaction may be, oh, they like, look really cool.
I love their outfit. Or it might be, you know, holy cow, I would really like to go somewhere more private and get to know them in a more physical way. Or it might just be, oh, they seem really kind. I want to, you know, kind of cuddle with them and just be physically close or they seem really nice. I'd like to talk to them. I'd like, they seem interesting. I'd like to get to know them in terms of their story better and all of those different reactions are the different types of attractions that we can have. And so, when we are thinking about sexuality, we tend to put romantic and sexual attraction together as you know, a quick little blanket statement because for most people those align but they don't always for everybody, and they are separate things.
So in the same way that you might meet somebody and think, I wanna be friends with this person, versus I meet somebody and I would like to be romantically or sexually involved with this person. Those are two different types of attractions. And in that same way, romantic and physical attraction can also be separate from each other.
Host: Absolutely. I have a friend of mine who is pansexual, aromantic, and I was like, wonderful. I think that is so, it's really a journey of self-awareness to get to that point because there's so much societal pressure of like, in order to be happy, you have to find that other person. . And it's so, so many like, when are you gonna get a boyfriend girlfriend? Or whatever. And so I think that it's a wonderful kind of journey that I guess linguistics have taken over the past few years on being able to identify these different parts of ourselves, and get past just, you know, sexual and platonic, you know, and that's kind of where we were, had this dichotomy.
And so much of our pop culture was like, you know, men and women can't be friends because obviously there's a sexual attraction, obviously.
Jeanne-Anne: And it's just such nonsense.
Host: Absolutely. Yeah. There's such a spectrum. I like to talk often about the idea of ancient Greek words and how ancient Greek had like six different words to describe love, And I feel like this is where we are starting to develop and build that terminology as well to talk about, like, I've got love for my friends, I've got love for my family, I've got cuddly love with this person, and I've got romantic love with this person, and it's not all the same things.
Jeanne-Anne: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. It's really interesting because something that I've been kind was thinking about working through lately, it, hang on, excuse me. Is the way that society places so much emphasis on romantic and sexual relationships means that our friendships tend to be very much secondary, right? And so it's like, okay, well your romantic partner is your person, and then friendships come second.
And it's interesting because since I just don't experience or want romantic or sexual relationships with people to me friendships are the most important, crucial, valuable thing in my life. And it's interesting then, because whenever I you know, have friends who are prioritizing their romantic partners, it makes me or not, it makes I then feel almost rejected sometimes.
And I have to always kind of remind myself like, no, you just don't experience this thing that other people experience. Our experiences are different. So yeah, it's really interesting to, I don't know, approach those different types of nuances in how people navigate their relationships.
Host: Absolutely. And I can imagine that's probably real rough, especially because I know that I've been the person in a relationship who's like, I haven't seen my friends in months, but I've also been the person in the relationship who's like, bye, I'm going out with my friends. So like, I can see how that could be real impactful for a person who's not necessarily feeling the same kind of attractions towards others as is typical, I guess, or considered typical.
And I think it'd be interesting cause I think that relationship wise, it depends on the person, what you're gonna feel. And for some people you're gonna feel no drive and no desire. At like yourself, you had mentioned like, I don't have these kind of feelings. And then for me, I, it's almost like I have feelings for certain people, and then like, no drive, no desire for other people. And I feel like , that it should be an easier thing to understand because we do have those moments where like, Nope, absolutely not. , we, oh yeah, we're way compatible, but absolutely not, you know? .
Jeanne-Anne: Yeah, it's funny because I, for me, like the I guess corollary to a romantic drive for me is a friendship drive and so I'll meet somebody and just be like, I so desperately wanna be friends with them. Like, I'm so interested in who they are and everything about them. I'm like, oh my gosh, I just wanna sit and talk for hours and laugh and have jokes, and let's go get dinner. Come on. And then it's funny because I feel like that's something that's not really talked about a ton.
And so I don't know, like I, I don't see people really talk about that type of friendship drive. . So it's it's kind of interesting.
Host: Absolutely. I think it's something that we all had when we were kids, and it just kind of gets phased out as you're an adult and and your focus has to become finding your partner, right? When society's like, it's time for you to find your partner, all of a sudden, your drive to find friends or your ability to find friends even can be more difficult because , it's like, how do I have this balancing act? And I think some people feel like love is a pie, and if I give some away, then there's not gonna be any for anybody else.
Jeanne-Anne: Oh, I know. And I, I don't know. It's, again, going back to that conversation that my students and I were having they talked a lot. We had read this article called the 12 Tests of Love, which looks at different ways to determine whether or not somebody really fully is in love. And it's a debatable, it's a debatable article but it's kind of our introduction into these topics.
And one of the things it talks about that I very much disagree with, but I'm not gonna get into that with my students, especially since its are freshman is it talks about the test of singularity and about only being attracted to and having these loving relationships with that one person, with your one partner.
And it was very interesting because all of my students basically said like, oh, that's an unnecessary thing to include because it's so inherent. Because of course you shouldn't be attracted to anybody else. You shouldn't be looking at anybody else. You shouldn't be anything. and I was, you know, I'm not gonna sit there and turn that into a polyamory exist conversation.
Especially considering I'm teaching the daughter of the principal and I don't necessarily want that, you know, dynamic to, I don't want how to deal with that over what is a very short part of the conversation. But it is very interesting because, you know, I sit there looking at it going, no, we all have so much capacity for love and we all have so much, you know, ability to share that.
But at the same time, I wonder if my saying that comes from the fact that I do not experience romantic and sexual attraction. And so to me I'm like, well sure you can have it for everybody cuz I have it for no one. So I don't know .
Host: Absolutely, right. If I've got no one, then you could have it for everyone.
So I fully believe that Asexual and aromantic folks have been around for centuries and centuries. The terminology is kind of catching up with us now. So in the fact that like a lot of this linguistic verbiage for our community kind of came out in the last 20 years or so did you always know that you were asexual and aromantic or as a child was it different?
What was your journey in that?
Jeanne-Anne: Yeah, so it's been interesting if I feel many queer people would say because I, it took me a while to come to that language and it's taken me even longer to be comfortable with it. Largely because of the way that society puts so much emphasis on these types of relationships.
And if you don't have this, then clearly you are broken. You are whatever, you know, that's a particular , you know, a particularly complicated thing that I feel like a lot of ace people deal with. But to kind of backtrack that. So in high school, I had crushes. I fully was like, oh my gosh, I like this boy so much.
And would have flirtations or, you know, unrequited feelings or, you know, blooming, blossoming, little potential romances that never really went anywhere, did anything. And then whenever I got into college, I just didn't have b, anybody or anything. I didn't kind of deal with it or think about it. I would occasionally have these moments of just panic and laying in bed at night.
I there's no boy that I like, so I must be gay. And I don't know how to deal with that. And I love my friends so much. I clear I must be in love with her. What is happening? Am I just refusing to acknowledge it in myself? If I am gay, then what am I gonna do with this? You know, all these, all of the gay panic thoughts basically.
And then I would wake up the next morning and wouldn't even be thinking about it then I'd just be like, all right, whatever. I wanna go get breakfast. And then I got out of college, started teaching and just started publicly identifying as gay, because I know, I knew, and I still know that my closest connections have pretty much always been with women.
And that, that's just the company that I'm far more comfortable with. And so, I was like, okay, I think there might be some sort of, you know, ace something in the mix here, but it's just simple enough to go with gay and move on. Because I wasn't particularly attached to or needing any label. Especially because I didn't want to date anybody, so I wasn't having to navigate explaining it to anyone.
When I was in college, I would go home over the summers and I would, I, it wasn't specific to those time periods, but I remember having these conversations with my brother and explaining to him that I was really wondering if I had some repressed childhood memories of having been abused in some way.
Not because I thought I had been abused, but because I knew that I wasn't desiring anybody. And my framework for that was, okay, well that sometimes happens based on childhood abuse. And so clearly that is the easiest explanation for what I'm I am experiencing. So then began publicly identifying as gay.
And then a few years ago, probably three or so years ago, I ended up in a relationship with someone. And I dated him for about a year, a little over a year actually. And in the process of dating him, I realized that I was ace and aromantic because I was, you know, exploring these parts of life that I had not explored before.
And just kind of came to the realization like, I don't seem to have the same reaction or experience with these situations that other people do. And so I would have these long conversations with my friend, one of my friends about like, okay, , what do you feel like when you kiss somebody? How does that work for you?
Like what's in your head? How does your body feel? Like, what is this? Because I mostly just find it really boring and I'm just kind of sitting there going like, okay, this is, can we go back to watching our TV show now because like, this isn't, I'm bored. And so I broke up with him or we broke up. And it was a remarkably easy breakup in the sense that I was not sad because I was like, okay, cool.
I don't have to like deal with, I, you know, it's not something that I have to incorporate into my life anymore. And so since then I've just been single and very happily identifying as ace and aromantic. And then that's been a process that I've kind of talked about with some of my friends and just kind of letting them know, hey, This is a thing and kind of getting more comfortable talking to them about it.
Although I do still identify as gay within the school setting and just kind of with, you know, casual acquaintances at the dog park . Just because again, that is the easiest thing to understand for a lot of people.
Host: For sure. It's interesting. It's got me thinking, I'm doing a lot of pedagogy work right now. I'm getting my master's.
Jeanne-Anne: Oh, exciting.
Host: It's a second master's, but it's actually in teaching, so it's really fun, and a lot of my pedagogy work is focused on access for folks with disabilities, and I'm thinking a lot right now about how even the term like atypical behaviors and whatnot. And so then we've got aromantic, asexual and how folks who fall into those categories do a lot of masking to feel like everybody else where they put on the I am gay or I'm gonna put on this front. And just like you explained, like when the breakup was done, it was like, oh, now I just don't have to do that . I was like, oh, see. Yeah, it's connecting lots of dots for me right now.
Jeanne-Anne: It's funny because that prefix of "a" is what I use to explain asexual and aromantic to people. Cause I'm an English teacher and so that's my wheelhouse. And so I go, okay, well, "a" the prefix it means not or without. And so you attach that to your root word and you're talking about not having a sexual drive or a romantic drive. And I don't know, it's interesting also because I feel like, and I am now also spinning around this idea of how that connects to atypical behavior and kind of neurodivergence.
But at least with the, you know, conversation about sexuality. Being asexual can sometimes feel very lonely because it is something defined by an absence. . Right. And it's something that is defined by, I don't experience something that other people do. And it can come sometimes have that feeling of kind of being, you know, outside looking in through the window with, you know, everybody's inside at the party with their significant others.
And then I'm just kind of hanging out here going cool, but I want my friend back. You know? And so it can be an interesting experience, especially because I've been feeling it more lately whenever I have students who ask me, oh, do you have a girlfriend? Do you like, oh, you know, my students are remarkably comfortable with their teachers.
Not just me with all of their teachers. And so they will say things like, oh, Ms. Tye, I know you got some side hos. I know you got some people. I see it. I see you blushing. And I'm really just sitting there going. Blushing because I want them to stop talking to me about that.
Host: Please stop saying side hos.
Yeah, like, please stop please choose a different word. . But you know, they'll ask like, oh, don't you ever want to have a girlfriend? Don't you ever wanna get married? And they really struggle to understand whenever I'm like, no, I'm very happy by myself. And I have, you know, known other professionals who also are happily not married.
Jeanne-Anne: I don't know about their identity, but as far as I'm aware, they identified as straight. And so, I don't know. It's just, it's an interesting thing that's been rattling around my head lately.
Host: And so you said that you are out as gay at school, so your students were very comfortable. And what not, what was that experience like coming out in your classroom?
Jeanne-Anne: It was a panic attack. It was a full panic attack while I was teaching, which I don't know if you have ever experienced or if any of the listeners have ever experienced, I certainly hope you have not.
Host: I had one on Santa Monica Boulevard on a trip to Hollywood. A couple well last year, so.
Jeanne-Anne: Okay. Yeah. Congratulations. Welcome, welcome to the club.
Host: We should get membership card.
Jeanne-Anne: Yeah. I think we should have like, sashes. Okay. So it was January of my first year teaching and I had, I was assigning them my I was assigning my juniors and identity project and I don't remember why or how it was connected to anything.
I think it was because it's American literature. And so we had been talking about the American identity all year and I was like looking at them and going, okay, so tell me your identities, something like that. And so I had put together a mockup and it's basically, it was a poster. They all had to create a poster with a combination of words and images to represent who they are.
Pretty standard. And I had made one and I had included the word accepting on there as part of my identity. And then as I was talking them through my example, I talked about how I had put that on there, not just because. I wanted, or I put it on there because I wanted to be accepting of others. And because I, you know, could sometimes, can sometimes struggle with other people accepting me as a gay person.
And I remember talking about that or saying some version of that, and I remember one of my students who sat in the back right hand corner saying, Hey, me too. And just being, you know, very happy that I was saying that as a teacher. And then, and that's pretty much all I remember. Because it was a 90 minute block class.
I don't know when in the class period I said that probably at the very beginning, I don't remember anything else. My knees were shaking and I feel like I blacked out because I genuinely do not remember what I was looking at any point in that class. I only remember the audio of that student. And the nice thing is it went well other than that one student's response.
I didn't hear anything specific. And then I came out to the member of my administration who deals with the English department shortly after, just in a conversation that we were having. I had worn a shirt to school that was like, based off of the DARE program visual . And it said, dare to resist Racism, sexism, and homophobia.
It's a very cute shirt. I love the shirt. Students who did not frequently talk in my classmate a point to come up and tell me that they liked my shirt, I was very happy. And then I found out that an unknown parent or unknown to me had called, not my you know, assistant principal, not my principal called the superintendent.
Uhhuh, you can see it coming. Called the superintendent and said that they felt I was, that it was inappropriate for me to wear that, not because they did not like the anti-racism or anti-sexism parts, but because they felt that they were being religiously targeted by the anti homophobia part of my shirt.
In retrospect, I find that very funny.
Host: In the moment. I'm sure it's frightening.
Jeanne-Anne: Oh yeah. No, I sobbed. I was completely, I was a complete mess. And so then later I went and talked to my admin and was like, just so you know, I am gay, like blah, blah, blah. And that it was fine. It later was not fine with my administration.
I gave it a couple years and I left mid-year because of some stuff that happened. But yeah, that was the process of initially coming out as a teacher. And then with my current administration at my current school, I made sure to ask about how the community reacted to gay teachers when I was offered the job before I accepted it, and I was very clear about this, you know, I am a gay teacher coming into a very small school district. Have you had openly gay teachers before? What has the reaction been? And the principal who was interviewing me said we have had gay teachers. It's been a positive or neutral reaction. We haven't had any problems.
And I specifically think that it is a valuable thing to have an openly gay person on campus, both for the students who are gay and for the students who are not. So that they can understand somebody who is different than them. That is such a valuable thing to have. And I said, I accept the job position.
Host: I had to do a similar thing and I did it during the interview, you know, in that moment where they're like, do you have any questions? Like, yes, let's chat. Yeah. So, and it's so hard, but . So you work in a small district in , Northern Texas, which is a portion of this, the state is wild and like the big hubs for people who aren't familiar with Texas, like the big cities are very liberal and welcoming and open. And then immediately outside of those big cities, all of the small towns are very conservative and for family values. And so what is it like for you working with students?
Do you have your own core group of like, queer kids on campus? Do you have do you have experiences where maybe you have some homophobia from students? What is it like for you working with students?
Jeanne-Anne: Yeah. So. , I was in, I'm gonna kind of do a compare and contrast.
So when I was in my bigger district so I was in a district that had about 400 students per grade level. That's where I started. And now I'm in a district that has about 40 students per grade level. Just to give a science comparison. So I'm in a district where when we, like the whole school is one hallway, and the English department is me and one other teacher.
We teach the entirety of the high school. It's wonderful. . . There's so many you know, teaching broad teaching things that make it fabulous. But when I was in my larger district, I didn't personally experience any homophobia. It was fine but I definitely experienced students who would kind of flock to me.
And I called them my queer babies in my head. Not just because I didn't want to, you know, sound condescending to them. But they're my little queer babies. And they would make a point to come hang out before school, during lunch, after school, whatever. And they would bring their friends who had other English teachers to come meet me.
And it would be the funniest thing because I mean, I would be at a football game, you know, being in charge of whatever. And I would have a student come up to me and say, Ms. Ty, I need you to meet this, I need you to meet my friend because she's gay too. , that was the entire introduction.
I don't know, this child . And so that was lovely. And then now at my much smaller, much, much smaller district I don't have that, I don't have the flocking as much, I think largely because I just teach all of the students. I've been there for two years now and. So last year I taught ninth and 11th graders.
This year I still teach ninth and 11th graders. So at this point I either have taught or am teaching every single person in the high school. . And I think because of that I don't really get the flocking so much cuz they're all in our rooms all the time anyway. But I definitely have my students who will come find me and hang out in my room perhaps more than others.
What I think is interesting is that I don't get so much of, like, I don't have my queer babies group at this school district, but I do have my liberal kids and they are the ones who make a point to come hang out and yeah, we have lots of chats about whatever, or they just come and sit in my room and do whatever.
But that's definitely my core group who flocked me at the moment.
Host: Awesome. And have you had any experiences where students have been either intentionally or unintentionally homophobic around you?
Jeanne-Anne: Yeah, so last year this we, okay, so last year my juniors American Lit, we were doing a unit on civil rights because of course, and it's, oh my gosh, how much fun to talk about.
We were reading the Black Panthers 10 point program, which by the way, I teach the most, I teach far more radical texts in this tiny district than I ever did at my large district . And there's no pushback. And it's fabulous because I'm just like, Hey, let's just explore this. But we were talking about the Black Panthers 10 point program.
One of the things on there at the beginning is it talks. The black community having control of the institutions in their areas. And so we talked about, well, what does that word institutions mean? We talked about a lot of things, including the laws in the area. And I made a point to point out that at the time that the Black Panthers 10 point program was written I can't remember the specific dates, but it was either, I think it was two years before interracial marriage became legal.
And so we're just talking about that. My students are, you know, their minds are blown. And I had a student who, with no hint of irony, said, wow, can you be, can you imagine being told who you can and can't love? That's so crazy. And I'm like, Yeah, I can actually imagine that. 100%. . And so I said, yeah, I can, I mean, I remember where I was when I found out that gay marriage was legal and then that caused an explosion of flurry amongst my students.
One of them very sweetly said, I didn't know it was illegal. I just thought it was taboo. And I'm like, oh, honey, that's sweet. , I think that's sweet. I think your innocence is cute, perhaps. And so they were looking up dates and asking me questions, and the same child who had made the comment about, can I, can you imagine being told you can and can't love had looked up the, you know, court case about it and he said something along the lines of, no offense, but I just think that they, I think that they made the wrong decision.
I don't think they should be legal. . And for some reason, I mean, not for some reason, obviously it's a hurtful comment, but that comment as opposed to any other really hit me. And I said, oh that's kind of hurtful to hear. And he shrugged and he said, I said, no offense.
Host: That explains it.
Jeanne-Anne: Yeah, And I don't think he meant it Hurtfully. I think he's just young and dumb, which he has the right to be young and dumb. He is young and dumb. But it really hurt. And so I was trying to like not cry in front of my students, which I don't do. I'm known as a very sarcastic, you know, nothing is gonna bother me kind of person.
And I still had 15 minutes left in class. So I just kept on teaching as I'm trying not to cry. And they can hear it, my voice and they know. And the silence in the room. Oh my goodness. My class was never that quiet . And between that class period and the next one, the students in the entire school had already heard about it.
Cuz they were coming in from my next period going, Ms. Tye, how are you? I heard about what happened. But what the, not the benefit, but something that I hold on to as a very nice part of what was overall not a very nice memory, is that I had two separate students who were somewhat known for being homophobic who came up to me separately later in the day and either offered me a hug or sincerely asked if I was okay.
And they each made a comment about how it was really crappy of the other student to have said that to me. And it was very moving that those two students in particular made a point to offer comfort in some way. And I will say that the student who had made that comment came back within three class periods and apologized to me, I think largely because his girlfriend and every other person in the school was giving him a lot of grief over it.
But, you know, whatever, it was a nice part to what was not a particularly nice moment.
Host: Yep. I can see that. I can see that. So you had mentioned earlier that in your previous district you had some struggles with administration. , do you mind sharing a little bit about that?
Jeanne-Anne: Yeah. So, basically what happened was or here's the shortened version. A student had conservative parents and the student did not like me. I don't know why. Or perhaps the parents did not like me again, I don't know. But my administration, as I later learned, was receiving complaints from that, from those parents complaints along the lines that I was, you know, indoctrinating students and always talking about sexuality in class and that I was making students feel unwelcome and uncomfortable in my classroom.
And I was called down for a meeting with my administration at the beginning of the day, or, you know, towards the beginning of the day on a Friday. And they laid out or not laid out, that's really the wrong word. As I'll explain. But they told me that I had all of these accusations against, and I was completely dumbfounded because I had not heard any problems before that.
There was no ramp up to that meeting. It was out of the complete blue. And so I, you know, tried to defend myself. I tried to explain why I had a pride flag sticker in my classroom. And my principal yelled at me, like fully raised himself out of his chair to yell at me and speak over me. I asked for specifics of these accusations of what I was accused of having doing, and I was not told but I was told that if they received any additional complaints against me, that I would have to go defend my job to the school board.
And they did, they said that without telling me what the complaints were. So I did not know what to specifically address or fix. And then there were some other issues of other lies that were coming up and it was a whole thing. But essentially it was, they did not like that I was an openly gay teacher, and they, regardless of what their personal feelings were on it, they were deciding to side with one, possibly a couple sets of parents who were upset about this or who, you know, were just homophobic about it.
And they decided to support the parents rather than support their teacher. And so I left the meeting and realized that I did not feel safe in my school at all. And so that was the last day that I ever was there. I went up that weekend. It was in October and it was a three day weekend, which I was very happy about because it gave me some extra time.
And I went up on the following Sunday and packed up my entire room and emailed my resignation and said, I'm not returning to school. That began a process of speaking with the then assistant superintendent who was a very kind person. And he accepted my resignation when he found out what had happened.
And then I just kind of moved on because it was a very traumatic situation.
Host: Yep. Absolutely. For those of you who are not in Texas, one of the things to note is that when we have a mid-year resignation , you can fully have your license revoked and no longer be able to teach. So yeah, I'm pleased that your assistant superintendent at least understood the situation and the circumstances was able to make a good decision that wasn't gonna negatively impact everybody involved.
I also have a little note for our allies out there, all of you parents and ally teachers and whatnot, this is common. , it is so common that the minority is the loudest voice in the room when it comes to spreading hate. . So like for some reason people are able to consistently daily, hourly, send emails and whatnot to complain about queer educators and this is happening all over the country. Yeah. And the voices to oppose them will show up at a school board meeting once every few months to say something, but there's not nearly the numbers or the persistence from the supportive voices. So please get out there and support your queer teachers.
Jeanne-Anne: Absolutely. A couple things that I'll add there.
For anybody who is not familiar with the work situation in Texas in general we do not have unions. We are not allowed to have unions. And so to any of you who are, you know, Oh my gosh. Go to your union rep. I would've loved to do that. I didn't have one. Texas does have organizations that are basically non-union unions, so things like H E P E or T C T A.
And I was very dumb and I had let my membership lapse do not do that. The reason I say that is because they can offer legal assistance. And so I ultimately had to pay for legal assistance myself because I did put a law. I did have a lawyer on retainer. I specifically contacted a lawyer based in Austin, those that do not from Texas, that is about four hours south of me.
And I contacted him and made sure that I had his, you know, advice and legal counsel on the situation. What was interesting was that whenever I explained to him the situation, he was not phased in the slightest and he said, yes, I get calls like this every single hour, every day. So this is an incredibly common thing, as Bryan said, to have happen.
I feel like people who are particularly bigoted I feel like they don't have jobs because they take on bigotry as their full-time job and just send emails constantly. I don't know how they have time to work.
Host: It does feel like that, for sure.
Jeanne-Anne: What was also interesting was that when I left, now keep in mind my students have no idea what is happening.
I have, I had a very decorated and colorful room, and they came back on Tuesday to an empty room, which I imagine was very jarring. And so, you know, it was big news at the school that something had happened. Students thought that I had been fired, and they were very, a lot of them were very upset about this.
And the kind of heartwarming part about it was that I have never in my life received as many messages ever as I did in the week or so after I left. Students and parents were emailing me, finding me on Facebook, finding me on Instagram and reaching out to me to express their support and their outrage at the situation.
I had parents of students I never taught reaching out to me. Parents of students I didn't even know were reaching out to me. And I only know that because they identified themselves as such in their messages to say, you know, my student, my child has never had you, but I've heard about you and I think what happened to you was horrible.
And so it was wonderful to see that much support. But as you said to all of the allies out there, you, I feel like support is silent. Right? You like something so you don't have to talk about it because it's good. You know, you, you don't complain when things are going well. But if you are in a situation where you like the teacher that your student has, whether they're queer or not, for whatever reason, if you like them, email the principal and tell them that you like that teacher.
Tell them that you appreciate them. Because that does a lot of good in terms of securing our favor with the administration. ,
Host: If they're only hearing bad news, they're only hearing bad news. I had similar things happen with "appropriateness" of like theatrical productions. And one person complained to the superintendent, and thousands of people saw the show. And the next show that I did, I had to fill out a form because the one person complained, but thousands of people saw the show. And I was like, I struggle because it's at the same time, the school district is like, have you heard of Brené Brown?
We're all gonna study Brené Brown. Right. And we're all going to be the man in the arena, the man in the arena, and we're going to rumble and all of these things. And meanwhile, they're giving cheaps like the biggest opinion to the cheap seats to use Brene Brown's terminology. So they're allowing the power to be in the cheap seats, and it's like, okay, this one person in the back of the room who's never gonna come see a play, never. Had more power than these thousands of people who are actually in paying seats watching this show. ,
Jeanne-Anne: It's funny that you mentioned Brene Brown, but I actually showed her vulnerability TED Talk on Thursday. I had never actually watched them or seen them, and then a friend encouraged me to go see them, to go watch them, and I immediately went, okay, let me put this into my classroom lessons.
But it's interesting because, you know, the talk that you're referencing deals so heavily with the topic of shame. And I felt a lot of shame after what happened with my administration. I felt there, there had been a situation in a class a few weeks prior where a student came in and very abashedly said that he had heard a word in the hallway and he didn't know what it meant and would I please define it, but he was scared to say it because he didn't wanna get in trouble.
This was a very good child who asked an earnest, and so I answered. I was like, yeah, sure. Tell me. He had heard the word transvestite and I was like, oh, that's not a bad word, hun. So here, let's talk about this. And I'm like, okay. You know, giving him history and context and explaining and switching him to some more modern language.
And that turned into a class period, not a whole class period that turned into maybe five minutes of students asking about terminology questions and expressing such beautiful curiosity, asking things like, well, what do the letters in L G B T stand for? Cuz they don't even. And I made sure that the conversation was very appropriate, very grade level, accessible.
And I had a paraprofessional in the room with me at the time and I made sure to check in with her afterwards. And while I was going through just to get her as I was talking, getting her nonverbal reaction and then checking in with her verbally afterwards to make sure like, Hey, did I overstep, did I say anything wrong?
And she was like, no, that was wonderful. Oh my gosh, they were so curious. How can we get them to be that curious about English ? Like I know . And that conversation was then referenced in the meeting with administration. Not because they knew about it, but because I told them cuz they were, you know, doing the overlord questioning of, is there anything else that you should tell us before you leave, kind of thing.
And I said, okay, well this happened. And I mean their response was just like shock and horror and they were like, that is in no way appropriate. And I said, . A student asked me a question, what should I do? And I said, you don't answer it. You don't answer it. You just, no, you don't talk about this. This is not appropriate for school.
And I carried a lot of shame about that, right? Because I was like, well, I did contribute to this in some way. And it's genuinely only been in the last year or so that I've looked at that and gone Bryan, do you mind if I curse on your podcast?
Host: Oh, go for it.
Jeanne-Anne: Fuck that. Fuck that. I did not do anything wrong. I was completely doing the appropriate thing of engaging their curiosity, answering their questions, allowing for in-class discussion, giving them the power in this conversation, all completely appropriate pedagogical things to do. And so it's taken some time for me to let go of that shame, but thankfully I have now.
Host: So what you're saying to me is that you were teaching.... english .
Jeanne-Anne: Yeah. Yeah. We were expanding vocabulary.
Host: 100%. Not all of that, but like cultural reference for like when these people come up in their reading or whatever it might be.
Jeanne-Anne: Yeah. Right. So I have to ask, what was the production that y'all did that the one person complained about?
Host: Okay, so admittedly it's kind of like it's risque for high school, but it was Carrie the musical. It's based off of the Stephen King novel, however. , it is not carry the movie From the 1980s. There was an updated message about cyber bullying that we were able to include and use projections like we showed Carrie being cyber bullied while the bullying was happening on stage.
It was also happening on Snapchat. And then we partnered with the David's Legacy Foundation because my previous school Was one of the schools where David Moak had attended prior to his suicide in 2016. And so we partnered with them to have pre show talks and to raise money for their organization so they can continue spreading the word about anti cyber bullying.
So we did all of this like amazing community work but one person complained and another administrator was upset by one word. And the phrase in the play that the administrator was upset with was, don't be such a pussy.
Jeanne-Anne: I'm sorry. If I feel like if we have a president who can use the language that I think schools should be able to also,
Host: Well, I mean like also have you walked around a high school campus?
Like kids are saying a lot worse things, and this is a visual representation of what not to do, like the whole point was don't bully people. Our whole message was you shouldn't be doing this behavior. .
Jeanne-Anne: Just to be clear, I wasn't condoning President 45 doing that. I was just throwing it in as a reference of like, well, I guess we're socially acceptable, you know, socially accepting
Host: That was that situation. And it's funny because then parents will be like, why can't you do something wholesome? Like, I don't know, Romeo and Juliet, and I'm sitting there doing like, okay, these teenagers. , one of them is 17, one of them is 14. 13.
Jeanne-Anne: 13. She hasn't turned 14 yet. She is 13.
Host: She's in a relationship with a 17 year old.
They have sex and they wanna run away from their parents. And so then a lot of people die and they killed themselves. Like, , you won't. That's so though suicide pact and like, that's okay to teach because Shakespeare . . And I was like, also it clearly, none of you understand Shakespeare because he wrote a lot of dirty things to do his plays.
Jeanne-Anne: Oh my gosh. I mean, we're, my, my honors freshman are reading the full text of Romeo and Juliet in about a week or so, or like, we're gonna be starting it and we start by reading act one, scene one together. And I have to sit there and explain to the ceiling tiles, cause I can't look them in the eye. all the jokes about unsheathing of swords. And I'm like, okay, so let's think about the metaphor. And these are men who are talking and da . Yep. Oh my gosh.
Host: They're basically like, let's just pull it out in front of these ladies, folks. Yeah. Yeah. Fun times shake. That's so wholesome. Shakespeare.
Jeanne-Anne: I know. And that's our opener. Like that's how, that's the tone that we start with.
. Oh, and then everything with Mercutio. Yep. Oh my gosh.
Host: It's a good piece. It's just like, don't tell me it's wholesome. It's not. It's really not.
Jeanne-Anne: Oh, it's not. It's so not. Yeah. But I mean, to be fair, this is also a class where in teaching connotation to them so anybody not listening, connotation is the social or emotional meaning of words as opposed to the dictionary definition.
I start off with the classic, it's the difference between house and home, right? The emotional attachment you have those to those two words that have very similar meanings. And then because honors is run as a college level class i, you know, I'm like, okay, let me give you this example cuz also you're in high school, you're gonna understand.
I say, okay, what's the difference between butt dial and booty call? And they immediately burst out laughing. . And I'm like, look, butt and booty. Same meaning dial and call. Same meaning? The difference. It's connotation. And one very delightful student did not know what booty call meant. Yeah. And so I think I explained it as like a late night phone call when you want to invite somebody over for some non PG activity.
Host: That was beautiful. Put it in the dictionary. Webster .
Jeanne-Anne: She was been horrified because since she did not know the meaning, she had been taking it as the same meaning of butt dial. And she shared that she had told her mother that her grandfather had booty called the mom. And that her mom was horrified that she had said that, and she had this sudden moment of realization of, oh my God, I said that to my mom, I was like yeah, you did, hon.
Host: I hope that mom was okay. . Oh goodness. Can you imagine?
Jeanne-Anne: Yeah. Yeah. Oh my God. Fun learning.
Host: Last night Grandpa Booty called me. .
Jeanne-Anne: And all of a sudden she's like, wait, why am I having to tell this story over and over to a bunch of adults? , he just called me. He didn't mean to. Right. It's, oh my gosh.
Host: Awesome. So let's go ahead and I have two kind of closing questions for you. The first one is, what advice would you give to a new queer teacher headed into the classroom for the first year who may be uncomfortable with being their authentic self, or unsure if they should be their authentic self in the classroom?
Jeanne-Anne: Yeah. First thing I would say is try to get a feel for your level of safety in your district and in your campus and your classroom. Really, I think that the students are not what you should be worried about. And I say that again as somebody who is privileged enough to have, had students had a mostly positive or just neutral reaction.
I know that is not always the case. But trying to get a sense of, if this seems like a safe environment, some ways to do that are, you know, listening to the way that other teachers talk about. things listening to, or, you know, trying to find out if there have ever been, or if there are currently out teachers in your, on your campus or in your district if there are, go talk to them and say, Hey, I'm curious about this.
It doesn't have to be framed as you coming out to them and then you know, them having that knowledge about you, but you can just ask them and, you know, see if they're open to talking about that. So first determine your level of safety and then honestly, I think it just depends on how much you, if the benefits of those connections will outweigh the potential discomfort of not being your authentic self.
Right. So I think about the discomfort that I sometimes feel being ace when students say, you know, oh, don't you ever wanna have a girlfriend? And like in my head I'm going, no, I really don't. But, and they don't understand that for me that discomfort is far outweighed by the joy and the beauty of moments of connections with students where they can trust me by telling me that they want me to use different pronouns with them, or a different name, or a student who comes out and tells, or who comes out to me and then tells me that I'm the first adult they've ever come out to.
The beauty of those moments for me outweighs it, but as evidenced by my previous district, it's not always gonna be that simple. And so my advice for any person who is, you know, kind of looking at it and trying to decide if they should come out in a school setting, is really the non-ad advice.
If it's up to you you don't have to feel pressured to do it. You don't have to. There is no necessity to. . But also there are some really lovely benefits. There are these moments of connection. There are the moments where you are able to understand a student, and a student feels comfortable with you.
There are the moments when you can make jokes with students that you aren't able to otherwise, just cuz they don't know the full situation. So there is a lot of beauty in it, but there's also a lot of beauty in a lot of things. And you get to determine what kind of beauty you want to invite into your life.
Host: That's wonderful. Cause I think that's absolutely correct. We all have a choice and you have to do what you're most comfortable with. Absolutely. For the final question today, what can LGBTQ teachers or even ally teachers, parents and students do to help move the needle towards inclusivity in primary and secondary education?
Jeanne-Anne: Yeah. Oh my gosh. That's a whole 45 minute talk right there, okay, so off the top of my head, some of the things I think of and I, just to clarify your question, were you specifically speaking about like parents and students rather than teachers themselves?
Host: Parents, students, and teachers.
Jeanne-Anne: Okay. And teachers also.
So I, I think I'm gonna, I'm gonna target my suggestions to different audiences. So for parents, I would say advocate for the teachers that you like. Make sure that you are sending out those positive vibes in the form of literal physical emails or phone calls. , not just, you know, happy wishes. Tell administration that you like a certain teacher.
Ask administration, you know what they're doing. Ask administration if you feel like there's a lack of diversity in your school, ask the principal why. I mean, like, fully just do it. There's a really lovely. interview that was done with a few different actresses including Gina Rodriguez and Ellen Pompeo from Grey's Anatomy.
Oh, and Gabrielle Union was there also. And she, Ellen Pompeo talks about she her husband is black and she's raising black children. And so even though she's white, she really advocates for the diversity of her children's education. And so she'll go to principals and say, why aren't there more black teachers?
Like the school population here has black students. Why aren't there black teachers here? And like, that's something that parents can do. Or, you know, just saying, Hey, why, how is this working? Or why isn't there this offered? 📍 So parents have a lot of power. Use the power for good to students, I would say to, to the best of your ability, advocate for better language. So what I mean by that is you have power in a social setting to use wonderful phrases that can stop homophobic- transphobic, just bigoted language.
Things like, you know, somebody makes a comment and you say, I didn't know you felt that way. Stops 'em in their tracks, right? Or, huh? I didn't know you felt comfortable saying that out loud. It blows up. It blows their mind. That's something that you can do to advocate for more inclusivity and diversity and acceptance.
And for other teachers. I'm gonna talk specifically to my fellow secondary English teachers. We have the beautiful ability to talk about anything in our classroom, because as long as we're reading and writing, it doesn't matter what the topic is. Talk about these things. Talk about social issues, talk about diversity when you're teaching shakespeare teach about the fact that his most famous sonnet sonnet 18 shall I Can Barely, to A summer's day, is probably about a dude. Like Shakespeare was super not straight. Talk about that. Bring in positive, beautiful joy and acceptance as examples, you know, it's currently, as we're recording this black History month, don't just sit there and teach about the horrible things, teach about the beautiful things. We have so much power as English teachers to talk about whatever. And so if you're going to Common Lit or you know, NewsELA and you're pulling out articles for your students to annotate, find cool things that let you have these fun conversations where you can encourage them to think more deeply about the world around them.
Host: I love that. I love, especially when you said it's Black History Month, don't just teach about the bad things. One of my favorite Instagram handles to follow is Black aristocracy. And it is basically just this group who goes through the history books and finds history books because, well, history books are written by white people, so Yeah.
Jeanne-Anne: yeah, we're kinda bad about that.
Host: Goes through art museums and goes through all these art catalogs and finds pictures of black people who were a part of the aristocracy for centuries all over the place. Course. And then they post them and they talk about the people. And I think it is so interesting because the narrative is oppression, but there was also power happening on different parts of the planet.
And I think the more that we realized that was going on, The easier it's gonna be to change that narrative. Like I have a student who has a sweat jacket that says, black is power repeated on the back. And I'm just like, yes, absolutely. . Absolutely. Yeah.
Jeanne-Anne: And I feel like when we only teach the narrative of oppression, that's the only thing that people, that's the only thing that white students know.
So then they're gonna replicate that. . Right? Even if we teach them, this is bad, if we only teach them this is bad I teach them what is bad, then that's the only model that they have. And so when we can invest time in talking about. The power and the beauty of black communities. We spend time talking about the power and beauty of queer communities and of disabled communities, and of trans communities, of everything.
Not that I'm excluding them from queer communities. . But you know, when we talk about the beauty and the power and the majesty and the growth and the support in these communities, that gives, especially students who are not in those communities, the chance to go, oh, that's how it can be done.
Host: Yep. Absolutely. Another thing you had said that I found really interesting is your conversation about Shall I compare the to a summer's day, because this summer I had seen a play called Born With Teeth. Okay. And it's a world, it was a world premier premiere in Houston, and I think it was a world premiere, but either way, it was in Houston and it's about the romantic and sexual relationship of Christopher Marlow and William Shakespeare.
Jeanne-Anne: Oh my God.
Host: And it was brilliant. Brilliant.
Jeanne-Anne: Okay. What was the name of that again?
Host: Born with Teeth.
Jeanne-Anne: Born With Teeth. I will immediately be going to look for that.
Host: It honestly was one of the favorite, my favorite of the straight plays that I've seen in my life. All right. Well thank you so much for spending the afternoon with me.
It was a really fantastic conversation and I hope you enjoyed yourself on Teaching While Queer.
Jeanne-Anne: I did. Thank you very much for having me.
Host: And thank you everyone at home who as tuned in or on your walk or wherever you are, and I hope you all have a great day as well. Bye.
Outro: Thank you for joining me for this week's episode of Teaching While Queer. If you haven't done so already, please consider subscribing on your favorite RSS feed and sharing the podcast with your friends and family. New episodes will come out every other week during the school year. If you're interested in joining us on this Teaching While Queer podcast, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great day.