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May 18, 2023

Teaching While Queer with Sharon Tang

Teaching While Queer with Sharon Tang
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Host, Bryan Stanton (he/they) chats with queer Los Angeles High School Art Teacher, Sharon Tang (she/her). They discuss coming out as an adult, the double standard that queer teachers are held to, the current legislative environment for queer teachers, and her time working with Mistress Isabelle Brooks on Season 15 of RuPaul's Drag Race.

To be a guest or to hear more episodes visit www.teachingwhilequeer.com.

Follow Teaching While Queer on Instagram at @TeachingWhileQueer.

You can find host, Bryan Stanton, on Instagram.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Teaching While Queer Podcast! Please help support the podcast by leaving a review wherever you listen to the podcast. 

You can find host, Bryan Stanton, on Instagram.

Follow us on Instagram at @TeachingWhileQueer

To be a guest or to hear more episodes visit www.teachingwhilequeer.com.


Teaching While Queer with Sharon Tang

Intro: [00:00:00] Teaching While Queer is a podcast for LGBTQIA+ teachers, administrators, and 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. This is our last episode of Season one, so thank you so much for joining me on this journey today. I have the pleasure of speaking with Sharon Tang. Hi Sharon. How are you doing? 

Sharon: Hi. I'm good, thank you. How are you?

Host: I'm doing fantastic, thanks. It's a lovely Sunday after an incredible storm last night, so, it's nice and it's a little cool, which is so [00:01:00] much better than a hundred degree Texas Spring. Yeah. So you are in Los Angeles, a high school art teacher so tell me a little bit about how you identify with the community and your experience just kind of grown up. Were you always from LA? 

Sharon: So I identify as queer. I did. I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles mainly because like, you know, when people not from LA ask me where I'm from and I say where I'm from, they're like, where's that?

And then I give them a couple more state or a couple more cities, and they're like, where is that? And I'm like, 

I'm from LA because it's just easier.

Host: I get it. I'm from Whittier. So, yeah, I grew up in a suburb of LA where people were like, where did you grow up? And I'm like, Whittier. 

Sharon: Oh, wait, you're from California?

Host: I'm from California, I'm from Whittier, California .

Sharon: Oh, that's so funny. My sister lives there, so I do know where that's where that is. But I thought you meant like [00:02:00] Whittier, Texas, cause like 

Host: that exist. 

Sharon: Oh, that's so funny. I was literally just there last night visiting some friends.

But yeah, my sister is there, so, That's cool. Did you grow up in Whittier? 

Host: Yeah, I grew up in Whittier. My parents moved to South Carolina when I was 21 and I was like, I'm not going. So I moved to San Diego and then married in children and now we're in Texas and hopefully soon we'll be in New York City job offer pending.

Sharon: Wow. So, but yeah, that, that's pretty much the same with me as, you know, I, I tell 'em I'm from the valley cuz that's where I'm from, but technically it is LA County, so I just say Los Angeles. But I did, I've been here my entire life. I grew up here. Where I specifically am right now, I've been living in this area for about five years now which is how long I've been teaching as well. And then where I'm currently teaching, I just started the school year. [00:03:00] 

Host: Awesome. So let's take a journey back in time. What was it like for you? I'm really interested in hearing this too, because I also grew up in Southern California.

So what was it like for you as a queer student? Many folks think, you know, California progressive state is gonna be easy. But that's not always the case, and sometimes it is. So I would love to hear what your experience was like. 

Sharon: So I actually don't have an experience because I didn't come out until I was 27, I think 26 or 27.

So I, I have nothing to like fall back on in terms of like being out or being in the closet or whatever while in school or, you know, compared to like, My fiance because I was already mad of school. I was I think I, I think I was in like my last year of like my credential program. So, I don't know.

I don't have that kind of experience. But the experience that I do have, you know, coming out as an [00:04:00] adult From a Latinx family and Asian family. So I do have that experience. So when I get to interact with queer youth, I am able to like, use that experience to be able to connect with youth.

So that's the extent of my experience, like at being a student at least. 

Host: Sure. And what would you say that experience was like, kind of, I guess coming out later is foreign to me, namely, cuz I was outed when I was 13. Right. So like, I don't have that kind of background, but I wonder often if if it's like a surreal experience given the idea that you kind of thought about yourself for one way for so long and then you have a whole other experience.

So can you dive into that for a bit? 

Sharon: I wish I could say that coming out as an adult, like coming out as an older [00:05:00] person is easier. But that, at least for me, that definitely wasn't the case. Because again, you know, my background and my family and stuff and my culture like it, it was not an easy thing.

And I've been out for what, five, six years I think at this point. And. It's just barely like getting a little bit better. And I know that my experience, I know how hard it was. Like I don't wish that on anyone. I don't it, it's such a hard thing to go through and it's such a hard thing to experience, which is why like, I make it a point to create safe spaces for my students in my classroom because I know what I went through as an adult.

I can't imagine [00:06:00] what kids and students like are going through as teenagers or even younger, right? It's just such a scary thing that I had to experience that I don't want kids. To have to experience. Like I, I want them to have some sort of safe space in their life. 

Host: Absolutely. I think it's so interesting because so much has changed since we were young, and yet there's still this kind of Stigma towards the coming out process.

Yeah, and it, I think it all comes down to the idea that like cisgender heterosexuality is considered the norm, but with all these people coming out and there's millions of queer people around the country or really across around the world it seems to me like we kind of need to. Been that idea of this is the norm.

It frustrates me too because I think about mythology and like, you know, in [00:07:00] mythology there are queer characters, there are queer people or queer gods. 

Sharon: Yeah, I mean, in certain cultures. I don't, I think it's the, I think it's like the Hawaiian culture. And I see that because I think Sasha Colby from RuPaul, like she talked about it how in Hawaiian culture there's a third gender. And I don't know like the full extent of that story, but like, even like today in some cultures, like it's accepted. But. For some reason, like, it, it doesn't get through people's minds. I, it's just, it's completely wild. 

Host: It's so wild to me, especially because I think it's, if you look back at indigenous cultures, there's so much of it that is progressive.

I had a guest on earlier than this season who is from Nigeria and like just had the dawning realization a year or two ago that in the Nigerian language they only have they them pronouns. There was no, he, she and so, [00:08:00] or is, no, he, she. So it's so interesting to me that like, that is built into the cul into the language, meaning long ago they understood this.

And then as culture changed, there's been, you know, a shift in cultural norms. But. It was just a really fun moment for her, and I think there's so much in indigenous culture that if people just step back and take a look. Yeah. Like this has been around for a long time. Yeah. Yeah. So you've been teaching about five years.

What has your experience been like as a queer educator? 

Sharon: Now it's great. When I first started teaching I was really scared. I, because not only was I going to be a first time teacher who was queer, I was also like barely coming out, like barely coming out of the closet cuz I think I got my job offer.[00:09:00] 

I, I think it was like I. Within a couple of months of me coming out. So it was like fairly new. And I remember, you know, sitting with my principal at the time and I just like, broke down crying cuz I was so scared cuz I didn't like I didn't know any of the policies in terms of like the district.

I didn't know really anything about the queer community aside from like w. Because I had been like an ally right before I realized that I was queer. So I didn't really know a lot of like the state policies of protection for the queer community. So I was just, I was scared. I didn't know, like I didn't know how to get a handle in it.

Like I didn't know if it was. It would be okay for me to be out in the classroom or at school, on campus, whatever. But my principal was really sweet and she assured me that, you know, everything was fine. I thought I was gonna be completely fine, that there was queer, other queer teachers on campus. And so that if I needed to, like I could reach out to them.

And I remember, because I had just started teaching, [00:10:00] I found a couple of like other teachers on Instagram. And one teacher specifically Was very big on like being open obviously, if possible and like just accepting and stuff like that. And. I remember having a picture of my, not fiance, but my girlfriend at the time and I put it on my desk and that was the first thing that I did.

And for a while that was kind of all I had out. It was just a picture of me and my now fiance. And then, you know, slow, slowly as the years progressed, like I was more comfortable with being out and stuff. Like, you know, I have a pride flag in my classroom. Like I have all these signs in my classroom, like I have all these posters, I have safe space posters and stuff like that.

So it was terrifying at first. But now I'm just this. Big old queer teacher on [00:11:00] campus, which is really nice because it, I think the, I think, you know, kids needed that, so.... 

Host: That's awesome. Speaking of your students, like, what is it like for you working with queer students? 

Sharon: In my emotional at sometimes, and I say that because you know, I, so I work with high school, right? And high school, there's just there's so many emotions. They're just they're all over the place, all the hormones and everything, right? But not. A lot of them are out, or if they are out, they're only out to like one or two friends and very rarely to the adults on campus.

So I've had a couple of students like come out to me just this year and I had a student after the show aired that Monday that we got back to school. She pulls me aside. And she's just like immediately crying and I'm immediately [00:12:00] like worried if she asked me to go outside and she wanted to talk to me.

And she said that watching the episode gave her the courage to come out to her friends. And now at this point, we're just like both bawling, we're both crying and stuff like that. And it's just really nice to be able to work with queer youth. And to be that. Because I think there's just a lot going on in their lives right now, and there will, you know, they'll continue to have things going on and if I'm able to be some this like sort of light or beacon in their life where everything's just calm and safe and I do it a hundred times over.

Host: Absolutely. Yeah. And for those of you who don't know miss Ting is also known as Madame Thang from an episode of Season 15 of RuPaul's Drag [00:13:00] Race. So, that's the episode she's referring to is being on national television and. Being authentically yourself, which I thought was so beautiful. In fact, I shared, you know, a reel of, I was just filming you on the show and shared it out to the world because representation is so important.

And I just love the fact that there was a queer teacher on television saying like, we're here and we're just looking out for kids, and like, thank you for that. Yeah. 

Sharon: Yeah. It's funny. Like I it's been I think over a month or so that it's, you know, that it aired and I've been getting all these, you know, attention and stuff like that. And it wasn't until literally just now, this moment when you said it that I was on national TV as an out queer teacher and [00:14:00] that doesn't normally happen. 

Host: No. It again we were talking just before the show that like, I created this space because the queer teacher perspective wasn't seen. And so I love the fact that here we are. Like I. I didn't know what to expect when I sat down to watch the episode. You know, they change up the challenge every week and every season's slightly different.

And so they were doing a makeover challenge and then all of a sudden it was teachers that they were making over, and I was like that's fantastic. And then there's this queer teacher that they're making over, and I'm just like, oh my gosh. Like this is the space that we need especially right now, because so I was, things being challenged. Queer teachers are being challenged hardcore. 

Sharon: Yeah. I was the only queer teacher because I think everyone else was an ally. Or in some sort of capacity. Hadn't family or friends or whatever. But yeah, I was the only queer teacher.[00:15:00] 

Host: Again, thank you cuz it's such A beautiful thing to watch and see and it was a lovely episode and your story was wonderful and I don't know, I love that you kind of get to have that moment also for yourself like it lives on.

Yeah. So. When it comes to, you know, you had a hard time maybe at the beginning trying to figure out where you, or where your person, yourself fits into education. What's it been like for you? Have you had experiences of I hate the term, but homophobia? I feel like it's just, it's not a fear. Yeah. But I guess discrimination or hate.

Have you had that actual experience arise? I know that's in the back of my mind. That's the thing I'm constantly worried about.

Sharon: Surprisingly, no, and I feel that it's weird that I haven't had at least like, not direct like [00:16:00] instances. Again, right. I live in California. I live in Los Angeles. I work. Or I live in a state where we have protections. I work in a district where their, you know, employees are protected against discrimination of an A kind.

So I haven't had to deal with anything at least. Nothing that's been brought since my attend, so I've never had to deal anything with students. I, with parents, I think it's different just because in, in the schools that I've worked in, and I've only worked in two schools, but in two schools that I've worked in, there hasn't been a lot of parent interaction.

And the interaction that I have had has all been great, but there's never instances where I come up in that sense. Fair enough. Right. And I think, I don't [00:17:00] think I. I think that's partly because they're, you know, during open houses or whatever we're, I think one, two times we were required to put up some slides and to like introduce ourselves and everything and to the parents and stuff.

And on the introduction slide that I gave parents I, I think I took off the photos of my partner and I. And I would only say my partner, like, I wouldn't say my girlfriend mainly because I don't think I wanted to see any reactions if they heard me say girlfriend. And if ki like, cuz all my kids know I'm out, right?

So every single one of my kids knows that I'm queer and they know that I have a fiance and stuff like that. And if they've told their parents, that's okay, like, I don't care. But I haven't heard anything negative. So that, that's good. I guess the only thing that I [00:18:00] have experienced was because of the show, but because I got interviewed by my teacher union and it wasn't necessarily like anything. I mean, I don't know if you could qualify it as like homophobic, but it was this comment on the post where it said the person says that I'm talking as if the parents don't protect and take care of their kids at home, or something like that. That That any of that kind of stuff like should be left to the parents and that work and personal life shouldn't mix.

I obviously didn't respond to it cuz I, I don't, I frankly don't want to. But that was kind of, that was kind of it. So, but I did see other people like. Coming to my defense, 

which was nice. 

Host: That is nice. Always. When someone comes to your defense, I find that incredibly like uplifting, especially when you're trying to do something really good in the world, you know?

Sharon: Yeah.

Host: [00:19:00] And I think that argument is so interesting to me because it's like, okay then for those of you who are married, straight people, please take off your wedding rings. You can't wear them to work. Please take down the pictures of your spouse and your children. You can't have them at work because your personal life and your home life your personal life and your work life shouldn't mix.

But it only applies really to queer people. Like they really just don't want to see us. And yeah, that frustrates the heck outta me because I'm just like, yeah, if we're gonna do it, fine, let's do it. I'm fine with separating personal life and work life. I'm getting really. A lot better about leaving work at work. I'm a theater teacher. You're an art teacher. Sometimes we do things, you know, after school or on the weekend to prep and whatnot, but I'm getting really good at being like, all right, it's four 30, I'm done. Let's get outta here. Yeah. And so if that's the case, just make a unilateral decision about it.

But this idea of like holding the same or holding the people to the same [00:20:00] accountability, Is wrong. Like it drives me nuts. It's so hypocritical and I hate hypocrites. 

Sharon: I mean, just a couple weeks of this female cisgender, you know, heterosexual teacher was getting married. And so you know what I'm talking about.

Host: I do. Keep going. Tell, let's tell the, let's tell everyone together. 

Sharon: So this teacher decided that it would be cute to have a wedding in her classroom. And I don't know what grade, I think it was like elementary school, cuz I didn't think middle or high school would've gone. What is, so it must have been elementary school, but she set up a wedding where?

The kids could get married and stuff, and that's a little weird, but it was socially accepted because you know, everyone thinks it's cute. And of course it's a [00:21:00] man and a woman doing it, but man, if a queer person were to do that 

Host: all, hell break loose. Right? We just do the same thing the same time. Yeah, absolutely.

Sharon: That sucks. And that sucks. 

Host: Really irks me. It really irks me, especially like, and this is nothing against my my daughter's teacher she's out on maternity leave right now. And the parent, the room parent decided that we were gonna have like a baby shower for her. Ultimately we couldn't because she went out on leave early.

But there was this whole thing set up for us to have a baby shower for her, and I'm just like, they're in third grade. What, like if I were to have a baby shower, like when I adopted, would that have been okay? Or if a surrogate is happen, you know, if surrogacy situation is happening, would that have been okay?

My [00:22:00] best friend's a lesbian, her and her wife have two kids. Could they have had a baby shower and all these things pop up where I'm just like, what would happen if it was on the other side of the situation? Yeah. If it was someone from the other side of the situation. 

Sharon: Funny that you mentioned that, cuz I just not realized that because it's, I would go along the same lines of like people announcing that they're getting married, right?

Because I just got engaged back in. December. And I started off the school year and I, you know, the kids all knew that I had a girlfriend and stuff, so I wanted to tell them that I was engaged. And it didn't even dawn on me that, like in some states, in some countries, like, I wouldn't have been able to do that.

I wouldn't have been able to tell people publicly that I was getting married to a woman. 

Host: It's really scary what's happening in some states right now. 

Sharon: Yeah. So like if I [00:23:00] recorded me myself, like telling my students and like you can hear in the video like, They're all just ecstatic. It was really funny cuz I told, I started, I wanted to play a trick on them and then I said I said, I no longer have a girlfriend.

And then I waited a couple seconds and they like, you could see like just the life drain from them. Like, they were sad, they were about to cry. And then like, I pulled out my hand and I showed 'em the ring and stuff and I said, I have a fiance. And just like the classes just like erupted with like, Claps and applause and everything and stuff.

So like, we are really excited, like now. And that's what people don't understand is that like, kids don't, can I curse? 

Host: Yes. 

Sharon: Kids don't give a fuck. Like kids do not care. They really don't. And I think what one of the teachers, Mrs. Mahoney on, on the episode, she was saying cuz she teaches or she taught kindergarten.

And like, they don't, the whole love is love concept. Like they, [00:24:00] they understand that. They can grasp that idea, right? Everything else doesn't really matter. And it sucks because the kids genuinely don't care if you're queer or not. At least in my experience, right? I can't really say about, you know, other cities, other states, countries, whatever.

But like usually they don't care. 

Host: From the Texas perspective, I'm seeing that also, like my daughter's best friend has two moms. We are two dads, like. The kids are fine with it. They're like, oh, okay. What do you wanna play? You know? 

Sharon: Yeah. Like they have so many other things that they're like it's, they find other things some more important than who I'm gonna marry.

Host: Yeah. Like they don't care. And for a while I was working at the high school that my children were going to, cause I have four kids. My three are older. One had graduated, but the other two are still in high school. And like, They'll have people checking on me [00:25:00] cuz they don't work there anymore. Like, hey, tell your dad how you're doing, like how your dad's doing.

And it's just like, fine, because my husband would help out, you know? And so these students will check in on us through my kids at the school and it's like completely normalized and not even an issue. Like really the people with the issue are parents and grandparents in at least my perspective. I haven't dealt a lot with students who are innately discriminatory.

I think that it's definitely learned behavior, it's all learned behavior. There's like a beautiful song from South Pacific that like you have to be taught to like hate. And so that's a hundred percent true. And you know, some guys wrote that. 50 years ago. Yeah, there was something else I was thinking about too in regard to this conversation and this idea of love is love and we totally get that and it's a huge push right now, and in a [00:26:00] lot of this stuff.

Then the problems come from etymology from the fact that like some straight white guys were like sexual orientation and they put the sex first. Like it, it's all about sex. And then we're stuck with this term, and so now we still use sexual orientation and it's like a negative thing because it's about sex.

And so obviously children shouldn't be talking about it because it's about sex. They shouldn't know what their sexual orientation is because it's about sex, but it's really not. It's about love. Yeah. So, yeah, you know exactly that. We could be here on the front lines by not good battle. I would love your perspective being from California about the things you see happening around the country and there are varying like levels of some of the legislative things and discriminatory things that are kind of happening everywhere.

So I'd love to know what the perspective is from a place where [00:27:00] you are fairly safe doing your job and being who you are. 

Sharon: You know, that last thing that you said where I'm fairly safe, like it sometimes feels like I'm not, because I start to like, and I try not to let it like overcome me and my thoughts and everything, but like, I wonder like.

Are we next is California. Next is, you know, is my district next, like what's gonna happen? And I know that's probably not gonna happen, you're gonna knock on wood, but like it is a very real possibility and it. Like just the other day, I think just this week that it was announced that the don't say gay bill or whatever was gonna be extended into high school.

So nine through 12. And it's terrifying. Like it's frustrating it and it legitimately like breaks my heart because. There's so many people that [00:28:00] are gonna suffer because of that. There's so many people that are gonna be pushed back to the closet because of it, and I don't understand how we got here.

It's scary to think that who you are is becoming illegal. 

Host: Absolutely. I was talking with someone recently, my daughter, my youngest is in cheer and we were at a cheer competition. I was talking about how we were gonna go to the capitol to protest anti LGBTQ laws, and I let her know that there was like 140 or 132 laws on the docket that were anti LGBTQ in the state of Texas.

And so we went out there and protested it and many of them didn't pass, and many of them looked like they weren't gonna pass. And then in the middle of the night in closed sessions, they passed them. After, you know, thousands of people said that this law shouldn't exist. They just ignore us. It seems to be a theme that if you are a conservative, [00:29:00] Politician.

You don't have to represent your entire cont constituency. You only have to represent the people who vote for you. Or at least that's the mentality that I'm seeing. And so we were talking about it and she was like that's not gonna happen here. Like, yeah, that's happening in Florida, but that's Florida.

It's not gonna happen here. And I'm like, Literally it's happening in Tennessee and it's happening in other places and they're all kind of circling around Texas who is trying to pretend like they're this big conservative Republican state where gay people don't exist, so why wouldn't it? Yeah. As part of the reason I'm trying to move is cuz I don't want to be in this space when.

That shit hits the fan. I guess. Like I want to just be in a space where there's more diversity and my children can be themselves and we can be ourselves without an issue. 

Sharon: Exactly it. Yeah, it's terrifying. 

Host: It really is terrifying and it's so frustrating. And I think about like anti-d drag laws are [00:30:00] happening too, and as a theater teacher, like, 90% of the time I'm casting a woman in a male role. You know, like and that they, they'll say things in these public hearings, like someone will say, education, what about theater? What if theater has somebody dressed in drag and in, in the chambers with everybody there in public? They're saying that doesn't count.

But then if you go read the law, what's on paper? Says no drag. And I think about like, stand your ground laws. That's been a huge thing right now with that young man, Ralph. God, that, that story kills me. It just makes me so sad. But the, I mean, there's even three other instances this week of it happening.

But people don't know the law. They're not reading the actual law. They just know that they're supposed to be able to quote unquote, stand their ground and they can just make it up. And that's the thing that pisses me off is that's like, [00:31:00] These laws are passed with very little guidance and nobody knows what they actually are.

So everybody's gonna, if you put a $5,000 bounty essentially, which is what's happened here in Texas, they're proposing a $5,000 bounty for anybody who reports drag queens, essentially. Yeah. If you put that on there, people are just gonna complain whenever they see someone in drag. Like it doesn't matter what your law says on paper or what you said in your public processions or sessions, it doesn't matter because people only know what the headlines are telling them, which is anti-drag. And so let's talk, if you don't mind a little bit about your experience on the show and kind of dive deeper into that. Just maybe for our drag race students, including myself. 

Sharon: I think drag queens are the utmost respect.

They do absolutely. I was only on the [00:32:00] show or we, I, we only filmed for two days. And in those two days, the amount of work that I saw these queens do was ridiculous. They do so much for their art, right? They there, there's so much that goes into this and I don't think people realize that, and I don't.

I don't also re like, I can't fathom how people can think that doing drag is this horrible and sinful thing because it's quite literally the opposite. It is the most beautiful thing that I have ever had the experience of like witnessing and experiencing myself. I had so much fun doing the show.

I did not expect everything that happened. Like we, [00:33:00] all of the teachers just, we had so much fun and it was such a great time doing something that we had never done before and experiencing like a runway and experiencing like just. All these things. It was great, and I wish like a lot more people could experience it and could do it.

And then I just, I loved working with Mistress. Like I'm so happy to have been paired with Mistress. And I say this all the time, and I mean it because I, because of the show I am no longer the same person. Like I have such a genuine.

Like newfound respect for all these queens and for the show and stuff, like even the production company, like they treated us so well. And I loved every second of it. 

Host: That's awesome. I think that episode honestly, and most of this is edit, [00:34:00] right? Because I understand, I work in theater and I've done stuff with film and I understand that there's edit to everything.

And so like a lot of the season mistress was painted in a, like a very we'll say sassy way. And what I loved about this episode is that we got to see her heart kind of come through. And then it completely changed for the rest of the season. Like there was a complete new perspective on who she was as a person.

Yeah. And so I think that was really beautiful and I think that, that whomever decided to do this challenge, you know, they did, you know, a really great thing, not only for, you know, drag queens, but education because you know, across the country we are under attack. 

Sharon: Yeah. I like, you're totally right in that, you know, a lot of the stuff from the show is edited and you know, she [00:35:00] was painted in a way where, you know, people would call her a bully.

And same thing as Sherlocks, right? But that's like so far from the truth. And what's interesting is that I think it's more of a. Of like mistress not caring what people say about her. And that's a good thing because, you know, mistress lived for so long, you know, having to experience things and things that, you know, people shouldn't have to experience.

And, you know, got to a point where, They said that's it. Like I'm not gonna take it anymore. Like, I'm not gonna be living my life as something that I don't want to be, or I'm not gonna be living my life hidden, like I'm gonna be living my life authentically. And that's something that Mr taught me and something that I'm gonna continue to do is living authentically because it's not fair to [00:36:00] yourself.

It's not fair to have to live hidden, have to live. You know, and stuff like that. So I'm really glad that the production company like decided to edit the episode in the way that they did and, you know, show our story and our connection and stuff because that, that like connection was genuine. Like those tears that you saw, like those were all like genuine.

And it was just a really nice interaction that I had with Mistress.

Host: Absolutely. It was beautiful. It's honestly my favorite episode of the season. Including the finale, which was, you know, wonderful. And I found or rather realize about halfway through the season that last year when I was in Houston for grad school in the summer, I actually saw Mistress at a pride event.

And I, so I. Got to say that Mistress is a powerhouse performer for those of you who haven't had the chance to see her. 

Sharon: Oh, definitely. A few weeks before the episode aired, I was able to see Mistress at one of her shows in West Hollywood. [00:37:00] And it was kind of nice cuz like I was able to like, be there without like, obviously people not knowing who I was and like for, I brought her flowers and I, I got, you know, digged to the meet and greet so I could like talk to her and you know, catch up a little bit and.

It was just really nice. Like, I think it was one of the pictures that she posted to her Instagram the one where like we're hugging. That was at the show that I went to and I. I actually, before RuPaul's Drag Race, this is actually the first season that I had watched from start to beginning.

I had also never gone to a drag show. I've seen like clips, you know, here and there and stuff. Like I was a fan of like, Trixie, like, it's all these things, right? But seeing Mr. Perform that night, oh my god. Like that was wild. The control she had over the crowd. And it was just great.

It was beautiful. I loved it. Like, I can't wait. I want to [00:38:00] go back to like, another drug show and yeah. I'm hoping I get to see her again because that was a lot of fun. 

Host: When I was in Southern California, I was a huge fan of the Dreamgirls Review, which is ran by Chad Michaels who is on The first reigning queen of All Stars, right, was on I think season four and then All Stars.

And Chad does those shows all over Southern California, so San Diego and la and I just. Loved it because it was like local queens, but then they would also bring in drag race queens. And quite literally, if you're a drag fan, southern California is kind of the place to be if you want to see drag race stars because yeah, they kind of catch the California bug after living out there for so long, for filming.

Cuz so many of them have moved from wherever they were in the country to California after being on the show. And so it's kind of cool because you can go just, you know, play, pay a normal cover and [00:39:00] see this brilliant amount of talent and the money that they put into their productions is also insane.

So you get to see something that's almost like a fully produced stage show, but it's at your local bar, you know? Super cool. Yeah. Yeah. So before I wrap up to the last couple of questions, I wanted to offer you the opportunity to just, I. Share if there was anything else that you would like to share about your time on the episode and the impact that you think that it's had.

I mean, what has that been like for you afterwards with all these people now seeing you again, we discussed earlier national television. What has that been like for you? 

Sharon: So, I, oh man. I, it's been. Wild. It's been completely wild because not only was, you know, I getting, was I getting attention [00:40:00] because of the show, right?

Because people, you know, fell in love with me and, you know, my story really resonated with a lot of folks. It was also the fact that Mistress shared my teacher wishlist to their Instagram. Oh yeah. So, From the moment they posted, from the moment Mr. Posted that post with, you know, the, her story and everything and about me I think my phone was, would not stop buzzing for like 48, 72 hours.

Like it was constant. It was constant buzzing, like constant likes and follows and just all these things like it. My, one of my tweets went viral. I found out and. For the internet. My face was all over the internet. There was memes about me. There was interview, not interviews, but there was like articles written about me.

There was like videos done about me. I had fan art done, like [00:41:00] I just finished an interview a couple days ago with an art education magazine. I had another podcast interview just yesterday, like I had another interview with my teacher union that was posted already and. It's been wild. It's been almost like surreal because not only was it just the attention, but it was also people buying and donating things like supplies to me and my students.

I live in a tiny apartment. My poor apartment was flooded with Amazon packages, like just. Ceiling to floor flooded with packages. I think at one point I think the biggest like shipment that I got in was I think 142 packages came in at one time. Oh my gosh. Like, There was a big, and it I know not [00:42:00] by name, but like I know one of Amazon delivery guys now because he came so often, like he had to like back up his truck into our drive, like the apartment driveway to like be able to get all the things down.

And it took me, A week and multiple trips and multiple cars to get everything from my apartment to my classroom. Like I had to have coworkers like come help me, like put things into their car. I. It was ridiculous. It was wild. It was crazy. I just, it, I couldn't believe it. And then of course, like, you know, all the notes that would come in and all the messages that would come in from literally around the world, you know, thanking me and thanking me for, You know, everything that I do with my students and I had messages from other queer youth, like around the country saying that they wish they had a teacher like me in high school and like from adults saying that they wish they could have had someone like me growing up.

And that's just I've been an emotional wreck [00:43:00] for weeks and. Thank God for therapy because if I didn't have my therapist, I don't think I don't think I would've like emotionally survived this. 

Host: It's a lot of attention for sure. I think I messaged you about interviewing on this podcast the day after I watched the episode, which may have been the night it aired.

It may have been the day after. I can't remember, but I remember seeing cuz I went to your Instagram account and I was like, her, your numbers were like in the thousands or something and then like two weeks later or something we were communicating and your numbers had jumped up. I was like, dang.

Yeah. So much attention. Yep. And I just can't imagine what that's like, you know, almost overnight success or, you know, at least overnight influencing." Social media influencing." 

Sharon: Yeah. 

Host: [00:44:00] So that had to have been, and probably still will be a wild experience. And, you know, drag race is syndicated, so it's just gonna play again and again.

On different platforms and whatnot. It's just so neat and I'm really glad that you were there. Because as a queer teacher, I'm sitting here going finally, there's somebody like us on television. Sharon experiences and. And whatnot because I think that the visibility of us, we just need to be more visible.

And it's so scary right now for many people, for very valid reasons that it was like a little glimmer of hope that there are people out there in the world doing what we do, and we exist across the board and we're not alone in being, you know, that queer teacher at a high school. Yeah. So thanks for that.

I don't know if you meant to be the banner of an entire community, but I think you handled it well on the [00:45:00] episode and hopefully you continue to handle it well with your social media upload. 

Sharon: I definitely didn't mean to be that, but I have absolutely no problem in doing it because if it means that we're gonna be seeing it means that, you know, kids know that there's someone out there that's gonna be looking out for them, and yeah, I do it over again, over and over again.

Host: Absolutely. So I'm gonna run out our episode as I do with every episode. There's two questions that I ask. The first one talks a little bit about, or the first one is an opportunity for you to give advice to a new teacher who may share some of the concerns that you had when you started out your first year in the classroom.

Sharon: Okay. Are we talking about like first, just first year teacher or first year, like queer teacher? 

Host: Realistically? It's kind of both. So the question itself is like what would you, what advice would you give to a first year teacher [00:46:00] who is not sure if they can be their authentic self in the classroom, or if they should be their authentic self in the classroom?

Sharon: I probably would say, If it's safe for you to do so. If you are not going to be at risk of losing your job and mentally and emotionally, you will be okay, then please by all means, live authentic because. I know what it means and what it feels to live unauthenticated, and that's not something that I wish upon anyone.

And I know that as a community, having more out visibly queer folks it means a lot to us. 

Host: Absolutely. Yeah. Final question [00:47:00] is, what can teachers, parents, and students do to help move the needle toward inclusivity?

Sharon: Oh my gosh. Stand up with us that like stand up with us when we're being attacked. Stand up with us now because we are being attacked. And

I guess like teach your kids to not mean, like, that's just kind of it, like teach them to not be mean, please. For the love of all that is beautiful in the scene first, like that is my one wish is that parents teach bears kids to not be mean, to not be cruel, to be accepting, to be loving of others.


Host: I think it's so interesting because I saw a [00:48:00] quote on social media today that was basically like, maybe we should change it from allyship to take a side or pick your side in. I absolutely agree with what you just said about it's time. If you are quote unquote ally, it is time for you to stand up.

And be there in the lines alongside us, making your voice heard. Because sitting back and saying things like that's not gonna happen while it's happening is not true allyship.

Sharon: Not to mention that it's exhausting and standing alone. 

Host: Hundred percent. 

Sharon: And we're tired. 

Host: I agree with you entirely on that because I sit here especially, you know, my previous school district right after I left, they did this at the start of this school year basically banned rainbows.

Sharon: Oh boy. 

Host: Wild. They banned rainbows and Like people were an uproar and I'm still a parent there. And so people were sending me these messages like, [00:49:00] what can you do? And I'm like, what do you want me to do? Because I held the banner and I fought for five years or four years on my own. I. Like, you want my help right now, but I'm not that person.

I can't do it by myself. Like, you stand up, you say something because you are a straight woman, and your voice in this context is more important than mine.

Sharon: Yeah. 

Host: So I agree with you on that 100%. If we can get our allies to stand up with us, they'll see that there's millions and millions of voices of support. And that, the hate is actually the minority in this situation.

Sharon: Exactly. 

Host: Sharon, thank you so much for spending the afternoon with me. I really appreciate it. And it was so cool to talk to you about your experience on Drag Race as a fan. Like I've been on a RuPaul's Drag Race cruise. I'm like a little like crazy fan from a long time. So, it was really neat to get that chance to talk with you.

Sharon: Thank you for having [00:50:00] me. I appreciate it. 

Host: Awesome. And thank you all for joining us on this episode of Teaching While Queer.

Thank you for tuning in to this episode of Teaching While Queer. If you're enjoying the episodes, please leave a review wherever you are listening to our podcast. Check us out on Instagram @TeachingWhileQueer, and if you're interested in being on season two of Teaching while Queer, please visit TeachingWhileQueer.com.

Have a great day.