An Untenable Situation

An Untenable Situation

A teacher, once trans-identified himself, talks about gender in schools, teachers as saviors, and how parents can navigate around differing belief systems.

We were going through the procedures for dealing with student records and things like that. And just immediately as if it was a totally normal thing to say, my supervisor said you might want to do a pronoun check in if you're ever concerned. And then the example she gave is: For example, if you have a girl who comes in with a short haircut, you might want to ask her, “Hey, are your pronouns still she/her?” And I'm just sitting there like. What on earth ? How do you not see that as the most sexist, regressive, conservative thing you could ever say? But a lot of these people who think of themselves as very progressive and very against gender stereotypes don't have an issue with it. And I must admit, I'm a little baffled by that. I don't know how that would not strike you as obviously bad that the category of girl is now reserved almost entirely for children who practice femininity.

Hello listeners, and welcome to Broadview. I’m Lisa Selin Davis and my guest today is a teacher in a public school in a blue state with a front row seat to how gender issues are playing out, and a unique insight based on his own experiences, including once identifying as transgender himself. I’d asked him to speak with me because I’d heard him say something recently that astounded me. He noted that there is more allowable wiggle room for feminine boys today, perhaps in reaction to cultural discussions of toxic masculinity, but that any girl expressing a hint of traditional masculinity will think of herself as nonbinary or trans. We talked about what it’s really like for teachers, who are asked to embody the role of counselor, spiritual leader and friend in a world where schools are performing many functions besides education, and how parents who don’t share the belief systems taught in schools should navigate this difficult time. For reasons you can likely guess—fear of losing his job and/or his connection with students—he’s remaining anonymous. Here’s my interview with a blue state teacher.

Lisa: So welcome to my anonymous guest. We're going to talk today about what it's like to be a teacher during this time when there so much contentiousness around sex and gender issues. So can you just talk to me first about how long you've been teaching, and when you started to notice a change in terms of either how sex and gender were talked about and represented in the curricula and or when the students started changing.

Teacher: Yeah. So thanks so much for having me here. So I have not been in public schools for very long. I've been teaching in public school since 2020. So I'm just starting my second kind of full year of teaching in public schools. But before that I was teaching in some private schools, and then before that I was working as a tutor through a local college, a community college, and then before that I had my own small tutoring business. So I've been in education now for quite some time. Gosh, coming up on eight or nine years. But, only in a public school for the last couple of years. So I would say that I really actually came into the public schools kind of maybe at the height or right after the height of I think a lot of the whole movement was really peaking. Right. So I think that in terms of I don't know if I have the greatest kind of control group of saying hey, it used to be this way. All I can compare it to is my own times in high school 15 years ago or gosh, that's wrong like eight years ago, I guess now. Gosh. But so I would say that I actually kind of my whole career of going through training and doing student teaching and then working in all these different places has kind of I really felt like I went through that process as the emphasis on gender and sex was really growing in these areas. So it's not so much that I saw a big shift where things used to be one way and then there were another more. It felt like I was kind of being carried along by that wave. I came in sort of as I think it was really starting to become bigger, and then I kind of watched it grow. But I think even by the time I first got into the industry, I think it was already an issue that people cared about, not as big as it is now, but I think it was kind of just just reaching its kind of first peak of of importance and emphasis and kind of political touchiness. So and then it feels like it's only gotten maybe maybe a little wilder there, even from there.

Teacher: But in terms of my students, that is something where I think I have seen, if I look over the last four or so years, I do think I've seen every year that's become a bigger and bigger thing among students. I don't have any hard facts or figures about kind of the exact number in each year. But I would say that just in terms of generally overhearing it in conversation, hearing students who are seeing students who are really passionate about it, and then, of course, seeing students who identify as trans themselves. I've definitely seen an increase of that since, say like 2019, 20 or so over the last couple of years. But and of course, it's wildly different from how it was when I was first going through high school myself.

Lisa: What was it like when you were in high school and what was that experience like for you?

Teacher: [00:03:38] Yeah, so it was a weird situation because I came of age kind of at what you might call like the height of the first kind of big gay, not the first, of course, but the in that 2007, eight, nine, ten maybe where I think it was kind of the first wave where gay rights activism was becoming a really big thing among the more just like general not super political, not super activist people, but just general liberals or whatever. Right. So I kind of came of age in my high school years where that was really important to me. It was kind of the being into gay rights and supporting gay marriage and things like that was kind of a big thing for the more like liberal students my age. Right., having come out of the previous big thing, which was like the war in Iraq and hating George Bush and all that stuff. But as that kind of became less and less of a of a big social thing, I think a lot of us young kind of more politically aware, kind of lefty or whatever students of which there weren't as many of course, back then, but there still were plenty. And I think we kind of moved into a lot of us did a lot of gay rights stuff and gay rights activism and things like that. And so when I was young at that age I started I actually was something of an early adopter of a lot of the gender stuff., it's interesting that I hadn't really thought about this period in my life a lot. So when I heard set up this interview or whatever, I actually took a little bit of time to go back to some old like email email accounts I had from back then. Or I found an old account ad on like a video game website and just as like, what was I really talking about? What was I thinking? And so it really struck me how back then stuff was not quite as it definitely wasn't as accessible and it wasn't as normalized. So nowadays I have a lot of students who even if they're not even super deep into this stuff, they would know what nonbinary versus transgender versus genderqueer versus X, Y and Z would be. That's those terms have kind of entered the mainstream. But when I was that age we're talking 2007, eight, nine, maybe it was obviously out there, but it was less common knowledge among even like my more liberal friends. And I stumbled upon it mainly through online stuff. Just see, I was really into a lot of lefty causes. I was into a lot of kind of more radical politics at that age, like a lot of like 17 year olds or whatever. And so I I kind of got into that around that time, and then I just was really interested in it, . [00:06:24][165.6]

Teacher: [00:06:24] So I was saying, like I said, I looked through some of those old accounts and I saw that I at times I was identifying as transgender, at times I was identifying as non non-binary. But that term I, I never really use that term specifically. The term I was more familiar with and I think was more popular at the time was genderqueer, which I think is now actually becoming more of a popular term again. But at that time that was the big one I heard a lot was there was transgender and there was gender queer. And so that was what I got into when I was that age. But nowadays I look back and I'm like, that was basically what non-binary is today, right? That kind of that kind of messing with gender and not identifying as a man or woman or boy or girl or whatever. So I got into that and I would say was a fairly important part of my identity for a couple of years. And then I think it was around 2000. Gosh, and I'm spitballing here, but probably 2010, maybe 2011, that I sort of moved out of that. I just I'd stayed in the radical politics world, but I just kind of started focusing on other things. I got into some more feminist causes and those more feminist causes at the time., it's seems so weird to say now, but at the time there was actually maybe a little bit of tension, I think, between some feminist stuff and the earlier transgender movement. So it was still not kind of they were not seen as the same sort of thing in the way they are now. So I kind of moved away from that and more towards the more explicitly feminist stuff. And then as that happened, I just sort of lost interest and, I never had any kind of big detransition thing or anything like that because I hadn't really transitioned in any meaningful way. I was just dressing different and being annoying at parties and all of that. But it was it was that kind of just slowly kind of lost interest in it as I grew older and got maybe a little more mature in my politics. And then from then on, I just kind of didn't even really think about it for a little bit until kind of the second wave of gender stuff started popping up, maybe 2013, 14, 15. And. And then I kind of got back into it and was more curious about it just to see like, oh, hey, this is kind of becoming big again. I remember when I was doing that. So, yeah, so like I said I was never I definitely don't consider myself like a detransitioner in the way that a lot of people nowadays might identify because I never went through any sort of real serious medical or regime or anything like that. But I did kind of get into it in a social sense, had a lot of friends who were in that queer community, kind of saw myself as genderqueer or I think nowadays probably would have seen myself more as non-binary, um, at the time. And I probably kept that up for a good two or three years. [00:09:16][172.1]

Lisa: [00:09:18] And what did you get out of it? Why did you identify that way? [00:09:22][4.5]

Teacher: [00:09:23] Yeah. I mean, I think that's a that's a great question. I look back and part of me is like, man, I don't really know. I read a lot of what I was saying back then. And it's like, Yeah, I recognize that person, but man, a lot of this doesn't really make sense. So in a lot of ways I think it's hard for me to look back and see what was really so appealing about it now that I'm not 16 or 17 or whatever. But at the same time, I also do understand what the appeal was because I was I was raised in a really religious family. My parents were not really that socially conservative. Right. Like they were pro-gay. And my mom was really into feminism and stuff like that. So but I was still in a religious household. And it was one of those things where even though my church wasn't actually this really oppressive right wing conservative thing, I almost kind of wanted it to be right because I was in that lefty world and I, I wanted to really be out rebelling, even though there wasn't much to rebel against that like a mainstream Methodist church. So I think part of it was it was just kind of a bit of a middle finger that I think a lot of teenagers like to throw up at the world or at conservatives or religion or whatever. But it was also, I think because as a kid, I was very I was very feminine kid I mean, I don't like to think about things that way. But I think a lot of people would have looked at me and said that kid's very feminine. And I was very soft spoken. A lot of people definitely assumed when I was a teenager or even younger that I was gay. And so I think that. I think that a lot of that I was really looking, I was looking at myself and I was saying, like, man, I'm just not very good at being like a man or a teenage boy or whatever., I wasn't really super athletic. I wasn't super popular, I wasn't super good with girls, anything like that. So I think it was kind of this thing of I really felt like I wasn't living up to that role as a man. And then I kind of found a community where they kind of had an explanation for that. Right? Like the queer community was there to say like, oh, well, there's the reason that you feel like you're not doing it right is because that role wasn't actually meant for you. You're not actually a man or you're not actually a boy or whatever. And that explains why you find those kind of stereotypes associated with that uncomfortable. And that made a lot of sense to me as a kid, right? Like I when I was that age, it was there was something really nice about being told, like, oh, it's not that you're, like, failing at what you should be doing. It's that you just you shouldn't actually be doing this in the first place. You're not actually the tough guy. You're just you're you're gender queer. You're somewhere in the middle or you're you're whatever. So I think that was a really big appeal is a kind of a narrative to help me understand why I wasn't I wasn't kind of living up to gendered expectations. And I also think that it just even at the time and I'm sure it's even more so now, but even at the time, I think it was just a it was a way for me to kind of mark myself out as unique. As interesting. I think people thought it was interesting and wanted to know more about it, especially my kind of like liberal enclave. And I don't ever think I did it in like a really cynical way of like, hey, I'm just going to do this to get people to like me. But I do think the attention and kind of validation you get when you when you do that again, even back then ten, 12, 15 years ago, whatever it was meaningful to me as a kid who didn't always necessarily get that from other things. So I think that was it., there was the kind of just general teenage rebellion part of it, but there were also real issues where I just didn't feel like I was very good at being a boy or very good at being a man. And I found this community that said, hey, it's that's actually totally fine because turns out you aren't one. And so I found that comforting. And it was a really nice narrative to kind of explain what was going on, because otherwise there wasn't really any narrative out there except like what? You just need to toughen up and get better at playing sports and hitting on girls and all that stuff, right? So it was really kind of the only narrative I had to explain why that wasn't working for me. [00:13:31][247.5]

Lisa: [00:13:32] Yeah, it's making me think of two things. One is that blanking on her name. Oh, yes, an educator in Canada named Karleen Pendleton. I interviewed her for my book Tomboy, and she'd gone around—she's a butch lesbian, she'd gone around doing workshops with kids about gender all over Ontario, even in rural places. And she discovered that even the most outwardly gender conforming, appearing students felt that they were doing gender wrong. Yeah, that the football captain of the football team worried that he had girl knees, cheerleader fell to masculine in some way and that each person had an idea of how they were supposed to be based on their sex and felt they were failing on some level at it. [00:14:33][61.1]

Teacher: [00:14:34] Yeah. And I think a lot about myself at that age where not to be hard on my 16 year old self, but I think there was a lot of kind of that general teenage narcissism where I think I looked at those football players or whatever the cool kids. And I just assumed that this was totally working out perfectly for them. Right. Like, I, I looked at them and I said, well, obviously they must love everything that comes with being a man. And nowadays I look back and I'm like, I bet. Yeah. Like you say, I bet it was actually really hard for them to in a lot of ways. And I think that as a teenager, it's just really hard to step out of your step out of that mindset that teenagers have where they're, their struggles are totally different from everyone else's and no one else understands and all of that. I mean, I think that's just part of being a teenager, but it makes it really hard when your only comparison is with other people who from the outside look like they're doing great, ? And it's like, gosh, it's like, I got to experience my insides and their outsides. And it was hard to for me to even consider that maybe it wasn't it maybe it was a raw deal for everyone and that everyone was unhappy with this stuff. I did really just assume it was kind of me, right? Especially because a lot of other people in my community and my family and things like that were really kind of traditional alpha men or whatever, right? Not in a bad way, but they were just more the kind of guys who would go out for hikes and doing playing football and stuff like that. And so and of course, as I've grown up, I've seen that they struggled in a lot of ways with that stuff. And but when you're young and you have a community that kind of encourages you to think of yourself as different from everyone else, it can really break those bonds of solidarity and break those relationships in ways that make it harder for you to understand that other people are going through the same things. And that's actually one thing I really, really do recall from that time period, and I see it a lot today as well, is there's kind of a there's a real negative stigma attached to that idea that, well, everybody struggles with these things. And I, I understand why, because obviously some people have unique difficulties and just saying, oh, well, everyone feels that way can be dismissive. But sometimes it feels like people go so far in the other direction where even trying to hint at a kind of shared experience or trying to establish that kind of sympathy or compassion with others can really get people coming down hard on you because they feel like that invalidates them. And I mean, I know that my mom, when I was growing up would often say, like, well, I think a lot of people have those problems. And it made me really mad because I was like, no, you don't understand., it's not I'm not like everyone else or whatever. So I think that yeah, I think that's part of it is I think there's a real fear there was a real fear back then. And I think there's a real fear now in kind of emphasizing those universal experiences, because people do see them as being invalidating or kind of taking away their unique claim that they've built a real identity around it. [00:17:34][180.5]

Lisa: [00:17:35] So can we talk a little bit about that identity, which is very rooted in I'm having a singular experience that everyone around me must validate. But you had talked about that identity being not just about sex or gender, but about victimhood, I guess, on some level. And kids opting in to being oppressed. Tell me what you what you've seen. [00:18:11][36.3]

Teacher: [00:18:12] Yeah. I mean, I think that's actually a really interesting shift between kind of my experience with the community a decade ago or more like more than a decade ago now, but 15 years ago or whatever. And then my experience today is that back then there wasn't as much of an emphasis on being a victim and there was more of an emphasis on being just sort of like an outcast or a sort of weirdo. Right. And that's a dismissive way of framing it. But what I mean is that back then. Me and my friends, we weren't really concerned with being at the bottom of, like, a political hierarchy. We didn't, the idea wasn't that we were oppressed. In fact, I think we would have really bristled at that, because I think part of what we saw ourselves as doing is that we were sort of voluntarily placing ourselves outside of the kind of dominant culture or whatever. Right. So I think back then I didn't think of myself as like, oh, I was born genderqueer or whatever and I'm being oppressed by society., I saw it as this sort of thing of like, no, I'm actually going to extend the middle finger to society and say, I don't want to be part of you or whatever. I want to be  different, I want to be an outcast or whatever. And so there wasn't that same kind of political lens. There was more of almost like a social or a community lens on it. Whereas nowadays, as a teacher, the political lens has really overwhelmed anything else. Where nowadays if you had told me at 16 that I was I was being oppressed, I would have said, no, I'm too cool for that. I'm too edgy for that. I don't even care. But nowadays it feels like many of the people I encounter in the community, including students, but also adults, there's much more of an emphasis on that kind of political lens, and I think that's been a big shift in the next over the last ten years or so. It's kind of more of an explicit kind of power hierarchy developing, which I think is valuable in many cases because I think there are power hierarchies in our society, but I think that it is sometimes become the concept of being oppressed has, I think in many cases become untethered from the actual like material reality of oppression where it feels like there are a lot of people who sort of see themselves. They're oppressed for being oppressed in a way, if that makes sense, right? Like there's no real foundation for any of it. It's just sort of that they have decided they are a member of some oppressed group, some of which are extremely tenuous groupings. And then it's kind of like the essence of that group is just oppression. Instead of there being real analysis of like what's actually going on in a sociological sense, which, again, you don't expect from kids, right? You don't expect students to have that kind of robust materialist analysis of what's going on. But I think in the absence of that, oppression becomes a sort of free floating signifier that can kind of be claimed at any point and carries, it carries real, meaningful weight. I mean I think some people can be too dismissive and say, oh everyone just wants to be oppressed nowadays. And I think that's unfair. I think there are people who are really feeling mistreated or marginalized and they are drawn to identities because of that. But I also do think that there are definitely situations where I think people have real anxiety about being kind of privileged and have real anxiety about their sort of power that they have. And I think that it does lead people to kind of search for ways they might be oppressed just because it kind of helps relieve that tension. I mean, I think that I see a lot of students where who are politically active and they are the kind of classic cis, straight, white. And I really do notice a real palpable like anxiety they have around that. And I think that it, I don't think it's as simple as saying all of these issues are just kids looking to be oppressed. But I do think that kind of anxiety about one's position in a social hierarchy and a kind of a sense that privileged, powerful people are bad and oppressed marginalized people are good. Does, it creates powerful incentives for students to kind of discover oppressions that maybe otherwise they wouldn't have noticed at all or wouldn't have centered in the way they center them now. [00:22:28][256.4]

Lisa: [00:22:30] So some of it is grappling with their power and position in society. That's the more generous way of looking at it. [00:22:39][9.2]

Teacher: [00:22:40] That is generous. Yeah. [00:22:41][1.0]

Lisa: [00:22:42] Well, it's interesting because you said something, I heard you say something recently that almost knocked me out of my chair, which was that you see that there's an allowance for feminine boys, that's understood and that the any time a girl expresses a hint of masculinity, she's kind of immediately labeled as or labels herself trans or nonbinary, nonbinary or other ways, opting out of girlhood or a female identity. And it makes me think that there's a strange twist from the revulsion of traditional masculinity in that it actually created a little space for femininity, which there has never been, but, in boys. But it's just such an incredible switch. And of course, I'm not in the schools. I have I have children in the schools, but I'm not in there witnessing this, though. Can you talk to me a little bit about that? Yeah. [00:23:53][70.7]

Teacher: [00:23:53] So that's definitely one of the big things I noticed when I first got back into high schools as a teacher that was so different from me growing up is when I was growing up it was during a time in some ways a kind of what you might call like pop feminism or kind of just general kind of girl power stuff was really big and in demand. And you were kind of seeing a lot of that there. And so I grew up in a time where obviously there were still very strict gender norms. There were still very short gender norms today. But at the time where it wasn't weird to see girls with short haircuts. It wasn't weird to see girls trying out kind of like grunge style, baggy clothes and stuff like that I saw that. Whereas I rarely, if ever, saw even the hint of femininity among boys when I was growing up for example, when I was growing up, I had long hair and I was I was actually teased and bullied for it for more than I think people might expect. But even just 15 years ago or whatever, it was a lot harsher, I think, on boys doing stuff like that., I never saw boys who were wearing makeup or painting their nails or wearing skirts or whatever. I mean, that was seen as really transgressive and really it was not even among fairly liberal people. I think a lot of them thought that would was really weird if a boy would do that. Whereas girls it wasn't considered that weird for a girl to get a short haircut or to not paint her nails or whatever. Wear jeans and t shirts and things like that. So there was a kind of a little bit of an asymmetry there where there were a lot of gender roles imposed on both boys and girls, but definitely it was stricter with boys. And then I get into the high schools nowadays, and what I notice is that I actually see a fair number of boys. I mean, not, I'm not talking 50%, but in every class I've got a couple of boys who might paint their nails or have grown their hair out longer maybe wearing clothes that are more kind of traditionally feminine. And I think, yeah, like you said, I think that kind of the modern consciousness around kind of toxic masculinity and things like that, which I think is often very valuable, I think it's led to this sort of thing where I think a lot of a lot of kids are a little skeptical of the kind of cool guy, tough guy, traditional masculinity. And there's kind of social owing to their social pressure to be more feminine. But there's it's not like a death sentence. It's kind of considered cool, a little enlightened that makes you look like you're you're really thinking things through and not just going with the crowd. So for boys, I think that situation has really changed. And I think overall that's positive. Even if the science is a little silly, I think that's positive. But the big shift for me has been to see that in some sense depending on how you look at it, this is a time of peak gender non-conformity for girls in the sense that there are a lot of female students at my school who have short hair, who wear baggy clothes, you don't wear makeup, etc. But the thing is that pretty much every single one of them identifies as non-binary or transgender. I don't think I have maybe any female students who have short, short hair and don't identify as non-binary or trans or at least queer in some way. So it leads to this very odd situation where in one sense I see a lot of female students who are really challenging restrictive gender norms. The problem is that in order to do so, you basically need to declare yourself non-binary or transgender or whatever to just be a norm quote unquote normal girl, but to not engage in femininity. I think that is surprising to people. I think that is off putting to a lot of people, a lot of the other students and things like that. And so again, I think there are people who obviously maybe don't have a problem with that, and they think that's great. But for me, it's certainly concerning to see this kind of weird solidification of gender roles in that sense where, yeah, now individual people are allowed to opt out, but in order to opt out, they have to say, I'm not a girl. But it's like, as long as you are a girl, you are expected to be extremely feminine. And I think that's really upsetting. And it's one of those things where I don't understand why more of my coworkers and colleagues don't have a problem with that. [00:28:20][267.0]

Teacher: [00:28:21] I mean I tell the story all the time. I when I first started at the last school I was at., I was we were going through the procedures for dealing with student records and things like that. And just immediately as if it was a totally normal thing to say, my supervisor said you might want to do a pronoun check in if you're ever concerned. And then the example she gave is, for example, if you have a girl who comes in with a short haircut, you might want to ask her, Hey, are your pronouns still she/her? And I'm just sitting there like. What on earth you? How do you not see that as the most sexist, regressive, conservative thing you could ever say? But a lot of these people who think of themselves as very progressive and very against gender stereotypes don't have an issue with it. And I must admit, I'm a little baffled by that. I don't know how that would not strike you as obviously bad that the category of girl is now reserved almost entirely for children who practice femininity. And I think that's seems obviously bad. But I think that's the way it is right now. [00:29:26][65.0]

Lisa: [00:29:28] What's the pressure like on you as a teacher when it comes to this subject? What are you expected to do? What are you expected to say to them? What norms or policies are expected to uphold? And what happens if a teacher objects? [00:29:47][19.4]

Teacher: [00:29:49] Yeah, so I mean, I think this is a question of kind of what is it like for teachers on the ground is, I think, a question that the real answer, or at least the answer from my experience, I think kind of leaves both both sides of the debate a little frustrated because I think both sides of the debate kind of have inaccurate understandings of how things work. Right. Because I would say to to the maybe more conservative or critical side who are acting as though teachers are every day we start with a pledge of allegiance to the pride flag. And it just every lesson is about gender identity and sex and all that stuff., that isn't the way it is. As a teacher, I don't feel a huge amount of pressure to, like, proactively bring this stuff into the classroom., I certainly never bring it up. I don't have a pride flag or anything like that or a trans flag or anything like that. And I've never felt pressure to do so. So I think in terms of just day to day behavior as a teacher, just you're kind of hey, what are you going to teach today? What do you teach tomorrow?, there isn't may be the pressure that some people think there is, but on an administrative level or just kind of on a in the background level, there is a surprising amount of kind of institutional and administrative framework for this stuff that you are kind of expected and required to engage in., so I do have things like hey, getting all the children's pronouns on file, right? And of course, district policy is that you always have to use them, you always have to change them. Whenever there's a request, you always have to refer to a student by exactly what they're what they what they tell you they want to be referred by. Right. What they said. I called the chosen name. Tons of stuff about hey, you can never, you have to get permission from the student before you use so so if a student comes to you and says, hey, I want to be called him at school, you need to get their permission before you before you would let their parents know that and that if you do communicate with their parents and they say, I don't want them to know I've changed pronouns, then you have in your records there's a spot for at home pronouns. And this is one of those things that I think is it's one of those things where it's almost like a Rorschach test, where when I tell people that, when I say, yeah, the school has this very specific system set up so that I can have a set of pronouns for the student to use at school. And then if they want the parents to not know that they're going by that, I have another set of pronouns to use when I communicate home, and when I tell people that it's like half of the people just lose their minds and are furious about that. And the other half say, That sounds great. What's the problem? Right. And so I guess it all depends on your views about the school and teachers and all and your relationship with students. But it is definitely, it is there there is a lot of emphasis on kind of accommodating students on really any requests they make around that stuff. And then really they're in the driver's seat when it comes to whether or not their parents find out whether or not there's any sort of notification on any of that. So administratively, that stuff definitely exists. And then, of course, every once in a while there are assemblies or, kind of school announcements and stuff that are always especially during various months where things come up. But so it's an it's a kind of a jarring experience as a teacher because I can go weeks without even thinking about it. But in the back of my head, it's all I also know that all of those systems are in place. And whenever they do come up, I am definitely expected to do exactly what the policy say. So I think that it's certainly not an everyday thing in the way some people maybe who are a little over the top will suggest. But it's also absolutely a part of the school. And the school knows it's happening and is very strict on exactly what to do. So there is definitely pressure. I mean, I'm sure that if I call the student if a student said, hey, I want to be known by this name and said, sorry, I'm not going to do that, I'm going to call you by your birth name or whatever. Obviously I would be immediately disciplined. I can't even imagine what would happen. Right. It's really not an option. Same goes with if I think if I did reveal a child's pronouns or something to their parents without their permission, I think, again, that would obviously be a serious issue. I mean, I do think the school takes that some very, very seriously. So again, it's not exactly like maybe either side would tell you, but definitely there are elements of both views that are definitely reflect reality. [00:34:26][276.9]

Lisa: [00:34:28]  that the don't say gay bill. Part of it was about censorship, right? Part of it was about the government imposing what teachers can and can't say in a classroom. But the vast majority of the bill was about preventing those kind of policies in which children and teachers or school personnel sort of collude and leave parents out of what some feel is a kind of psychological trajectory. And what do you think? Whereas other people think that's for many kids and especially gay kids growing up, they confided in their teachers. Teachers provided this safe haven or this first stop. And when kids really did feel unsafe, that is, they felt like they might be hurt or actually kicked out for telling their parents who they were, whom they were attracted to. What is the appropriate role of a teacher now when it comes to sex and gender? And what should you be? What should you be teaching them and what should you be? What role should you play in terms of their gender identities? Whether or not we accept that concept, they certainly accept it. So. [00:36:01][93.4]

Teacher: [00:36:03] Yeah, I mean, I think obviously it's an extremely complicated issue with a lot of moving parts, but to just to kind of try and move through them a kind of step by step, if I can., I would say I don't support things like that so-called don't say gay bill. And I know there are people who don't like that it's referred to that way. I think that's pejorative. But whatever you want to call that bill, I think that in the end, top down state interventions to try and keep students from being exposed to this sort of thing. I just in the end, I don't think that it's ever a good idea to have the state coming in and really trying to kind of reactively prevent things they don't like from being taught. So I would have no problem if people wanted to back a kind of comprehensive legislation around sex ed that covers gender identity and things like that and kind of creates sort of standardized, practical guidelines for what should and shouldn't be taught. And I think there's a ton of debate about that. But I think that's the path to go on. I don't like the idea of these sort of what look at the school, look at what you don't like being taught, and then pass a bill to say you can't teach that. Right. I think as a teacher I would be extremely uncomfortable with having the state just sort of hand down this on top of all the other regulations, on top of all the other curriculum passed down. Oh, here. Here's some new rules about what you can and can't say. I don't think that's fair to teachers. And I don't think in the end it's a productive way to deal with things. And I would say the same thing about issues I have. Right. So there are things that are taught in history classes that I think are that I'm really opposed to. But I wouldn't want a Liberal government to come in and say, hey, we passed the don't say dumb stuff about the Civil War Act and now it says you can't say you can't say X, Y and Z thing. I would say rather I'd want those Liberal governments to come together, those legislatures to come together and craft positive legislation, positive guidelines for what should and shouldn't be taught, rather than kind of just looking at what is currently being taught and saying, I don't like that and trying to shut it down. Right. Especially because I think just as a matter of course, many of those bills are very poorly written and I read them and it gives me a heart attack as a teacher because I'm like, I have no idea how I could navigate this and I would be so afraid of inadvertently doing something that some overzealous person out there could could hear about and come after me. So I think creating any kind of climate of fear or adversarial relationship with teachers is I just not I don't think it's the way forward. But with that said, I also think that there are ways that I think there are things that are being taught in schools that even if I agree with them or don't agree with them, I think they're not productive. I mean, I think the issue is that. And I say this again as a teacher, right. I think teachers really need to challenge this view. We often have of ourselves as the self-appointed saviors of children whose parents don't believe the same things we believe. Right., and so I think that obviously, there's a baseline of respect and compassion and human dignity that we should that we are not only allowed to teach children, but required to teach children. We should absolutely make it central to our education to say, hey, there are certain human rights and basic dignity and respect that everyone deserves. But there are people who accept all of that and still believe that., I don't know that the best family for a kid is a mom and a dad or that the best approach to racism is color blindness or whatever, anything like that. And I think that those ideas, even if maybe I disagree with them I don't think that it's abusive or horrible that those families are raising their children that way. And I don't think it should be the role of parents to step or the role of teachers to kind of say, hey, whatever your mom and dad told you at home here's what's actually the case. I think that's I think that's inappropriate. I don't think it's the right relationship we should have with our students. But I also think just practically, it's not working., there are, I'm a very far left person myself. And there also I love to get up in front of my class and just talk about how terrible capitalism is. And I wish we should have abortion on demand and all this stuff. But I also recognize that even if I think those things are good, that it's ultimately not sustainable to have a world where 80% of parents are sending their kids to schools, where those kids are learning things those parents don't like., I think as teachers, we need to accept that we are not that we are often out of step with the rest of the culture in terms of just how progressive, just how liberal we are. And that I think we need to get better at restraining ourselves and kind of being willing to say, hey, that's not my role to tell you about that. So I think so. Yeah., I think those bills are not the right approach. I think they're the blunt instruments where where you really need is a really top to bottom kind of positive philosophy about what schools are there for, not just this kind of, hey, anything we don't like, we're going to make it illegal. If you say something else we don't like next year, next year, we'll make that illegal, too. And the final thing I'll say, though, is that I think a lot of these issues are intricately tied to the general shift in educational philosophy that we've seen over the last ten or 15 years, where schools have gone from being about just sort of basic academic skills to being a much more holistic, whole life structure where nowadays my school has mental health counseling for kids. It has substance abuse interventions for kids. It has, counselors, career counselors. It has a food pantry. It has a health center and all those other things. And I'm not I think all of those things are valuable, but I think there has been a real bloat in terms of the sort of mission of schools lately, in large part because I think the other organizations and institutions that should be doing those things have failed largely because of the neoliberal regime we live in and the cutbacks and austerity that have been forced on a lot of us in the last 20 years. And so I think on one hand, I'm like, hey, I think it's great that schools are picking up the slack and providing services that students won't get otherwise. But I think that it's led to this kind of kind of ever expanding role of what the teacher should be. And in that context, it's very hard to not bring in gender identity and sexuality., it's like if as a teacher, I'm expected to be kind of intimately familiar with the mental health and personal stability and lifelong ambitions of all of my students. Well, then I'm naturally going to run into these issues of sexuality and gender. Right. And so I think that trying to sort of cordon off gender and sexuality is this thing teachers shouldn't touch. You're not going to have any success with that., so long as the teacher is expected to poke and prod every other part of the student's life and then just conspicuously leave that alone. Right. So I think in general, what we, again, not to just fall back on my kind of traditional leftist tropes, but I think what we really need is we need the government and the state to step in and start providing a lot of these services in places that aren't schools., we need more free clinics for students to get care there. We need more free and reduced cost counseling and programs that get children connected and things like that don't take place in the school. Because the problem is that the school has essentially become a whole host of things that was never meant to be. And as a teacher sometimes I feel like it's like instead of just being a teacher, I'm a teacher slash social worker, slash motivational speaker slash, career counselor slash crisis intervention specialist and so on. There's so many. Roles to play. And I think really kind of cutting back on that and really being firmer about what the role of education is and the role the teacher is by itself would, I think, eliminate a lot of these difficulties. I think part of the problem is that teachers are being asked to be very, very involved in students lives, but then also very, very penalized if they cross any one of a million little kind of cultural taboos. And so it's just an untenable situation. Things things need to change in some way because the balance. Right now is I don't think it's working for anyone. And I think it's inflaming a lot of totally unnecessary tensions out there. So if I had to offer, though, that positive views I'd look, I think transgender people exist, right? There are people out there who identify as transgender and there are people out there who are gay. And I think there's nothing wrong with a class on sexual health, a class on sociology, a class on whatever, bringing it up and mentioning it. But the problem that I have as a teacher. Is that I think there's this idea out there that if you ask every kid every week or whatever, Hey, what are your pronouns? Hey, do you still identify as your gender assigned at birth?, there's this idea out there that people have a very essentialist idea of trans identity where they see it as something you really are just born with, or if you're not born with it, it's some sort of almost like spiritual essence. And because of that, they don't really see a danger in kind of introducing trans stuff at every possible instance because they think, well, the people who it's meant for will pick it up and the people it's not meant for, well, we'll try it on and it won't work for them and they'll move on. But I think that just ignores so much of what I see among my students and so much about what I think we know about kids in general, which is that if you just if you kind of immerse kids in this stuff over and over and over again, I think it's really naive to think that you're not going to have negative consequences coming out of that idea, that you're not going to have people who who could have handled their distress and frustration and anxiety and things like that and in totally productive ways instead kind of go down those paths. And so I think that for me, I, I don't think there's anything wrong with covering transgender people and gay people and lesbian and bisexual people. Of course all sorts of people in situations where it is relevant to the material being taught. But I think there is an issue with sort of schools seeing it as their job to sort of help students navigate through the gender journey or whatever it's sometimes referred to. Because I think in the end, a lot of times I think that does just, I think it does more harm than good. I think and I think this idea that some people are just 1% trans and that's guaranteed from birth and some people will never be trans and it's not even a possibility. I think that mindset leads people to do things that in any other situation would be with with kids would be considered obviously unproductive. [00:47:16][673.3]

Lisa: [00:47:18] Well, I've been thinking about and writing a bit about school as the new church, and that church attendance is at an all time low. And so you're mentioning all the different roles, all the different institutions that have been folded into the school. And some of that is because that's the best way to reach kids who need help is while they're at school. But the problem with school being a church is that many people with a different belief system are converging on that property. And you choose a church according to your belief system, but you don't choose a public school anyway according to your belief system and believing in public schools or not being able to afford private schools. So for those of us who see the concept of gender identity as just that, a concept or a belief system, our children are being told that there's one appropriate way to think about it, and that doesn't necessarily represent our beliefs, which is very complicated and difficult because I have a way that I talk about gender in my house and I explain to my kids that I see it very differently than most of the adults in their lives, and that they're going to learn things at school that I disagree with and that are not in line with our family's belief system. But then we have to talk about whether or not it's okay to say that. So we have the like don't say gender bill kind of in our house where I have to say you could say it, but there could be real repercussions. There could be social repercussions for talking about how our family's belief system is different from what they're teaching you at your school and I don't know if the one time I met you, this I think this had already happened that my ten year old was asked to put whether she was cisgender, transgender or non-binary on this kind of identity art project they were working on. And it put her in a strange position of sort of having to choose between the kind of school situation and what's talked about in our house, which, of course, is not that we I know more trans people now than I ever did before I started talking about this in a more complex way. But particularly the idea that everybody has a gender identity, that's something that I challenge in my household. And then her friend said we were walking home from an after school program and they were talking to me about what they'd done in school that day. And her friend said, Well, we also had a lesson about pronouns and I don't really understand they them pronouns. And I said, Well, you should probably ask your teacher to explain, not me, because the way I explain it, it might make things more difficult for you. So I was giving them lessons in censorship and self-censorship, and. But it turns out I didn't need to, because the little girl said to me, Well, I don't feel comfortable asking because I wouldn't want to offend anyone. So not only have they taught that gender identity was a fact, but they had communicated to the children that there were you couldn't question anything about it. And that seemed really terrible to me. That seemed like the worst part of it, that they had taught it in a way that questioning anything about it, even to clarify was not okay. And. I guess all that comes back to the question, which is what should parents do if they object to what's being taught other than going to a school board meeting and getting into fistfights, what should we do?

Teacher: Well, I don't recommend that so much.

Lisa: Exactly. So I'm going to pick the Loudoun County parent.

Teacher: Yeah. I mean, I guess what I would say. Right. The thing that this is how people say is this, hey, hey, I'm uncomfortable with this stuff. What should I do as a parent? And I always say I'm not a parent, so I don't, you have to make your own decisions about your own values and where you rank all those in importance. But just practically I just think people should remember parents should remember that most teachers are not activists. Even the people who might be doing that might be hey, I mean here's your name card put your name, your pronouns, something like that., they're probably not doing that because they're they're rubbing their hands in glee and saying oh, man, I'm so excited to see if I can turn some kids trans., obviously, there are, there are teachers who are really, really into it and are more like activists. Right. But even at the very liberal school where I teach, I would say that, gosh maybe 10% of the teachers are particularly into it. It's just that the other 90% don't really get what's going on and just say, yeah, that's fine. So, I mean I would say my first thing is that you should remember your teachers, your kids teachers probably working 60 hours a week and probably didn't think very hard about most of these assignments. Right. Most of the assignments probably come from the district or they come from a curriculum that's been picked for them. And if they're just sort of passively watching John Oliver or whatever, it's not weird that they would not have a problem with it., and I think that I think if you're even at the point where you are asking yourself, well, what should I maybe talk to a teacher about this, that you just have to recognize you're already deeper into this subject than 99% of parents on the planet. Right. Like and that doesn't mean you're a weirdo or you're a  you're you've lost your mind. But it does mean you should just always remember that probably the teacher you're talking about knows a lot less about this stuff than you do, knows a lot less about maybe any potential problems. They're probably just doing it because they've been asked to or because they saw it on Pinterest and thought, oh, that's cool. And so I would just say the most important thing is just to remember is to not assume that the teacher you're dealing with is some kind of hard headed transgender activist who really has it out for you because because they they hate your worldview or whatever. And to not engage kind of on that straight to ten on the aggression.  I've I talked to parents who I stormed into my do the teachers thing and said what the hell are you doing with this? And sat on their desk. And if you if you engage like that, it's not weird for them to shut down and for them to think, okay, this person is just alone. And then your relationship with them is going to be spoiled. But on the other hand you also shouldn't just do nothing. If you think it's important, then I would say the best thing to do would probably just be to sort of politely reach out to them and say hey, I I don't I don't want to antagonize you. And I recognize you have a thing or whatever, but I'd rather my student not do this is can we have an alternative or hey it is okay if I do it to think of something constructive., I have teachers. I have parents all the time, not for this, but for a bunch of different things in school will email me and say hey my kid is struggling this would it be okay if we did this instead? And usually if they recommend something and it's not ridiculous, then I'm happy to do that because they did the work. They came up with the solution. And as long as it's not a bunch of work for me to do it, I'm happy with it. Right. And I think a lot of teachers are that way. So I think if you, if you come to them and say, hey you groomer pervert, why are you coming after my kid?, they're never going to do anything. And if you try again, I'm going to post you the lives of Tick-Tock or whatever. Then they're then there's not going to be any sort of constructive thing and you're probably are going to mark your kid out in a way that you don't want. But I think that most teachers are pretty conflict averse and most teachers just sort of want to do what works. And I really think I've seen people have real success. So just saying hey the important thing to do is say don't try to convert your teacher, your kid's teacher. Right? Like,  what? Like you're trust. I'm like, I think another issue, right, is that there are a lot of a lot of parents out there. And I don't mean in any negative way, but I think that they have a lot of arguments and a lot of like talking points in their head that they don't get to use a lot. And I think a lot of them signs when these conflicts come up, they're like, Oh, finally, here's my chance to offer my ironclad 25 step argument on why trans women aren't women or something like that. Right. And it's like, look, that's not your that's not going to be productive. Right? You aren't here to convince your kid's teacher to become become critical of this stuff, right. So I and I think signposting that, the firm just say, hey, look I understand these are your these values and I totally get why you're doing this. But I'd prefer to maybe have it be okay if my kid doesn't put that on there.

Teacher: And the other thing I'll say the last thing I'll say about this, too, is one of the things is that one of the things that kind of emphasis on gender and sex in schools has done is it's really emphasized among a lot of teachers the importance of privacy and the importance of safety for kids. Right. So I think using that language, too, is saying, hey, my kid doesn't feel comfortable talking about this or my kid doesn't feel safe writing down their gender identity in a class a bunch of other kids heck, even if you want to even do it ambiguously. So they think that maybe your kid is so into trans stuff that they they'd rather not, they're they're worried there are transphobes in the classroom or something. And if, you can present it in a way that doesn't immediately mark you as a kind of ideological opponent, but you just come as a parent who says hey, I'm concerned that maybe this is going to be uncomfortable for my child. They'd rather not. And just is there a way we can help them be more comfortable? And I think the majority of teachers are going to at least be willing to work with you on that. So I think it can really poison the well to kind of assume from the start that every teacher is exactly like the insane ones you see online every once in a while.

Lisa: So you could frame it in terms of. Right if you don't want to reveal your., I never would label myself as gender critical just because I'm not entirely sure what it means. I don't I don't have any I don't have I don't have any labels. No. I mean, I'm not ideologically aligned with any one thing, but I like the idea of not lecturing them about my beliefs or converting them. I think that's really powerful, but I like the idea of framing it as for privacy reasons, I like my daughter to skip the lessons on gender identity. Could you let me know when they are?

Teacher: Yeah. I mean, I always. Yeah. I mean and of course, it depends on the school and the teacher in the class, whether it's a fourth grade class or an 11th grade class, there's going to be a big difference there. But I always joke that I think the one time I was ever really pointedly asked to put my pronouns on a name badge I just, I, I don't remember exactly what I said, but I basically hinted that I had some crazy, complex gender identity that couldn't be captured by by any set. And then that was fine, right? And they were like, okay, well, we don't want to make you, I think what I said I said I'm I'm not really comfortable announcing to everyone what pronouns I would prefer or something like that in a way that has a sort of plausible deniability to it. And there's such an emphasis on safety, there's such an emphasis on kind of accommodation in those spaces that oftentimes there are sort of built in ways to avoid kind of engaging if you don't want to. So I would just say, just go in with an open mind, assuming that this is a teacher who really does just want what's best for your kid. Because even if they are wrapped up in a bunch of dumb stuff, they probably really do. And they probably don't want to antagonize your kid. They probably don't certainly don't want to indoctrinate them.

Teacher: And that's a broader point I would make real quick. Right. Is that one of the things that I think a big misunderstanding. Right, is that a lot of people have this idea that teachers and administrators and stuff, that they're really out there wanting to, like, turn kids trans right or they really want to indoctrinate kids to really question their gender identity. But in some sense, it's actually the exact opposite. One of the reasons I think the teachers are so insistent on this stuff and so  big on kind of claiming over it is they really think that any kid who is not already trans and essentially trans and unchangeable be trans. They just think it's all going to wash off. Right. Like if you're, if your kid is in there and they're getting all this stuff on gender identity. It's not because the teacher is hoping the fifth worksheet on gender identity is really going to turn them trans. It's the opposite is that they think, well, if your kid isn't trans, then I could give them a hundred worksheets on this and it wouldn't change their minds, right? So I think oftentimes the trans and queer movement is extremely essentialist in that sense where it's like you're either trans or not and social influence has no bearing. And so because of that mindset, there's often no fear that you might influence a child in the wrong way. Right? So I think a lot of parents often think like, oh, they're teaching this because they want to they want to turn my kid trans wherever. But it's the opposite that they're teaching this because they think that there's no risk they might do that. Right. They think that if any kid identifies as trans is just because they were essentially immutably trans from the beginning. So I think adopting that mindset and understanding that mindset is important to understand why a lot of teachers engage the way they do.

Lisa: Well, then what do we need to teach teachers if they're if. I mean, obviously, most politicians also don't think there's an element or asserting that there's no element of social contagion either. But. What do we have to do to get them to see how much more complicated this is than just some kids are trans and they need social and then possibly medical transition?

Teacher: Yeah. I mean, I think that I'll say two things are this one thing is I think that teachers overall, one of the things that really shocked me when I got into this right, is because by the time I kind of got into this, I had already started being kind of critical. A lot of what I was seeing, I was skeptical, a lot of it. And I had been online and so I had heard that these public schools are just these ultra liberal dens of every single person is a radical trans activist or whatever. And I got in and I realized actually 90% of teachers, if you're alone with them in a room, are going to make jokes about this. They're going to roll their eyes at it. Right. So first off, I would say that I don't think the majority of teachers have that kind of have that idea that it's like totally it's, the majority of teachers, I would say don't. They don't need to be taught that. It's more complicated because I think a lot of them do understand that., earlier saying about the more essentialist ones who are the more like hardcore activists. But for teachers who are just sort of observing from afar, a lot of them see it as like a teenage fad. Right. But the difference is that they don't see it as a harmful teenage fad. Right. Like I made the comparison that a lot of teachers I talk to think that identifying as non-binary or identifying trans is like going through the phase where some annoying kid converts to Buddhism in their junior year for like six months and then gives it up or kids who get really into being vegetarians or something like that, like they see it as just sort of a cringe worthy thing that kids do. And so I think that I think it's the wrong the question isn't so much how do you convince them that it's more complicated? Because I think plenty of them will accept that it's complicated. I think the thing is, how do you convince them that it's dangerous or how do you convince them that there's real drawbacks? Right. Because that's the brick wall that I hit is yes, there are definitely activist teachers like I was talking about who one 5% they think every kid is either trans or they're not. And no amount of social influence one way or another could ever have any bearing. And those are the teachers who are often or the organizations that are often producing these materials, producing these lessons. But individual teachers, I think a lot of them see that it's more complicated. They just don't see the downsides. A lot of them seem to think it's this kind of silly thing that kids mess around with, and then if they ever get far enough to do real medical transition, well, by then the doctors will have figured out that it's necessary and then it's fine, right. So I think the real place to focus on is to really just get people to realize that there are real drawbacks to like a false positive drawbacks to this sort of thing. Because I think that right now a lot of the reason that teachers do it is just because they're like, Yeah, who cares, it's fine, ? Like I said, some kid thinks they're transfer for six months. That's fine, it doesn't they don't see on the more ideological side, I don't think they see some of the ways in which this stuff is really regressive and sexist and harmful for girls. But I think also they just are like they'll they'll grow out of it. It's fine, ? So I think that if I could tell any teacher anything, it would just be like, hey, there's actually a real chance that a kid could go down a road that they don't need to go down and that they might miss out on having a much healthier, much more grounded, much more feminist or whatever understanding of things. And that's a valuable thing we don't want to lose just because we're like, well, you might as well try it out, ? So I think that's a big thing is just being able to without being scaremongering you don't want to go to people and say, oh what about all these horrible surgeries and complications and all this stuff, but just generally asking hey, like, what might the cost be if a kid decides for two years of their life to put into this?, I think about myself and it's like I didn't end up going on hormones or having surgery, but I still look back at those couple of years. I'm like, man I would have been a healthier, happier person if I had not kind of put all that energy into something that I look back and think was was really a way for me to meet other deeper issues I had. And so I think that's the big thing is trying to show these teachers that there's an opportunity cost here, that high school isn't this time where you can just take two years on some kind of dumb thing you learned about in health class and that actually might be a real problem, ? So I think that's an important thing to emphasize.

Lisa: So my last question is. What can we do to support teachers during this time when there's so much crazy fighting over what's being taught in schools?

Teacher: Yeah. I mean, that's a great question. I think the first thing to do is just recognize that like teaching is a hard job. Right? And 90% of what I do not not even 90, 99% of what I do in the world at my job has nothing to do with any of this. Right. And so you have to think of teachers as teachers first and who sometimes get wrapped up in gender identity stuff, not as like gender ideologues who every once in a while get to teach a lesson on teach a math class.  what I mean? And so I think that's the first thing, is just understanding that teachers have full jobs that are full of a lot of other stuff, and they're not always interested in seeing everything they do through the lens of this particular culture war battle.

Teacher: I think the other thing is, . Is it? It's hard to feel like there are people out there who really do think you're a total piece of garbage. And I'd be lying if I said kind of the vitriol towards teachers that I see from the right doesn't get to me. It is really depressing to see., I mean, in some ways in some ways I'm like the, the it's hard, especially because for me, I've had a lot of as a teacher who is critical of a lot of this stuff. I've had a lot of right wing kind of people and even organizations reach out to me to try and talk, but immediately they are so hostile to me because I am not their perfect view of what like a good old American teacher is, right? And it's like doesn't take too long before they realize that, hey, I have other opinions that are more progressive, more left wing. And it doesn't take long sometimes for them to label me as just another crazy wacko. And then there's no there's nothing I can do. So I would just say just remember that teachers aren't these one dimensional heroes or villains. There's a difficult job. And that the kind of aggression and misplaced rage towards teachers is just not it's not productive, it's not helpful, and it's just sort of bad behavior. Right. And so I think that's important. I think just not expecting teachers to be martyrs., a lot of times I'll go online or whatever and I'll see people who are like, I don't know why a teacher would follow this rule., that this teacher should just say no, I'm going to use she her pronouns because because you're a girl and girls are girls and I'm not going to play along. And it's like they really expect me to just destroy my career for nothing. Because, of course, the result is if I ever did that, I would just get fired and they'd bring in an especially pro trans teacher to replace me. And then the only thing that would ever result would be that one kid had learned of it., teachers who have problems with this are all rude and dismissive creeps. And I don't want that. So I just think, yeah, not expecting teachers to be martyrs and realizing that these are complex issues that need to be solved legislatively and culturally. Just trying to do the best job they can.

Teacher: And then otherwise. I think the other thing to do in terms of kind of like more material support is  is except that you as someone who holds a minority view even if you think it's the most correct view in the world, it's might be your job to get that view to your kids and that in terms of support if you're worried about your kid engaging in certain lessons and you really think it's going to be disruptive or upsetting to them, then like I said I gave my approach to how to deal with that. But I would also just encourage people where if your kid is going to have to sit through one day of health class where they talk about cisgender or transgender and stuff like that, and you go over the terms and the ideas themselves., if you can sit down with them at the kitchen table that evening and just say, hey,  what, we really disagree with this stuff. Do you have any questions? Let's talk about it then. Maybe it doesn't need to become a battleground with the teacher, . So I would just say that, understanding that sometimes if you're upset with the way things are going in schools, that it's okay to just say, hey, kids, this isn't how we feel. Let's talk about it ourselves. But in school, just you might hear stuff in history class we don't agree with. You might hear stuff and your social studies class, we don't agree with that., let's talk about it and let's handle how to maybe let's go support a candidate who might change things or let's go or write something, write a letter to the editor about it. But let's not maybe make this a battleground every single moment. I think that alone would take a lot of pressure off teachers who feel like everything we do nowadays is politicized., it's really hard. And I don't think I think the vast majority of us don't want that. And so maybe that's the last thing, is just realize the vast majority of us don't want to be doing a lot of this stuff. We just feel like we have to and we feel like we can't really say no because we've been told, if you don't do this, kids are going to commit suicide. And even if you're 90% sure it's nonsense, there's a lot of good people who are going to say,  what, if there's even a 10% chance this is true, I'm not going to have some kids blood on my hands. And the fact that happens, that's the fault of the activists to weaponize that sort of stuff. It's not the fault of the people who take it on good faith and make compromised choices with bad information. So just being more compassionate, more thoughtful, more open minded about kind of the bad situation we're in, .

Lisa: Well, it does make me think, though, that it's incredibly important. But they do get incorrect information, for instance, about suicide and kids with gender dysphoria or identifying as trans. I mean. They've got to at some point know that. The risk for suicide is likely not only not because of gender dysphoria, but not mitigated by transition. Yeah.

Teacher: And that's, that's the funny thing I always say is like the other thing is a lot of people are sort of miserable about this stuff because the trans the transgender movement is so big on doom and gloom that, hey you really are hearing all the time hey, kids are going to commit suicide. Their lives are going to be ruined. It's the worst thing that ever happened. And I think sometimes people forget that our side or whatever you want to call it really has the positive message, which is that, hey, there are ways two people can be healthy and deal with this stuff that most of the time these things resolve that there are positive messages to say, hey, there's actually nothing wrong with these kids bodies. They don't need surgeries. They're perfect just the way they are, that they can get therapy that helps them. They can do all of these things. Right. I mean, it's a positive message. I think there are a lot of teachers out there, a lot of liberals in general out there who I think would be like, cool. Wow, great to know. But there's just such a stonewall where they just think even considering the idea that they might be wrong is, it's so hard to even get that first crack in the wall. But once we do, we should always remember we're the ones telling people you don't have to be freaked out the way you are., you don't have to think that some kids bodies are just bad. You don't have to think that some people are just going to be miserable their whole lives., you can actually believe in human flourishing and health and all those other things. And I think that's a really positive message that I think a lot of people would resonate with. It is just about chipping down those first barriers, and I think those barriers have been erected culturally and they need to be chipped down culturally. And I think trying to kind of go to the source, to individual teachers and try and whittle down those defenses, I think is not productive. I think it's more about engaging in the general culture and in trying to be get those messages out in general to people. And I think that and I think as those ideas and those approaches kind of disseminate through the culture, listening to Detransition or things like that I think we're going to see a shift in the general culture, and I think that will be reflected in education and other areas.

Lisa: Well, that's such a wonderful note to end on the side of human flourishing. So thank you so much. This has been incredibly illuminating and insightful, and I know it will be really helpful to parents to hear this.

Teacher: Well, I sure hope so. It's been great talking to you.

Discussions about the impossible-to-discuss topic of gender...whatever the heck that word means.