Take Notice This Transgender Day of Visibility
By NAfME Member Ær Queen
Whenever someone asks what my job is, I get excited! I get to share that I have the very best job in the entire world: I am lucky enough to be an elementary music teacher! I love sharing about what my students are working on, about the full class sets of ukuleles that I worked to get donated to our program, and the folk dances that even my “coolest” students do—joyfully. I live and breathe to teach music.
I also happen to be transgender. I am nonbinary and use they/them pronouns; my students call me Mx. Queen.
I go to work every day with the knowledge that some people hate me just for existing. Some people would go out of their way to keep me from working with elementary students. Some people assume that because I am transgender I teach my students to be transgender too.
I wish that I were exaggerating or using hyperbole, but the truth is that we have many music educator colleagues from all over the United States who have been treated badly, and some have even been pushed out of their jobs for being visibly and vocally transgender.
I refuse to be invisible, and going “back into the closet” is not something I will ever consider. I am proud of who I am, and I am so glad that I know enough about myself as a person to be able to show up every day as my true self: a caring, passionate music teacher who also happens to be transgender.
I go to work every day with the knowledge that I will be called the wrong name. I go to work every day knowing that my building colleagues use the wrong pronouns when they talk about me—both in conversations amongst themselves and to my students. I go to work every day with the expectation of hearing comments and uncomfortable jokes about my name, pronouns, or other transgender people.
I do not correct anyone for fear of being accused of teaching content outside of the scope of my music curriculum.
All of this is true, and I still choose to be visibly me: 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I am me, no matter what. This year for the annual Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, I am giving all of my music colleagues a homework assignment.
Your first task: take notice.
Notice what it feels like to be treated with dignity. Notice how your passion is sparked when your humanity is acknowledged. Notice how your ensembles perform when you show up as your true authentic self.
Notice who has not yet been extended those human courtesies, and speak up when you do.
Your second task: be visible and vocal.
As our music colleagues, you can make the choice to treat us like humans even if others around us choose not to honor us in that way. Call us the correct name, use our correct pronouns, and speak up when you hear someone else get it wrong. These small steps alone can make a difference between surviving and thriving in the workplace.
Being vocal is important, but being visible is also key. Telling us how much you care feels empty when we are standing alone. Be visible with and for us: Give us the opportunity to be the best teachers you’ve ever met.
Please join me in celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility by visibly and vocally celebrating some of the best colleagues we have. Join me on March 31 and every other day of the year—uplifting, supporting, and caring for all of our music educator colleagues while we do our favorite thing in the world: teach music.
Further reading: “Transgender Inclusivity in Schools: Easy, Necessary, and Life-Saving”
About the author:
Ær Queen (they/them) is a trans non-binary and autistic General Music teacher at Braddock Elementary School in Annandale, Virginia. This is their 8th year teaching General Music, and they are a proud alum of Shenandoah Conservatory where they earned their Bachelor of Music in Music Education.
Ær is passionate about helping educators view the importance of gender inclusivity in schools through the first-person lens of a practicing transgender teacher, and they have presented at numerous conferences throughout the United States including 11 state MEAs, the VEA Summit for Racial and Social Justice, and the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity—National Summit for Educational Equity.
In their classroom, they do everything they can to make sure that their students know they are loved, cared for, and included from the moment they enter the classroom. Ær works on being intersectional and anti-racist in their teaching practice and was recognized as a quarterfinalist for the 2022 and 2023 GRAMMY Music Educator AwardsTM.
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March 30, 2023. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)