National Association of Science Teachers Trains Members on 'Queering Your Classroom'

National Association of Science Teachers Trains Members on 'Queering Your Classroom'
Stock photo of children in a classroom. (Taylor Wilcox/Unsplash)
Bill Pan

During a training session recently held by the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA), teachers were told how to infuse sex and gender ideologies into science classes and make classroom more "LGBTQIA+ supportive."

The training session, titled "Queer Your Classroom: Supporting LGBTQIA+ Students," featured a presentation prepared by Jamie Kubiak, a New York City-based high school chemistry teacher who uses pronouns they/he. The NSTA, whose membership includes over 40,000 science teachers, said this was aimed to help attendees learn "simple tricks and strategies to affirm and represent queer students" in their classes.
The 20-slide presentation started with a statement that gender does not equal sex. "Sex is biological, what a child has been assigned at birth. It's not always correct and it doesn’t always match with gender identity," it states. "Gender is multi-faceted and a social construct. Gender identity is how you see yourself. Gender expression is how you express/display your gender to others, and gender attribution is how other people see your gender. These can align to each other and they might not."

The "tricks" included in the presentation involve ditching "antiquated and restrictive" terms in favor of alternatives that don't "reinforce the binary." For example, teachers should refer to their classes as "team" or "folx" instead of "ladies and gentlemen" or "boys and girls."

"Think about the message you're sending when you say 'ladies and gentlemen,'" Kubiak's presentation reads. "What if someone is not a 'lady?' What if someone is neither?"

The presentation also outlined dos and don'ts if ever a student "comes out" to their teacher as LGBTQIA+. According to the presentation, a teacher should "validate their experience" and "name their courage." A teacher should not ask, "Are you sure?" or tell them they are "just confused"—or notify their parents "without student permission."

Teachers were also encouraged to "infuse" conversations about sex and gender into science classes, even when it is not directly related to what the class is meant to cover.

"In my chemistry class, I've infused talking about gender and sexuality even when it doesn't seem like it would 'fit' or that there would be time," Kubiak wrote in the presentation's footnote. "When we talk about the electromagnetic spectrum, I connect the word 'spectrum' to how gender and sexuality can be a spectrum so that students can understand that there can be two ends but that values are possible in between. Kind of like a numberline."

For biology and life science classes, Kubiak suggested that teachers should discuss topics such as sex chromosomes and reproduction "in a more inclusive way" and "without saying 'all men/boys have a penis' or 'all women/girls have a vagina,' because that isn't true."

The training session was held April 2 in Houston, Texas. It recently went viral on social media after its content was shared by popular Twitter account Libs of TikTok.

Some practices recommended in the session would be illegal in some states under recently passed laws. For instance, Florida's new education law explicitly requires teachers and schools to be transparent with parents if there is any change related to the student's mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being. The Florida law also prohibits elementary school teachers from pushing classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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