TAMPA, FLORIDA —The Florida Music Education Association (FMEA) canceled a presentation from transgender activists that pushed gender confusion on preschoolers. FMEA’s annual conference held January 11–14 originally included a session entitled “Just Gender: Pathways to Inclusivity in Elementary School,” but the session was canceled in the eleventh hour.
The session description states that “we will use the resources shared in our session to demonstrate the need for gender inclusion in Pre-K and elementary school settings.” Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, codified last year, prohibits classroom instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation for children in third grade and below.
FMEA is a non-profit founded in 1943 whose mission is purportedly to “promote quality, comprehensive music education” across the state of Florida. The FMEA website notes the organization’s commitment to celebrating, among other things, “gender identity and expression, sexual orientation… of all music educators and students.” The organization’s annual conference is one of the largest music education professional development events in the United States, drawing more than 10,000 attendees.
Session hosts Ær Queen and Nicholas Prosini, both of whom claim to be “transgender nonbinary,” led the same session at the 2022 conference. Upon receiving the news, Queen called for boycotts and told followers to fax FMEA, writing: “There are free fax websites, inundate them with pieces of paper that show up inside.”
“I am livid that they would accept our proposal, require that we spend an exorbitant amount of money in order to register and attend, and then refuse our presence less than 48 hours before our assigned time,” Queen wrote in a Facebook post. “The FMEA board made a cowardly decision, and they gave into pressure - whether real or imagined - from horrible bullies, which in turn led them to treat Nicholas horribly today on the phone.”
In a September 2022 article with the same title as their FMEA presentation, Queen and Prosini stressed the importance of letting children decide if and when they should notify parents about issues related to sexuality and gender confusion, writing: “When you keep a student’s transgender status private, you are not removing parents from the picture: We are fulfilling our responsibility as teachers to keep our students safe, and sometimes even alive.”
Queen and Prosini use (they/them) pronouns when describing themselves. Queen also likes to be called “fen/fens.”
“A TRANS MUSIC EDUCATOR’S PERSPECTIVE ON GENDER INCLUSIVITY”
Another session from the 2023 conference was entitled “Start from Where You’re At: A Trans Music Educator's Perspective on Gender Inclusivity.” Emerson Oliver, who also prefers “they/them” pronouns, was listed as the session host.
The session handout advises educators to “introduce yourself with your pronouns” and “ask students to write about themselves in the third person.” Teachers are also advised to always allow male students to wear dresses and female students to wear tuxedos.
For those who may have trouble using a plural pronoun like “they” when addressing an individual boy or girl, Oliver offers the following suggestion: “Picture a little mouse in someone’s pocket, and imagine you’re continually talking about both the person and the mouse.”
According to Oliver, inclusion goes beyond merely tolerating gender-fluid concepts. Having a room full of people who aren’t confused about their gender or deviating from traditional ideas about male and female is apparently unacceptable.
In the handout, Oliver notes: “My organization can be the most inclusive place in the world, but if gender diverse people aren’t coming in the door I have an inclusion problem.”
Scott Evans, a performing arts director at Orange County Public Schools and Committee Council for FMEA, was listed as the session coordinator for “Start from Where You’re At: A Trans Music Educator's Perspective on Gender Inclusivity.”
“PARENTS HAVE SOME RIGHTS"
Progressive ideas about gender fluidity have been present at FMEA conferences dating back to at least 2018 when LGBTQ activist and educator Matthew Garrett distributed a model policy guide that stated: “School staff shall not disclose any information that may reveal a student’s transgender status to others, including parents or guardians and other school staff.” Another handout that argued: “Counseling aimed at changing someone’s gender identity, sometimes known as conversion therapy, doesn’t work and can be extremely harmful.”
In 2019, two PhD students at Florida State University, Braeden Ayres and Ryan Aguirre, offered guidance to teachers on “Transporting LGBTQ+ Students Overnight Trips, Concert Attire, & More.” The two men told the audience that they should not simply be tolerant, but go so far as to assume “LGBTQ+ issues are present in all classrooms, regardless of visibility.”
Ayres and Aguiree cited the “Kinsey Scale,” stating that “sexuality may exist on a spectrum.” Alfred Kinsey was a zoologist turned sexologist who argued “all sex is good sex.” Kinsey’s books contain data on pre-adolescent orgasms from children as young as two months old.
Under their session outline, Ayres and Aguiree wrote that “parents have some rights” (emphasis theirs) and added that teachers should “bring in administration early.” Nothing in the outline states that parents should be brought in early, or at any point.
Ayers currently serves as the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. Aguiree’s received the inaugural Clifford K. Madsen Scholarship from FSU, where he researched “LGBTQ+ issues, race issues, and movement in the K-12 classroom.”
There were several gender-focused sessions at FEMA’s 2022 conference, including: “Honoring Gender Diversity in Music Education,” “Universal Design As A Model For Trans Inclusion In The Choral Classroom,” “Chorus Social Issues Building Inclusive Choral Communities With Trans And Gender-Expansive Singers” and “Just Gender: Pathways to Inclusivity in Elementary School.”
FMEA Executive Director Kathleen Sanz confirmed the “Just Gender” session was pulled from the 2023 conference, but did not provide additional comment or answer questions pertaining to gender ideology in music education. FMEA board members Shelby Chipman (President), Jason Locker (President-Elect) and Steven Kelly (Past-President) did not respond to a request for comment.