Non-binary Florida teacher falls victim to “Don’t Say Gay” expansion law, fired for using ‘Mx.’ title

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Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol, Monday, March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida House Republicans advanced a bill, dubbed by opponents as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, to forbid discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, rejecting criticism from Democrats who said the proposal demonizes LGBTQ people. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

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A physics teacher at Florida Virtual School was fired last month for using a gender-neutral title in class. The school said the title violated a section of a Florida law signed in May, an expansion to what critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

AV Vary has been teaching for 15 years, and after a long journey of self-discovery, Vary, who uses they/them pronouns, discovered that they were non-binary. So Vary started using the gender-neutral title “Mx.”, as opposed to Missus.

“I talked to my principal about it at first, I let him know that I was doing it. And, he didn’t say anything at first, and then about a month later he told me he needed me to change it,”

Vary asked to use other gender-neutral titles:

“I was told that professor was not okay, Dr. was not okay for me because I didn’t have a Ph.D., but there are lots of people at FLVS who do use Dr., which, coincidentally, is also in violation of the same law I got disciplined for.”

But Vary refused to use Missus, a title they feel didn’t fit. So, after a long back and forth with HR, Vary was fired.

As far as Vary knows, no teachers or students complained.

This comes as Florida faces one of the worst teacher shortages in the country. Vary says, after their suspension, their students were divided into already over-burdened classes.

“All these teachers who already have full loads then had to take on my students. My students were divided amongst the rest of the physics team. That stinks, that absolutely stinks”

Vary is meeting with activist groups to take on their case. They have also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A Florida Virtual School spokesperson said that FLVS is obligated to follow Florida laws and regulations pertaining to public education.

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