Nonbinary Florida Teacher Sues State After Firing Over Using Nonbinary ‘Mx’ Honorific

Two other plaintiffs are also suing the state over a law that bans teachers from addressing their gender identity on the job.

A Florida teacher fired for using the nonbinary honorific “Mx.” filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday alongside two other LGBTQ+ instructors who oppose a state law barring teachers from using chosen titles and pronouns.

AV Schwandes, who taught science at the Florida Virtual School, an online high school, said they were fired in October after refusing to stop going by “Mx. Schwandes.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) initially signed what has been termed the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law in 2022, banning discussion of “sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade. The measure was expanded in May to incorporate higher grade levels and to ban the use of chosen pronouns and titles in public K-12 schools. The Florida Department of Education decided in August that teachers who violated the pronoun rule could face suspension or have their licenses revoked.

The two other plaintiffs — Katie Wood, a transgender woman who teaches high school math, and Jane Doe, a transgender woman who has opted to appear anonymously in the suit — both fear losing their jobs over the law, which they say is discriminatory.

Wood said in the lawsuit that she has opted to go by “Teacher Wood” to avoid violations but says the solution is an imperfect one.

All of the plaintiffs are “current and former Florida public-school teachers who simply wanted to teach math, science, and their other school subjects of expertise,” reads the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida with legal help from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The group argues that Florida law violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause and the First Amendment’s protections on freedom of speech.

Schwandes is demanding damages from their former employer, while Wood and Doe are asking the court for an injunction against the law regarding pronouns and titles.

“I am a transgender teacher, but I am a human being first,” Wood said in a statement. “As a human being living in America, I demand to be treated with fairness and equity at work. Those who support and enforce this law are trying to take my voice away and bury my existence. But they will not.”

Schwandes said, “Florida lawmakers don’t want maturing young adults to know that I exist.”

They added, “As a high school teacher. I should not have to pretend to be someone I’m not simply because I don’t ascribe to someone else’s rigid ideas of gender. Tolerance is a two-way street. Just as I respect the faith-based beliefs of others, my civil rights need to be respected because I am an American, and I do exist.”

DeSantis has campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination in part by touting the draconian anti-LGBTQ+ laws he helped enact in his state. Florida now has some of the nation’s most restrictive laws on the books against LGBTQ+ people in public life.

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