The Whole View, Season 3 Ep 11: Teaching Outside the Binary with Ace Schwarz

Welcome Ace Schwarz to the Whole View! This week, Stacy and Ace discuss action for allies and teaching outside the binary. Ace shares their background in teaching, both in the classroom and over the internet, and their own journey through gender identity. Ace and Stacy hope not just to educate, but offer actionable steps we as parents and allies can take to support the LGBTQ community.

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Key Takeaways


  • Ace is a GLSEN Educator of the Year and teach “outside the binary” not just to their own middle school science students in Pennsylvania, but also do so via the internet.
  • Stacy personally started following Ace in early 2021 after finding their “book lists.” Every single book Stacy has since given kiddo based on Ace’s recommendations has been a huge hit. What Stacy hopes to do today is help not just with education but actionable steps we as parents and allies can take to support the LGBTQ community.
  • Ace got into teaching by accident. They were supposed to take over their dad’s soda business but was given the opportunity to teach Sunday. Ace isn’t sure how they moved from teaching preschoolers to middle schoolers but they love the experience of teaching that age group.
  • They’ve been on their identity journey since about the age of six. Ace knew they weren’t the gender they were assigned at birth, but didn’t quite have the language for it. Their parents didn’t understand and were not able to support that. As a result, Ace didn’t get the chance to explore  gender and identity until they were in their 20s.

Teaching Outside the Binary

  • Ace works in middle school, so many of them were very young or just born when Sandy Hook happened, so they were not nearly as phased as the teachers about returning to school after the devastating events in Texas. It’s something that they’ve grown up with. 
  • In the hierarchy of needs, nothing else really matters if safety isn’t being met. So if a child doesn’t feel safe, Ace can’t teach. That’s why teaching outside the binary is so important.
  • This year, we’ve seen a significant reduction in human rights, especially for the LGBTQ community. Stacy has gone from being surprised about hateful rhetoric to realizing fear is a driving force for so many beliefs, and it’s genuinely keeping us from coming together as a community.
  • Ace has noticed that the most harmful legislature is a solid misunderstanding or lack of information. This means thinking you understand the issue and getting it completely wrong. And that’s the root cause of what’s happening right now. Ace also started their platform, Teaching Outside the Binary, because so many people had questions about being binary, and it was a way to educate those looking to listen and learn.
  • We fear what we don’t understand. When people have the language to discuss what they’re afraid of, we can have an actual conversation about it. Another piece is people think you have to overhaul everything you’ve ever done in your life to be inclusive, and that’s not true. A lot of this stuff and be done quickly, such as working to unlearn. 
  • We can’t accomplish any learning or achieve any bridge to education when those defenses are up. So I have recognized in conversation when people are just so on guard that nothing I say will matter. So I know I’ll have to reapproach it at a later time or rethink how I’m approaching the conversation in general. And then some people are so firm in their beliefs that they don’t want to learn. They want to have this debate, but the debate is that their side is correct. I’ve learned that you can’t reach everyone. 

Topics discussed

  • For those not listening in real-time, less than a week has passed since the deadly, senseless attack in Texas, and as an educator, I can’t imagine how scary that is. As you noted on Instagram: as of the 144th day of 2022, we had 212 mass shootings this year. Gun violence is a health crisis, especially for vulnerable populations, like BIPOC and LGBTQ. Can you share more about what it’s like to lead in the classroom through this time?
  • Language, what kind of language are we using, and where it’s gendered. Saying “you guys”– “guys” is masculine, and not everyone finds them affirming. Are we assigning pronouns when we see someone on the street? Practice singular they and not make assumptions. 
  • If you do make a mistake, make sure you refrain from over apologizing. It brings a lot of attention to the mistake, and it’s not okay to misgender someone. But we make mistakes, and we don’t want to force someone who was misgendered to feel like they need to comfort the person who made a mistake. Making a mistake, acknowledging it, and moving on is okay. 
  • Reframing a safe space as a brave space allows for the space to be gently corrected. Having the physical objects that show support is great, but real trust comes over time through action. The conversations we have, the continual learning, and correcting others, so it’s not always on the person being misgendered.  

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Note: Stacy and her guests are not medical professionals. This podcast is for general educational purposes and NOT intended to diagnose, advise, or treat any physical or mental illness. We always recommend you consult a licensed service provider.

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