Faculty spotlight: Anza Jarschke uses gender experience in art and the classroom

When they’re not on campus, professor Anza Jarschke spends their time pursuing photography and other creative endeavors.

Coutesy Photo

When they’re not on campus, professor Anza Jarschke spends their time pursuing photography and other creative endeavors.

Maggie Galloway, Editor

Spotted in a colorful printed button-up shirt, crab claw earrings, and quirky ‘80s style glasses; Anza Jarschke is a very unique individual to walk the halls of SNU as an alum and a current professor. While at SNU as a student, Jarschke identified as a woman. Now, they identify as non-binary with the correct pronouns being, they/them.

“I came out about being non-binary three or four months before I took this job,” Jarschke said. “I panicked before I took this job because I was coming back to a place that knew me as one person, and now I’m the same person but slightly different but I’m referred to in a slightly different way.

“I talked to one of my friends who supported me through my coming out and they wrote my coming out email for me. I was so lost about what to do and my friend reminded me it would be an amazing thing for your students to meet somebody who’s nonbinary. I came into this job with that mindset, and I’m really excited to be that person who people can interact with and trust on some level that is nonbinary because a lot of people haven’t met a non-binary person.”

Jarschke felt very confused about their gender ever since they were younger.

“I always had a hard time labeling my sexuality I was bi, then I was pan, then I was queer,” Jarschke said. “When I was in school here, I dated a heterosexual male for two years. I always struggled with being attracted to different kinds of people and not knowing how to identify with that. I was always a tomboy, I hated dresses, I loved to climb on things and people misgendered me as a boy even when I was a little kid, so I grew up kind of confused about who I really was.”

Then, in 2018, Jarschke stumbled across an eye-opening blog post.

“I was in my late 20’s reading a nonbinary blog post on Tumblr and I took a ‘you might be non-binary assessment’ on there,” said Jarschke. “Every single question, I answered yes to. I realized I didn’t really identify as female, didn’t really identify as male, and I realized I’m more than that.

“I kind of hated being prescribed one gender. I just didn’t want that. I kind of came to the conclusion I was nonbinary and spent a lot of time and screaming in my best friend’s bedroom and started the process of coming out.”

Jarschke tends to get misgendered a lot, and they attribute it to a lack of education on the subject.

“I think it’s really about trying to address nonbinary people correctly and if you make a mistake, that’s okay, you don’t need to apologize but just do better the next time,” Jarschke said. “I also think allies who correct people on my pronouns when I’m not around are greatly appreciated.”

Jarschke teaches a social justice, psychology, and sustainability course at SNU where gender is one of the many important topics.

“I always want to make sure I talk about what is going to be capitalism because it is kind of at the root of many social justice and sustainability issues,” Jarschke said. “I always make sure to talk about oppression and specifically racism because even though sexism and heterosexism are important, I come with the theory if you don’t start with addressing racial injustice, you can’t fully address the others. If you address the others before racial injustice, it could leave it behind which could be very problematic.”

Talking about topics that aren’t usually taught to students growing up in a systemic environment is a very important role that Jarschke takes on.

“I hope that students leave with an expanded view of the world that is not always talked about or is often hidden or demonized or stigmatized or pushed back to talk about,” said Jarschke. “Seeing that there are other things out there than what we’ve been told. Seeing that it does relate to us and that our freedoms are wrapped up in everybody else’s freedoms and our success is wrapped up in everybody else’s success. We play a role in this, and how we talk about it, and how we move through the world matters.

“My excitement slightly outweighs my anxiety about teaching,” Jarschke said. “Before I teach something I think about how I can explain topics clearly, with urgency and importance without being overly biased, but still talk about something that isn’t overly talked about so it can feel more biased than it is and how do I do it in a way that it is approachable so people feel like they can make mistakes that they can learn from. Those things are always swirling in my mind as I’m teaching and preparing for class.”

Jarschke also runs the art galleries at SNU. They have an eye toward combining social justice and sustainability with art.

“I have my master’s in social justice and community organizing, but my research work was all around ‘How do art and activism intersect and how does art push forward social change?’” said Jarschke. “The art class combined with social justice and sustainability was my dream class and I got to teach it for two semesters at SNU.”

Jarschke learned about social justice issues through their peers at a young age.

“I was born and raised in Napa which isn’t extremely a diverse place, but it is because it’s a tourist town so you have the people who are tourists and who are wealthy, and people who are the service workers who are mainly people of color who work in wineries,” said Jarschke.

“I went to an elementary school that was 90% students of color. I was one of the very few white students and I think that was a super formative experience for me. I think these kinds of experiences like going to a school where I was very different, and it looked very different than the rest of the world became a very commonplace to me. This was the mid-90s, a lot of peers were talking about crossing the border and I thought that was a normal conversation. That experience launched me into my love of different people and different things.”

When they weren’t in school, Jarschke was learning to help their parents who worked with the disabled.

“My mom spent 35 years working with people with mental health issues,” Jarschke said. “When I was growing up, she worked with adults with developmental disabilities. These people were over 40 years old but functioned as a 3- to 4-year-olds. I spent a lot of time with them as a kid. I got to know these people and they became my friends. Between that and my mom, destigmatizing mental illness and developmental disabilities and my dad designed and invented a bicycle to move people in wheelchairs and I rode that bike a lot to help move people with accessibility needs so It was a part of my upbringing to be welcoming. It was never talked about it like it was a lesson, It was just how we lived our family life.”

In their free time, Jarschke loves to roller-skate and do crafts.

“Pre-pandemic I was on the roller derby team in Reno,” Jarschke said. “I still love to roller skate when the weather’s nice at city plaza or I’ll hit up a skatepark. I started a chapter called Community in Bowls to expand our roller skating community to all people of all ability levels. We love to spread the stoke to others. Recently I’ve found myself crafting a lot. I love to do embroidery and I swear I’m evolving into an 80-year-old grandmother.”