Asian American and Pacific IslandersEducation

Teaching the Future

Namrata Subramanian talks education reform.


Namrata “Nam” Subramanian is taking some time for herself to look after her mental health these days. A nonbinary Indian American, who uses the gender-neutral honorific Mx., lost a tough race last year in the Democratic primary for Texas House District 147, in which there were seven candidates—three of which were queer women of color. Attorney Jolanda Jones won a runoff and then the general election.

“I wish I had done better,” Subramanian, 24, says. “But I’m proud of the race we ran.”

The decision to run for retiring Rep. Garnet Coleman’s seat was not a last-minute one. Subramanian had been preparing to run for the seat even before he announced his retirement, having begun her teaching career during the pandemic and seeing a lot of the problems faced by teachers and students in the state. At the time, she told OutSmart: “As a queer woman of color and an educator working with students from various backgrounds, I have seen firsthand how issues like the ERCOT electricity grid failure and the school-to-prison pipeline have affected District 147.”

Her issues included economic, educational, and environmental justice, as well as advocating for the LGBTQ community by supporting bills that will advance her neighbors and her community, and opposing bills that harm the community. She supported a nondiscrimination ordinance that included protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Her students, who found out about her District 147 race online, frequently asked her questions about it, and some turned out to help block walk. She thinks they learned a valuable lesson on how the system works.

A lot of her supporters, and some students, who liked her stances on education, the environment, and the economy, have been asking if she’ll run for office again.

“Honestly, I’m not sure,” she says. “I’m a little jaded by the process—the anti-LGBTQ and anti-Asian things that went on. Maybe in a few years. I need some time to recover.”

Last year, she also volunteered to work on the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund’s Champagne Brunch,  even though the national political action committee didn’t endorse her in the House race.

“They asked me, so of course I said yes,” Subramanian says. Although she still follows politics and stays active in local Democratic groups, she’s very career-focused at the moment. “Teaching is very time sensitive; it’s my primary focus right now.”

Namrata Subramanian (courtesy)

Subramanian, who has dual bachelor’s degrees in economics and public health from the University of California at Berkeley, teaches math at HISD’s Energy Institute High School, a STEM-focused magnet program where she recently earned a prestigious Tesla Award.

“The school is very supportive of the queer community,” she says. “The kids call me Mx. Nam; they are very excited about that. It’s probably the first time they’ve met someone who uses that term. I couldn’t have done that at my last school. Of course, there are some parents who don’t use it, but that doesn’t really bother me.”

But politics has a way of creeping into her new job as she follows what’s happening to education in Austin this year. “It’s very disappointing,” she sighs. “Anti-queer bills, school vouchers, book banning—the legislature is making it harder for teachers and students.”

“The school is very supportive of the queer community, but the Texas Legislature is making it harder for teachers and students.”  —Namrata Subramanian

Subramanian says there is only one course of action. “We need to elect more young people and more people of color,” she says. “And you can’t just vote Democratic. There are some Democrats in Austin who can be as easily swayed by corporate money as Republicans. You have to know who you are voting for.”

But no matter how dark things look for Texas schools in this legislative session, Subramanian can’t see herself quitting. “I hope not! Without teachers, there is no future generation.”

In the little spare time she can find, she sponsors the school’s student-Democrats club, as well as an after-school powerlifting club—one of her other passions. She spends an hour a day in the gym, loves the outdoors, and is very environmentally conscientious.

“I am a vegetarian, but I’m going toward being totally vegan, cutting out dairy and eggs,” she says.

Besides diet, powerlifting —and a new boyfriend—she finds joy in dancing.

“I have a queer Asian woman as a partner, and we do traditional Indian dances with a modern twist,” Subramanian says. “We practice and do our own choreography. We even performed at the Victory Fund brunch!”

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and, among others.
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