by Cindy Ann Kilgo [they/them/theirs], Higher Education Administration

October is LGBTQ+ History Month. It is also a great time to evaluate how trans-inclusive your teaching and advising practices are. Below I’ve outlined some basic terminology and tips for how to create affirming classroom environments for trans students at UA.

Basic Terminology

  • Sex: classification of people based on anatomy (i.e., female, intersex, male)
  • Gender: sense of self and being (i.e., agender, man, non-binary, genderqueer, woman)
  • Gender Expression: physical outward portrayal of gender (i.e., hairstyle, clothing, voice, etc.)
  • Cis(gender): gender matches sex assigned at birth
  • Trans(gender): gender differs from sex assigned at birth, inclusive of (but not limited to) trans women, trans men, non-binary or genderqueer people, and agender people
  • Pronouns: words used to describe a person based on their identity (i.e., they, ze, she, her, [name])

Tips for Creating Trans Affirming Classroom Environments

Creating trans-affirming environments at UA is an important part of promoting success for all students. The classroom is a central location for supporting trans students. Scholars have found that LGBTQ+ students felt supported by faculty in classrooms where faculty confronted homophobic and transphobic language, included LGBTQ+ topics and readings within class discussions and activities, and used inclusive language (Linley et al., 2016).

The University of Iowa recently released a video on the importance of using students’ gender pronouns and name correctly. This video provides a variety of perspectives on the importance of using students’ name and pronouns correctly within and beyond the classroom. Below are additional tips for how you can create trans-affirming classroom environments.

  • Ask students what their chosen name and gender pronouns are.
  • If you use name cards on students’ desks, include gender pronouns.
  • Encourage your students to enter their pronouns through their myBama account.
  • Don’t split the class into two groups based on gender.
  • Allow students to use their chosen name on any non-legal documents.
  • Don’t argue with a student about the use of “plural” pronouns. Regardless of your grammatical thoughts, they have the right to their identity.
  • Call out homophobic and transphobic language within classroom discussion.
  • Include course readings written by LGBTQ+ authors and on topics related to LGBTQ+ issues.

Remember, though, these tips only scratch the surface of ways to support trans students at UA. Keep learning! Visit UA Safe Zone and online resources to refresh your understanding and knowledge on LGBTQ+ issues and terminology.

References

  • Linley, J. L., Nguyen, D., Brazelton, G. B., Becker, B., Renn, K., & Woodford, M. (2016). Faculty as sources of support for LGBTQ college students. College Teaching, 64(2), 55-63.
  • Trans Student Educational Resources. LGBTQ+ definitions.

Cindy Ann Kilgo is an assistant professor in the College of Education. They can be contacted at cakilgo@ua.edu. For more information about LGBTQ+ History Month events on campus, visit the Crossroads Community Center website.