By Sherry Zane, PhD
As the higher education community continues to work to create a more inclusive learning environment, the needs of our gender-variant students are too often overlooked. This article outlines a few ways faculty can create an atmosphere that supports trans-identified and gender-nonconforming students.
Title IX protections
Our comfort zone as academics, regardless of discipline, is often built on basic academic assumptions and research that adhere to a male-female binary, which silences and invalidates transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and intersex individuals. Recent interpretations of Title IX legislation by federal and state institutions now require us to think and act beyond our comfort zones so we can protect our students’ rights.
Title IX is part of the Federal Education Amendments of 1972, and all educational institutions (K-12 and postsecondary) must comply with this law. Many people are familiar with Title IX protections against sexual harassment and sexual violence, but few people are aware that Title IX also prohibits gender-based harassment “including acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex stereotyping, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature” (Office of Civil Rights, 2011).
As educators it is our responsibility to reflect on and challenge our gender assumptions so we can create more gender-inclusive spaces where all students are free to be who they are. As a student reminded me last semester, “We must learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable” to create change.
Below is a list of strategies I use in my classrooms to support gender diversity. I hope they can help you shape more gender-inclusive spaces where you teach.