Supporting Transgender Students in the Classroom

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).

Gender diversity
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.

Read more of the Faculty Focus article

UConn Positioned to Take the Lead on Gender Minority Student Accommodations

“We’ve gone from being one of the most homophobic campuses in the country to one of the most LGBT friendly, and that’s amazing. It puts us in a really good situation to get even better.”

— Barbara Gurr, WGSS professor and principal investigator of the study

A recent study by the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department said the University of Connecticut should address the needs of gender minority students by increasing access to gender-neutral bathrooms and expanding faculty training.

The preliminary findings are based on a series of 39 online surveys responses and in-person interviews conducted by WGSS staff and undergraduates in which gender minority students were asked to describe their experiences on UConn’s Storrs campus. Students identifying as transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary and otherwise genderqueer described unreliable access to gender-neutral bathrooms as one of their top concerns.

For some, this was due to a genuine preference for neutral facilities, while others preferred single-stall accommodations to avoid transphobic harassment from their peers, said WGSS professor and principal investigator Barbara Gurr.

“Some students pass, and some students don’t,” Gurr said, using the term “passing” to describe a person’s ability to be perceived as a cisgender (not transgender) man or woman. “Some students are gender nonconforming and may not visually fit the box of one gender or another, so students would really prefer a choice.”

Read more of the Daily Campus article