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Author Topic: Transgendering Student  (Read 3555 times)
juvenal
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Juvenal


« on: January 22, 2013, 7:25:02 PM »

In today's first class meeting I was calling the roll (as my CC requires) and I follow the form of "Mr. X," or "Ms. Y" as I go through, and one student, to my eye a (Mr. or a Ms.), said (in a class of over twenty), "I'm transgendering to a ... and would you call first my name as ...?"

I said, "How about if I just call you by your last name [as I never use first names with my students anyway] and change the gender I call you by?"  The person seemed to think this OK, so I said I'd make a note, and on I went, with nary a pause to finish the roll.

All this is OK with me (and why not?), but I was touch nonplussed.  Has this point come up in any other class run by fora members?  I mean a public announcement of the transgendering process to the rest of the class?  And this person is still surficially a phenotype much more close to the original gender than to the prospective other.
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yellowtractor
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« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2013, 7:43:32 PM »

Yes, twice (for me).  I felt and feel that the easiest and most respectful solution is to call students what they want to be called.  This includes nicknames, initials, middle names, whatever.  I also use the gender pronoun preferred by the student.  To do this quickly and normatively is a good lesson for the rest of the class, also.

Both times the student felt it was important to get this out on the table because they were transgendering, i.e. they were in process.  In one case there were students in the classroom who knew the individual before this process was underway and wanted to call him...him, and by his old name.  In the other case (in the other direction) the student told me privately that it was important that she (now he) was able to articulate the claim on her (his) new identity--that this was part of the process for him.

In both cases the student was more visually identifiable, at the time, with their birth sex and gender.
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scatterbrain
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« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2013, 8:03:28 PM »

I said, "How about if I just call you by your last name [as I never use first names with my students anyway] and change the gender I call you by?"

Sorry, just to clarify: You asked this because it is your standard practice or because you were uncomfortable using the requested first name? I think you mean it is your standard practice but could read this either way.

And

All this is OK with me (and why not?), but I was touch nonplussed. . . I mean a public announcement of the transgendering process to the rest of the class?  And this person is still surficially a phenotype much more close to the original gender than to the prospective other.

I am fairly certain that you don't mean to be closed-minded here (as evidenced by your request for advice and your demonstration of interest in accommodating this student's wishes), but perhaps be more mindful of the perpetually socially-awkward nature of explaining this situation to a stranger for the first time. As with any other physical situation that might be perceived as "weird" by strangers (who are unfamiliar with this), it can sometimes be easier to confront the inevitable awkwardness head-on and move past it. Maybe that's what your student was trying to do? I wouldn't read too much into their "public announcement," but that's just me. And I'd hasten to add that I don't think their "phenotype" really matters in this context.

I have several transgender friends who are quite forthcoming about their identities, preferred pronouns, etc. -- so I am drawing from my experiences with them, but of course everyone is different and I could be wrong.
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frogfactory
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« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2013, 8:06:47 PM »

Juvenal started by saying this is how he addresses all of his students.  I think he trod just fine.
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erzuliefreda
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« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2013, 8:10:13 PM »

And this person is still surficially a phenotype much more close to the original gender than to the prospective other.

This is irrelevant. It is polite to address individuals as they wish to be addressed and to respect the gender they are presenting at the time.
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heynonnynonnymouse
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« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2013, 8:11:48 PM »

I've known a few students (both peers as a grad student, and students as a teacher) in the process of transition. Many people going through that process are keenly aware that they cannot easily "pass" as the gender they identify with, and some are very up front about the process because they don't have much of a choice. Either they essentially make a public announcement, or they deal with the confusion and whispers and discomfort (some of which they'll have to deal with anyway, unfortunately) of classmates and instructors. As YT mentioned, if the student has been at the school for any amount of time, it's possible that people may know him or her by the former gender and name, so a public announcement makes sense.

The best thing you can do for this student is to accept their gender ID, use Mr. or Ms. as appropriate consistently if that kind of address is your thing, and don't let the student's classmates be jerks during class, if any of them get the idea that this trans student is mock-worthy.
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systeme_d_
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« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2013, 9:39:07 PM »

I think the OP's response was just fine, since he addresses all of his students by their last name.

And as I think we all know, "phenotype" means absolutely nothing here.  Many folks in the world do not appear to correspond to the necessarily superficial and stereotypical "phenotype" others wish to use in order to categorize them.

For what it's worth, my partner is trans. 
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gbrown
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« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2013, 9:53:12 PM »

Yep. It's happened in my classroom when I taught in (name of large urban center). The most important things about teaching a transgender student is 1) use the pronoun of what they're changing to (she, not he for someone going from male to female); 2) when you create teams for teamwork, either assign teams and constantly change them around so that everyone works with everyone -- I often number students (1 through 6 for six teams, etc.) but change where I start numbering each time so that it's mixed up; and 3) use a variety of readings from diverse (and sometimes underrepresented) authors... but not necessarily transgender authors.
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mended_drum
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« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2013, 11:51:23 PM »

And this person is still surficially a phenotype much more close to the original gender than to the prospective other.

This is irrelevant. It is polite to address individuals as they wish to be addressed and to respect the gender they are presenting at the time.

Unless, of course, what they want to be called is outrageously offensive.  I had a student who asked me to use a nickname that consisted of a word that I, a person comfortable with pretty salty language, would never call anyone.  I told him no.  I had another student who wanted to be known by a deeply offensive racial term; I refused that one too.   

Transgendering?  Not a problem.  I think that the OP did fine.
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yellowtractor
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« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2013, 2:15:24 PM »

And this person is still surficially a phenotype much more close to the original gender than to the prospective other.

This is irrelevant. It is polite to address individuals as they wish to be addressed and to respect the gender they are presenting at the time.

Unless, of course, what they want to be called is outrageously offensive.  I had a student who asked me to use a nickname that consisted of a word that I, a person comfortable with pretty salty language, would never call anyone.  I told him no.  I had another student who wanted to be known by a deeply offensive racial term; I refused that one too.   

Of course.

I have also defaulted, in one difficult instance--for the whole semester--to using "Mr." & "Ms." LastName.
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macaroon
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« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2013, 6:03:04 PM »

Oh, ugh.  I team taught a class, and inhereted a lab group from the last professor that had given themselves a pornographic team name.  Happily, they changed their name at my request.  Still think less of the prof that let them do that.  Oh, actually, he didn't even make it to the tenure process.  He failed at reappointment.  

Anyhooo..... back to the original topic, yes, juvenal.  I've had many transgendered students.  This is because my uni has (and has had) gender-blind housing for some time now, and there aren't many schools with that in our area.  So I think about 6% of our student body is transgendered.  

It's not really a big deal.  Just use the pronoun they request.  They DO need to learn to get over the discomfort of correcting people.  Often, the younger students that are in transition are still learning to deal with that, and may stumble.  
« Last Edit: January 23, 2013, 6:03:38 PM by macaroon » Logged
new_bus_prof
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« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2013, 6:35:02 PM »

The way you handled it and the student announcement is pretty usual here.

You call student's the pronoun they want to be called.
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ptarmigan
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« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2013, 6:49:30 PM »

I had an (I think) transgender student last year. The student didn't explicitly tell me this, but it seemed clear. It happens that I almost never need to refer to my students in the third person, so the pronoun issue didn't come up. I think both you and the student handled the situation just fine!
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infopri
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« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2013, 1:09:11 AM »

Sounds like you handled it just right, juvenal.  I have a transgendered relative, and from what she told me during the time of her transition, dealing with the public in making the transition is actually a part of the process.  I haven't encountered the issue in class yet, but I live in a place that has many transgendered people, so I'm guessing it's just a matter of time.

They DO need to learn to get over the discomfort of correcting people.  Often, the younger students that are in transition are still learning to deal with that, and may stumble. 

Interestingly, when my relative transitioned (male to female), her 12-year-old son was one of the first to figure out the pronouns and had no trouble switching from saying "Dad" to saying "Mom."  The pronouns were particularly confusing when referring back to pre-transition days (when "he" was the proper pronoun), so in our family we say crazy things like, "Mary makes an awesome apple pie.  I remember back when he was married to Susie, we all used to go apple picking together, and then Mark would use the apples in a pie that we'd have after dinner that night.  I can't wait to see what she's [i.e., Mary] baking for tonight!"  (Translation:  Mary and Mark are the same person.  Mark was married to Susie when he was still male.  They divorced amicably, and Mark transitioned and became Mary.  Mark was the baker before, and Mary remains the baker now.  All names, of course, are changed here, but the genders have been retained.)  Mark's/Mary's 12-year-old son navigated these Lewis Carollian waters perfectly almost from day one of the transition, while we adults took a while to figure it all out.
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forest_and_the_trees
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« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2013, 8:13:48 PM »

With my (transgender) daughter, I've come around to using female pronouns for past as well as present. After all, she knows she's always been female, however misguided the rest of us were.

I've never heard the word transgendering before.
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