Teaching Strategies

Contextual Considerations

The following section on pedagogical strategies describes safe, empowering practices that will be of benefit to many trans students. However, there are complexities involved in creating supportive learning environments for trans students. This section describes the contours of those complexities, indicating some broader questions that are at play when we’re considering how to support trans students in the classroom. 

First, it’s important to recognize that needs may vary significantly among transgender students, influenced by factors such as race, disability, class, age, family support, gender identity, and individual experience. Depending on their other identities and personal histories, students might encounter more or fewer barriers to belonging and wellbeing on campus. 

For instance, asking all students to share their pronouns on the first day of class might be an empowering moment for a trans student who is out, and an anxiety-inducing moment for a trans student who is not. And students are often making complex decisions about their public presentation in such moments. While your classroom might feel like an environment where the student feels safe to be honest about their own identities, they may calculate that they don’t feel safe being out on campus at large and so make a strategic decision about their presentation in your course.

College students are also often in the process of significant growth, socially, intellectually, and personally. Students may very much be in the process of disentangling expectations placed on them by society from their experiences of themselves and the world, and may feel vulnerable as they are in the process of naming their own experience for themselves, let alone others. 

While striving to support trans students in our classroom does not include a standard playbook, and while it’s alway important to be attentive and responsive to the real people in your classroom with you, there are some steps you can take to create an environment that is more supportive of trans students from the start.