Nov. 5th, 2013

liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
So my brother (here known as Screwy) is a sessional teacher in a university. He decided, on the advice of a trans friend, that he would include asking for preferred pronouns during the intros in the first class of term. However, one fresher in his class, whom Screwy read as trans but who isn't out, was made visibly uncomfortable by this. This student later wrote in Screwy's teaching evaluation that this exercise could potentially out them, and respectfully requested that Screwy should not do that again.

As a result, Screwy feels really bad because his good intentions of making his class a safe space for people with diverse gender expressions backfired and actually made one of his students directly unsafe. He asked me to mobilize my right-on gender queer friends and seek advice for how he can do this right in future. I definitely share Screwy's aim of wanting my classes to be gender diverse safe spaces, but I have never dared ask for pronouns at the same time as asking for names, even though I can see the arguments for why it's good practice. So we would both like to know, what would be the most sensitive and helpful way to make both genderqueer people and gender normative, stealthed trans people feel safe?

I would prefer advice from people who have some personal experience or at least informed activist background with this stuff, rather than random speculation from cis people. I mean, I can come up with plenty of random speculation on my own. However, I fairly obviously don't want to out people or in any way force you to state your trans credentials to be able to comment. I think the best way round this is to encourage people to comment anonymously if you are willing to help but don't want to put the complexities of your identity in comments to a public post. I certainly welcome PMs if you have some advice that you don't want to put in the comments even anonymously.

And to give people as clueless as I am something to talk about, I also note that my uni LGBTsoc has declared November to be Trans* Awareness Month. They have Transgender Day of Remembrance shoehorned in there somewhere, but mostly it seems like they're showing a lot of films with trans themes, some of which seem to me to be quite, um, problematic, things like Priscilla queen of the desert and TransAmerica and Rocky Horror. They also sent round a survey to students and staff which basically assumed everybody answering the question would be cis, and had a lot of questions about whether people feel informed about trans* issues, the most egregious being Do you feel confident you could politely address a trans* person? which is making me very much side-eye. I can't figure out whether I should attend some of the events to show solidarity, or studiously ignore them because I don't want to pat myself on the back for supporting "diversity" by means of watching a bunch of chasery, cis gaze films. Maybe just go to the TDOR ceremony, but even that I've seen seriously criticized by activists. The vibe of the whole thing really does feel like it's aimed at making cis people feel good about themselves, but at least actively including trans* stuff within LGBT events is a small step in the right direction. And maybe I'm too cynical, maybe it will help actual trans* students as well?

Any ideas?

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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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