Supporting Trans & Nonbinary Students
The tips offered here may be helpful in creating a more welcoming classroom for UMass Dartmouth’s trans and gender diverse students. We strive to support students, faculty, and staff in eliminating unintentional exclusionary practices so that all students can perform at their full potential.
How to Address Mistakes
If you make a mistake and use the wrong pronoun or name, briefly correct your error, and continue your conversation.
Proceeding as if your mistake did not happen is less respectful than making the correction. Taking the initiative to correct yourself saves the misidentified student from having to correct the error before it is planted in the minds of classmates or anyone else who heard the mistake. On a similar note, pausing to apologize profusely is not recommended because it unfairly burdens the misidentified person to accept an apology.
As faculty, it is essential that you model respectful behavior. Students pay especially close attention to the ways we interact in the classroom.
Whether in office hours, speaking with students in groups, or speaking with faculty and staff, correct misnamed or misgendered students. It is polite to provide a correction, regardless of whether the misidentified person is present. Allowing the mistake to go uncorrected ensures that future interactions will have to be corrected by the misidentified person.
For example, if a colleague used the incorrect pronoun for a student, respond by saying: “I believe Gina uses she/her pronouns.”
Avoid asking personal questions of trans people that you would not ask of others. Because of the sensationalist media coverage of trans people’s lives, there is often an assumption that personal questions are appropriate. Never ask about a trans person’s body or medical care, their old (dead) name, why or how they know they are trans, their sexual orientation or practices, their family’s reaction to their gender identity, or any other questions that are irrelevant to your relationship with them unless they invite you to do so or voluntarily share the information.
If you aren't sure of a person's pronoun (and have no one to ask), either ask, or refer to them by their name only— making a pronoun assumption is the worst option. One way to be respectful is to share your own pronouns first. For example, “I use the pronouns he/him/his. I want to make sure I address you correctly. What pronouns do you use?” Another way is to ask, “How would you like to be addressed?” This may be challenging at first, but a person who is frequently misgendered may see your question as a sign of respect that you are interested in addressing them accurately.