Teaching Strategies

Gender Inclusion in the College Classroom

In the past several decades, LGBTQ+ activists, scholars, advocates, and queer people living their everyday lives have significantly shifted the mainstream imagination and practice of gender. That shift is evident in how people identify and live today: according to Ipsos, 4% of Gen Zers identify as transgender, nonbinary, non-conforming, genderfluid, or other than male or female. If those rates hold, almost 400 undergraduate BC students identify outside the gender binary. According to Pew Research, 35% of Gen Zers know someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns. 

While LGBTQ+ people have won remarkable advances in legal and social protections in the past decades, trans and nonbinary people continue to face obstacles to safety and wellbeing. At BC, the 2019 Student Experience Survey data indicates that LGBTQ+ students are amongst those most likely to experience unfair treatment on campus. Such discrimination can have a negative effect on LGBTQ+ individuals’ mental health. In national studies, LGBTQ+ students more frequently report acute levels of psychological distress and report that “anxiety and stress negatively impacted their academics at higher rates than their straight peers” (Greathouse et al 2018). 

Trans and nonbinary people—especially trans people of color—are also vulnerable to physical violence (Wirtz et al 2018, Lee 2017). Those threats to fundamental safety highlight the stakes of creating spaces where trans and nonbinary people are safe, celebrated, and empowered. More immediately for the context of the college classroom, research shows that when students are uncertain about whether or not they belong, they have less resources to devote to learning (Walton & Cohen 2007, Beilock et al 2007). On the other hand, a welcoming campus climate is associated with greater academic success for LGBTQ+ students (Garvey et al 2018). Creating an environment that is explicitly supportive of trans students is directly linked to supporting student learning. 

In order to help you decide how you want to support trans students in your courses, this resource provides: