In response to trans activist Leslie Feinberg’s reflection that “gender is the poetry each of us makes out of the language we are taught (as cited in Quaye and Harper, 2015. P. 45), Quaye and Harper note that “as educators, we have a responsibility-and the privilege-to bear witness to, and support, the poetry making of our students, and to be honest and thoughtful about our own process of gender identification.” (p. 145)
This week was quite insightful for me. I honestly did not completely consider the challenges of the LGBTQ population. Upon reading the assigned chapters, I began to question my role as an instructor and an administrator as it relates to this population. I think that I still have questions about the trans population as a hetero female. Thus, my thoughts about this week’s readings just led to more questions and a desire to learn more. As an African American female, it almost seems easier than being LBBTQ. I am clearly black, there is no question. I am black at work, at home, at school wherever. However, if one is LGBTQ, they can elect not to “come-out”. One could argue that this is a bonus but the election to not “come-out” may be due to a fear of the response of the individual’s audience. I can always be me and I can’t imagine being stifled and placed in a box to make the people around me accept me.
Over the last two years, I’ve had two trans students in my class. The first was enrolled in my freshman orientation class and preferred female pronouns. I don’t think the class knew that she was trans and she elected to share at the end of the term. But the class was small and I think the entire class hyper-bonded. They protected her. It was a dynamic experience.
The second was an effeminate male student that I thought may have been gay enrolled in my math class. He never disclosed anything. However, after midterms, he arrived in class dressed as a woman. He was always late to class and the first time he came to class dressed as a woman, he wore a red dress and pumps and a very big wig. The entrance into the classroom caught me off guard but I kept teaching. Some students just stared at him. He left after about 15 minutes and I honestly didn’t think he was coming back. Some of the students started laughing when he left and I had to quickly regain control of my class because I wasn’t sure how far away he was and I didn’t want him to hear. He did return and the class was composed. He did this for about 5 classes and then returned dressing as a man.
As a faculty member and an administrator, I feel like I need guidance and training in addressing the needs of LGBTQ students. How do I guide my students (hetero and non-hetero) and create a classroom environment that embraces everyone? This is even more difficult at an open enrollment community college where 70% of my students are non-traditionally aged. The text notes that training is important. But also notes that less than 3% of colleges have a full time employee on campus to support LGBTQ students and train staff. As society begins to embrace the courage of LBGTQ citizens, we as educators understand and support these students.