Gender 101 Workshops

Wesleyan University, Fall Semester 2003

10 min Introductions:

Name, preferred pronoun, why they came/what they want out of the workshop, favorite activity and if they think it is gendered.

10 min Definitions with small groups

Every group gets a few of the following words and discusses their experiences with and connotations of them.

Genderqueer: A person who identifies as something other than a man or a woman. May or may not prefer a gender-neutral pronoun.

FTM/ female to male: Assigned female at birth who identifies as something “not female,” and often male.

MTF/ male to female: Assigned male at birth who identifies as something “not male,” and often female.

Transgender: Describes people whose gender identity or gender expression fails to conform with societal expectations of what it means to be male or female bodied. Often shortened to “trans.”

Transexual: A person who identifies within the gender binary, but as the gender opposite of birth sex. They may be pre-op(erative), post-op, or non-op.

Crossdresser: A person who dresses in clothes generally associated with the opposite sex. Not related to sexual orientation. Formerly known as transvestite.

Drag: A performance of gender. Most frequently a person will perform the gender that is opposite to either their sex or gender, or both.

TRANSPHOBIA: Systematic mistreatment that is the result of institutionalized inequalities in the social structure. Takes the form of physical violence as well as pervasive invalidation and the denial or non-recognition of the full humanity of gender variant and trans people.

5 min Small groups share thought on definitions, clarify anything as needed

10 min Basic “Trans 101” information providing a conceptual framework

  • Why the “T” is in “LGBT”…gender expectations, discrimination based on gender presentation and assumptions about sexual orientation that may follow
  • Spectrums (black/grey/white, gay/bi or flexual/straight, masculine/androgynous/feminine, male/intersex/female, man/genderqueer/woman with genderfuck out there entirely, etc)
  • Sex/Gender/Sexuality triangle
  • Intersections of race, class, and gender
  • Grounding that although lots of gender stuff at Wes is highly academic and theoretical, that people actually live their lives with this stuff…and respect is most important.

Quick answers to questions

10 min Brainstorm Ways to Be a Better Trans Ally

Some suggestions can include (but certainly are not limited to):

Action Steps to Being a Trans Ally

  • don’t make assumptions about a trans person’s sexual orientation
  • if you don’t know what pronouns to use, ask
  • be aware of confidentiality, disclosure, and outing
  • don’t assume what path a transperson is on regarding hormones or surgery
  • don’t police public restrooms
  • don’t just add the T without doing work
  • listen to trans voices

Ways to be Helpful to Genderfuck/Genderqueer, Trans, TG/TS, etc. People

  • Be aware
  • Be aware of what you are saying and how you’re presenting yourself
  • Don’t assume
  • Publicly challenge assumptions
  • Educate yourself
  • Make people think and show respect by asking them “What pronoun do you prefer?”
  • Educate other about these issues
  • Advocate legally and encourage other to do the same
  • Encourage others to become allies by illustrating connections
  • Sensitively personalize issues (or make it about them by showing how they are affected)
  • Talk to anyone who is considering having a child about discussing the possibility of having an intersex child with their doctor
  • Don’t fetishize/objectify transfolk (“Don’t think I’m hot because I’m trans, think I’m hot because I’m hot!”)
  • Don’t encourage gender stereotypes/expectations for children or anyone else (It’s alive! –rather than ‘It’s a boy!’ or ‘It’s a girl!’)

Additionally:

  • Don't ask someone what their old name is or about their surgical status. If you know their old name, don’t use it unless the person tells you that they want you to.
  • Show respect when asking questions, and realize that some questions are inappropriate to ask some people.
  • If you invite a transsexual or transgender person somewhere, make sure it is a place that they are allowed to go.
  • Don’t say you are trans inclusive if you are not. Organizations often add a T to the end of their LGB, but then when you go to the event, organizers are inconsiderate about transsexual/transgender presence.
  • Don't tell transsexual or transgender people that they are the “best of both worlds” or that they are sexy just because they are transsexual or transgender.
  • Don't assume that it is every transsexual and transgender person’s ultimate goal in life to challenge YOUR binary gender system. Do it yourself. Challenging binary gender systems isn't always the same thing as being transsexual/transgender.
  • Always use the pronoun that the person wants you to use. If you make a mistake, correct yourself. Politely correct others if they use the wrong pronoun.
  • Do your own research. Don't ask individual transsexual/transgender people to explain everything to you.
  • When somebody who hasn't been exposed to transsexual/transgender issues makes a rude comment, correct them in the nicest way possible.
  • Transsexual and transgender people’s genitalia are not a topic of discussion unless the person wants them to be.
  • Don't pretend to understand terms that you really don't. Be honest about what you know and what you don't know.
  • Don't support organizations, businesses and people who you know marginalize transsexual or transgender people.
  • If you're with a transsexual or transgender person somewhere that you're not sure is a safe space, don't bring up transsexual/transgender issues.
  • If a transsexual or transgender person is talking about transphobia, don’t tell them to calm down and look at things from your non-trans perspective, they have to do that enough.
  • The RA-specific trainings we did were very similar, but some differences are in the introductions and role-plays.

    Thanks to Paige Kruza for developing these workshops.