Transgender Students in a Socratic Classroom
posted by Dave Hoffman
Some colleagues recently gave an interesting presentation about transgender students in the law school environment. A baseline they advanced seemed sound: address people using the name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity. That means if someone identifies as a man though the school records that person as a woman, you ought to address that (trans)man as a male. Failing to do so is hurtful – and adds unnecessarily to the stress of law school. And, really, why not?
But here’s a problem, and I wondered if you folks had experience with it and have come up with good solutions. Some students – I learned – prefer to be referred to by gender neutral pronouns, like zhe and hir. But there doesn’t seem to be an analogue for the honorifics Mr. and Ms., meaning the formal socratic teacher is quickly forced to make a choice. So let’s say you didn’t want to insult transgender students on the first day of class, and you walk in prepared to call on folks more-or-less-randomly. I have considered circulating a class list before beginning to teach. I’ve also thought about just using last names — “Dave Hoffman, are you here? Good. Hoffman, please state the facts of Jacobs and Young.” That approach, though, seems a bit aggressive & impolite. What would/do you do?