June 12, 2007

Sample Trans 101

Hi everyone!

Hope you're doing well (and doing everything you can before the ConCon!). Recently, I was asked by a college student for more information about how to do a "Trans 101" training. Here is a sample agenda and outline for a Trans 101 that you can use to do a training at your college, school, religious institution, job, etc. Please feel free to leave comments with feedback and suggestions!

Trans 101 Training Agenda
(developed by the Harvard Trans Task Force):

1. Ground Rules/ Introduction:

  • Speak from the “I”
  • Assume good intentions
  • Ask questions but be respectful
  • Use preferred pronouns
  • Go around the room and have people say their names and preferred pronouns, encourage them to make personal statements about their own feelings or ideas.

2. Experiential Intro:

  • How do you know you are the gender you identify with, without identifying any physical characteristics? Say to yourself, “I know I am ______ because….”.
  • This is gender identity, and this is the same way trans person knows their gender. Often this exercise feels challenging for people, sometimes they find themselves thinking about gender roles and stereotypes, sometimes the answer is “I just am.”

3. Describing Terms – What does Transgender mean? (adapted from GenderCrash)

First, it is helpful to talk about differences between sex/gender. In our culture when baby is born first question is (let them answer) “What is it” We are “it’s” until a sex has been assigned, which shows how culturally sex tends to be attached to much greater meaning (i.e. gender/gender roles).

  • Sex refers to biological, anatomic or organic sexual markers.These are only given meaning within a social context. We are taught to think of sex as binary and gendered e.g. if you have a penis you are male and a vagina you are female. This is not always the case: there are more than 2 sexes and not everyone born with a penis is male and a vagina is female.
  • Gender Identity: self conception of one’s gender, may or may not be congruent with physiology
  • Sexual Orientation: is about who we are attracted to (commonly seen as gendered due to prescribed gender roles)
  • Transgender: is often a broad term that applies to people who embody an innate sense of gender identity other than their birth sex. Transgender can also be a term used to group various gender different communities: genderqueer, transwomen, transmen, crossdresser, transexual...
  • Transman: (sometimes "FTM" or "female-to-male"), born “female bodied,” identifies as male (it is good to clarify that "transman" and "transwoman" refer to the gender identity the person identifies with now, not the sex they were assigned at birth).
  • Transwoman: (sometimes "MTF" or "male-to-female"), born "male bodied," identifies as female
  • Genderqueer: born either male or female bodied may identify as neither male or female, or both, or either.
  • Transsexual: person whose gender identity does not match their assigned gender at birth. They transition and live full time as a different gender and generally seek the use of hormones & surgery to make their sex congruent with their gender identity.
  • Intersex (is not a transgender identity). Intersexuality is a set of medical conditions that features "congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system." That is, a person with an intersex condition is born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia, or an internal reproductive system that is not considered "standard" for either male or female. (see“Introduction to intersex activism”at www.isna.org)

What does it mean to be “in transition” “transitioning”?

  • Meaning of transitioning varies for individuals. The process from living and being perceived as the gender assigned at birth to living and being perceived as the trans-individual sees and understands self
  • Many see this as a vector: male to female, female to male (with a trans identity: trans man/woman)
  • Others may see the process as a place with an end point and don’t identify with trans identity
  • Some trans persons don’t transition, either because it does not match identity (e.g. may be genderqueer and not wanting to transition, may be a transwoman who wants to have a penis) or other reasons (access to money, health insurance, safety, etc).

5. What should I call a transgender identified person?

  • There are no universal answers
  • Echo their language use
  • It is often (but not always) most respectful to use pronouns referring to gender presentation
  • Asking, if done respectfully, should be well received.
  • There are pronouns “ze” and “hir” for individuals who reject gender binary

Some Terms to Avoid:

  • “Pre-op” or “post-op." Identifying people in terms of their genital status may feel invasive or disrespectful. Don’t ask people about their genitalia or surgeries either!
  • Try not to say “transgendered" - you wouldn’t say "African Americaned" or "lesbianed."
  • “A Transgender” is an objectifying usage - you wouldn’t say “A gay.”
  • “Trannie” may be used as a term within trans communities, considered pejorative when used by non-trans people
  • "FTM" or "MTF" may offend some - sort of like a lesbian who doesn’t identify as "straight to gay." Ask first.

6. Why Do Trans Issues Matter?

Exercise: How many ways today have you had your gender confirmed?
  • Using a gendered bathroom
  • "Can I help you “Sir/Miss"?'
  • Did you put on a shirt/tie, dress, stockings...?
  • Did you use toiletries? Which ones?
  • Attending a gendered group, women’s group, sports teams.
  • Getting told you look pretty or handsome
  • Get mail with Mr. or Ms./Mrs.
  • Flirting
  • Using your first name

7. Scenarios:

Split into small groups (pairs is best). Give each group a scenario. Have them read it to each other, discuss their possible reactions, issues involved. “How likely do you think it is that you will see this or a similar scenario this year?” After discussion, have each group present their scenario to the larger group, and share their thoughts on it.

Sample scenarios (you can adapt them to your particular campus/institution/group):
  • You're in the BGLT Center (or Women’s Center) before an event, and you're chatting with your friend who wants to tell you a crazy story about his hook-up last night. He says: "Remember that cute boy I went home with last night? Well, it turned out he was really a woman. Or he used to be. Or she. Or whatever. I left because, dude, I'm gay." How do you respond?
  • You overhear a conversation between two women about how best to make sure a campus space is safe for women. One of the women suggests making sure that the Center should be only open to “real women.”
  • You're at an event with a bunch of friends you ask someone what pronoun they prefer and the person asks you to call them "she." A few days later, you're in the dining hall and all of your friends are calling her "he."
  • At an event, a friend reveals that she is trans and would like you to use the pronoun “she.” Later in the day, you're talking to her blockmate and use the pronoun “she.” The blockmate says “Don't you mean “he”? How do you respond?
  • Your friend tells you that someone told him he was using the “wrong” bathroom. How do you respond?
  • A few of your friends are discussing someone's new girlfriend. Someone says "I heard your girlfriend is trans - so, you're not a lesbian anymore, eh?"
  • A friend of yours who is a self-identified lesbian approaches you and tells you about a date she had with a man you know. You express surprise, because she has previously told you that she doesn't date men. She replies: “Oh, he's trans.
  • Someone comes up to you before class. You name was in the campus newspaper in an article about trans issues. They ask you when you had surgery and why.
  • You're in the restroom and someone confronts you about your right to be there. How do you react?
  • You're dating someone who's trans. Your best friend asks you, giggling: “So, how do you have sex?” How do you respond?
  • Someone close to you is genderqueer and has asked you to use a certain set of pronouns. When talking in their presence, you use the wrong pronoun. How do you react?
  • You go on a group outing, and you don't know someone's gender and you want to talk to them. How do you figure out which pronouns to use for them?

8. Being trans often means having to face daily obstacles:

Brainstorm a list of obstacles:

  • Discrimination (maybe engage group to identify stereotypes/misinformation they have heard about trans people): work, housing, healthcare, physical attacks, hate crimes.
  • Specific obstacles at your institution: bathrooms, housing, health care...
Ways to help:

  • Join GLBT campus organizations that work for trans rights.
  • Join MTPC and help lobby for the nondiscrimination bill.
  • Donate to MTPC.
  • Help with Trans 101 trainings at your school, religious institution or job.
  • Think of ways to signal that you are trans-friendly and trans-inclusive (for both individuals and institutions)
  • Changes you want to advocate for at your university (bathrooms, nondiscrimination code, etc) and strategies for doing so.
  • The role of housing staff at universities (for training involving housing staff or administrators): an increasing amount of incoming college freshman are out as trans – either transitioning or already transitioned. Also, there are students already in dorms who may be seeking support with rooming issues or other concerns. New gender neutral housing option is important step. It is necessary to have a consistent policy.
  • In your role, think of anywhere students’ names and or genders are listed, think of places where gender comes up (bathrooms).
  • Distribute copies of Trannys Talk Back or other publications by trans people about their experiences.
9. Wrap up. Have people go around and each say one thing that they learned during the Trans 101 and/or general reflections and feedback on the session. Thank them for coming.


Anonymous said...

I like the format. In your experience, what would you say is the minimum time requirement?

icarus said...


I would say that the minimum time requirement would be an hour, but an hour and a half or two hours is less rushed, especially if you have a large group. Thanks for asking!

icarus said...

Here's another resource I stumbled upon recently: "Transgender Basics," a video made by the LGBT Community Center in New York City. You can send it to friends and others who are looking for a short "Trans 101" in video format.