How To Treat Trans-Gendered Students

If you are teaching at a secular university and have not yet encountered a student who is going through (or has already been through) gender reassignment, you will before long. I had my first such experience a few years ago and I learned some valuable things in the process. Although my experience occurred within the context of higher education, much of what I learned is equally relevant in other settings. I have written the following with conservative Christians in mind, simply because they are the ones who struggle the most in trying to be compassionate without compromising their principles:

Always use the student’s preferred name. You might call the name of Charlene on the first day of class and be corrected by a voice asking to be called Charlie. Or Patricia might ask to be called Pat. Or the requested change could be something a little less smooth – such as Bruce demanding to be called Caitlyn. Regardless, always show respect for the person by using the name they prefer because it is just that – a preference. There is nothing inherently male or female about a first name. This is a non-issue. Don’t make it one.

Avoid using pronouns. Pronouns are different. When Bruce goes from simply asking to be called Caitlyn to demanding to be called “she” you have a potential problem. Calling Bruce “Caitlyn” is simply honoring a preference. In contrast, calling Bruce “she” is telling a lie. In a nutshell, Bruce is now asking you to accommodate his mental disorder by lying and saying he is something he is not. Just as there is a good reason to refrain from lying and saying “she” there is also good reason to refrain from saying “he.” The reason is that it is completely avoidable. When my first transgendered student asked to be called by a male name on the first day of class I had no idea that she would also become my best and most outspoken student. There were numerous times throughout the semester when her comments were so enlightening that I almost responded by saying something like, “Did everyone hear what she just said?” In such cases, when I came to the part of the sentence with the personal pronoun I simply substituted the student’s first name, which is more personal anyway. Professors who make an issue of this by sending around sheets of paper the first day of class asking for each student’s preferred pronouns are just being pretentious. This is another non-issue. Learn your student’s names and use them whenever you call on them in class. Issue resolved.

Don’t take the bathroom bait. Some people say that North Carolina’s HB2 was an “unnecessary law.” I agree. Had it not been for the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte passing a city ordinance (requiring all private businesses to allow access to any bathroom on the basis of perceived gender), the state legislature would have had no need to address the issue. Generally speaking, transsexuals have quietly used the bathroom of their choice for years with no problem – that is, until LGBT activists politicized the issue.

When my first “transitioning” student decided she wanted to walk into the men’s restroom just as I was walking out I simply ignored her. It was awkward to be certain. But it wasn’t worth calling in the bathroom police. If you are ever assaulted in a bathroom by a transsexual then do what you would do if a normal person outside a bathroom assaulted you: Call the police and/or defend yourself. If not, just go about your business. This is yet another non-issue. Don’t make it one.

Provide an alternate basis for student identity. I cringe every time I hear the phrase “LGBT people” because it implies that those who are outside of the heterosexual norm are somehow defined by their sexuality. As educators, we should have no part in the undignified business of encouraging people to build their identity around their sexuality. We cannot love people by actually encouraging the spiritual evils that victimize them – even when the culture praises us for doing so. Thus, whenever I see my former student (who is obviously going through radical hormonal therapy to appear male) I do not ask her how her gender identity transition is going. I ask her how her studies are going. I thank her for being such an attentive student. I tell her how much I enjoyed having her in my class. I let her know that she stands out because of her mind not because of her membership in a newly contrived class of victims.

This is really all you need to know about how to deal with the transgender issue. Best of all, my advice is free of charge. I guess some problems are so simple they don’t even require a diversity consultant.

15 thoughts on “How To Treat Trans-Gendered Students”

  1. Mike,
    It seems to me that the Old Testament has warnings about this sort of issue. I believe the correction for the issue was a bit more permanent and harsh. Did I tell you I like the Old Testament?

    1. Jesus says that the sinless person should cast the first stone, that we should forgive infinitely, and that we should treat others as we would want to be treated. The New Testament is explicit in saying we have no business judging those outside the church and, even within the church, should follow the guidance written. If we try to live by the Law, we will all perish.

      1. Well, that is a good reason just to ignore the moral decline that is rapidly sending millions in a lifestyle of perversion and suicide. John Hopkins Hospital stop doing sex changes because of the damage, including suicide, it was doing to the very patients they were trying to help.

      2. See levitical laws for adultery. That was their sin. This is one of the most misinterpreted passages in scripture. Your misquote from 1st Cor:5 can also explain that. But your a little wrong. Believers are to judge those in the church.

      3. You’ve left out some important details. Repentance always precedes forgiveness. Judging, per se, is in no way forbidden. Judging with no self awareness of the standards of their judging is highly discouraged.

      4. Yes when all else fails preach to the Christians. They are the faulty ones. Its the sinners who don’t need correction. And if the Christian doesn’t comply then beat them, ruin their lives, and ultimately kill them.

    2. Jesus was the New Testament … often told his followers to follow His way, not the way of things in the Old Testament … CHRISTians are to love others and judge them not lest they be judged …

      1. Galatians 6:1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

  2. To be honest, I do not worry about meeting a trans-gender in the men’s room and that is simply because it is highly unlikely that a woman would fake a transgender identity in order to “peep”. But, the same cannot be said for men. There are plenty of men who would be willing to claim transgender identity in order to peep the ladies in the rest room or, worse, the shower room. Add to this that the transgender-claiming men are stronger than the women whose space they are invading, the potential for abuse is much greater.

    I am not a violent man, but ti would be difficult for me not to get forceful if someone I knew to be a man entered a women’s restroom or locker – room and my wife or daughter were in there.

    But I do agree with you that the whole “what do you call them” is primarily a non-issue. Wisely choosing one’s battles is important.

  3. This is actually really good… though I would never have thought of it quite this way. I am very steadfast in that I believe homosexuality is a sin. Yet many people live in sin outside of this… and I have many friends of all sorts of walks in sin. While I try to never accept their sin, I do try to respect them as people and love them as God would have me to. Very encouraging read, and seems to be very on-point. Thanks!!

  4. Mike, fantastic advice. I started out thinking I was going to read some more of your wonderful, acerbic wit. Instead I read some very sound, wise words. As a retired pastor, who substitutes in the public school system, I needed that.

  5. One of my grad school professors was a British lady who addressed students as Mr. or Miss Last name. I loved her formality and thought my undergrads reacted to being addressed as adults by behaving as adults. If I don’t want to speak the lie of the wrong gendered address, do I have to go back to using first names, as if they were in kindergarten? I still want them to call ME Dr. So and so.
    In addition, what if some student decides he identifies with aristocracy and wants to be addressed as “Your Lordship”? The way the schools are going, pretty soon some administration is going to tell instructors they have to comply.

  6. I too am an Instructor in a University setting and I really like your pragmatic approach to this horrible situation. I will not be told to ask students their “preferred” pronouns. I’ll honor the name thing, but won’t kowtow down to pandering any further with pronoun preferences.

    I had the unfortunate experience of having my 30 year-old son out himself as a trans female exactly four years ago (on Mother’s Day–thanks). It was and still is the saddest day of my life. He legally changed his name and gender on his legal documents-basically tossed aside like trash his entire past and everything me and his father did for him. And he had a very good, privileged childhood. He never, not once, exhibited any indication of this “condition” during his youth. Had he, I would have gotten him to the proper therapy to stop this horrible thing. I believe gender dysphoria and the entire transgender thing is nothing but a mental illness. This entire culture of transgender-ism is basically a crock and an agenda perpetuated by the left to endorse a gender-free society. Very young children who say they feel like the opposite gender on any given day and their parents going along with it are the victims of nothing short of child abuse. ALL little kids play dress-up at one time or another, and/or declare they “want to be a boy/girl” for a day. This is normal. But for parents to perpetuate the mental illness by going along with hormone treatments and eventually GRS is beyond evil. These kids need therapy, not assistance to go along with the illness.

    After my son (whom will always be my SON) announced his intentions, many people told me that “Hey, you’re not losing a son, your gaining a daughter!!” This statement makes me sick to my stomach, literally. I lost my child to a mental illness and because he was a supposedly sane young man he did what he wanted. There was nothing I could do then and there is nothing I can do now except pray for him. My son and all trans individuals are doing NOTHING but playing dress-up. That’s all it is. No amount of surgery to make a pen*s into a vag*na will make them the man or woman they think they want to be that day. DNA doesn’t lie, and a trans person’s personality and memories remain the same.

Leave a Reply