Tips to Make Class More Welcoming for Transgender and Gender-variant Students

Transgender and gender-variant people experience inequities in education, housing, healthcare, employment, criminal justice, policing, public benefits and legal protections to name a few. Black transgender women are most disproportionately impacted by these inequities. These tips are intended to create a more inclusive, equitable, and culturally responsive classroom where transgender and gender-variant students feel welcomed and supported to achieve student success.

Classroom Guidelines and Community Standards

Set a tone of inclusion, respect and openness. Create culturally responsive guidelines for class. Include information about transgender and gender-variant identities on your syllabus, such as a statement about the importance of an inclusive, equitable and welcoming environment where everyone can participate fully and comfortably from every social identity. Inform the class that they are welcomed not in spite of their social identities, but because of them (race, ethnicity, class, gender identity, gender expression, size, ability, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.). This may also encourage critical engagement with the texts, including authors and ideas.

Help your students learn how to talk about issues of gender respectfully and with caring importance. Become aware of the spectrum of pronouns and create space for students to name their pronouns.

Subjective Objective Possessive Adjective Possessive Pronoun Reflexive
She Her Her Hers Herself
Ze Zim Zir Zirs Zirself
Xe Xem Xyr Xyrs Xemself
They Them Their Theirs Themself
Sie/zie Hir Hir Hirs Hirself
Zie Zir Zir Zirs Zirself
Ey Em Eir Eirs Eirself
Per Per Pers Pers Perself
He Him His His Himself

Names – Always use a transgender person’s chosen name.

Avoid calling the roll or otherwise reading the roster aloud. Instead, create space for students to introduce themselves. You may want to create prompts to facilitate this activity and model accordingly.

Inform students that their chosen name, nickname, or given/birth name are welcomed. Also, create space for students to name their pronouns. Do not make assumptions based on the student’s appearance or what is on the class roster. Another strategy is to begin this activity by asking students to share this information on an index card. Then, collect the index cards and ask each student to introduce themselves.

Many transgender people are able to obtain a legal name change from a court. However, some transgender people cannot afford a legal name change or are not yet old enough to legally change their name. They should be afforded the same respect for their chosen name as anyone else who uses a name other than their given/birth name (e.g., celebrities).


If you aren't sure of a person's pronouns, you may ask, “What are your pronouns?” or “What pronouns do you use?” Do not make an assumption about pronouns. Another acceptable option if you are unsure is to use pronouns that do not assign gender such as, they/them/their until you learn the person’s pronouns. If you are communicating directly with someone, you may consider sharing your pronouns first. For example, on the first day of class, model the behavior that you desire by introducing yourself, including your name and your pronouns (“My name is (insert name) and my pronouns are ze, zim, zir.”). Your example will empower students to share their names and pronouns.

This will allow everyone in the room a chance to self-identify and to get each other’s pronouns right the first time. It will also reduce unintended misgendering of students and members of the class. Do not take this opportunity for granted or worry about getting it wrong. Your students will appreciate your effort to get it right and may view the class as a more welcoming, inclusive and equitable space.

Address mistakes

Do not call students by previous names or pronouns. If you make a mistake about someone’s name and/or pronouns, correct yourself and move on. Making the correction is more respectful than making the mistake and not acknowledging the error. This also reduces any additional burden on the student to correct an incorrect name and/or pronouns, whether privately, before classmates or anyone else who witnessed the mistake. As teachers, especially, we must model respectful, welcoming behavior and keep in mind that students pay close attention to the ways we interact with everyone in the classroom.

Correct others

Whether in office hours, when speaking with students in groups, or when speaking with faculty and staff, correct others who mistake one’s name and/or pronouns. It is polite to provide a gentle correction, whether or not the misnamed or misgenderded person is present. Allowing the mistake to go uncorrected ensures future uncomfortable interactions. For example, if you witness someone being misgendered, you may simply respond, “I believe (name of person) pronouns are they/them/their.”

Respect boundaries

Avoid asking personal questions of transgender and gender-variant people that you would not ask of others. Do not ask personal questions about body or medical care, previous name, why or how they know they are transgender, sexual orientation or practices, family reaction to their gender identity, gender expression or any other questions that are irrelevant to your interaction with them. Unless a transgender or gender-variant person chooses to share any part of their lived experience with you, this information is off-limits. Respect boundaries.

Campus resources

Cougar Pride Club

Cougar Pride Club is the Registered Student Organization representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender-variant, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual (LGBTQ+) and ally community at WSU Vancouver. We are students and alumni who work to foster an inclusive and equitable environment on campus for our fellow LGBTQ+ Cougs.

Learn about more campus resources