Respecting trans students whose IDs misgender them



It’s TA season and I’m thinking about something that happened last year. I was invigilating an exam, and there was a trans student who hadn’t had her student ID changed yet. I was required to check her ID, and she seemed terrified (I could pick up on it, so pretty obvious). I gave my stock script (smile and, “That’s perfect, thanks!”) and moved on. Was that OK? Also, is there something I can do to send an “I’m not gonna out you, don’t worry” message to students in that situation?
realsocialskills said:
I don’t know, and I’m hoping someone who reads this will. My sense is that probably using the stock script you’d use with anyone else’s ID is better than saying something explicitly. (Particularly since it seems like it would have been hard to say something without other students waiting to show ID overhearing, and you can’t reassure someone that you won’t out her by outing her to everyone within earshot.)
I think the best way to show someone that you can be trusted not to hurt them is to just make it clear in a matter-of-fact way that you’re not going to do anything with their ID but check them off a list like you would any other student.
But I’m not trans, and I think this question would probably be best answered by people who are.
Trans readers: what would you like TAs to do in this situation?

cronbach said:

With a one-off interaction like that, this was about the best you could do. Not drawing attention to her among the other students should be the goal, so the stock script is perfect.

For a longer interaction, like if you end up TAing a lab or course with a trans student (or anyone else to whom this sort of advice would also apply)… make sure you use their name like you would anyone else’s. Don’t draw undue attention by saying their name every sentence, if you don’t do that for everyone, but practice their name in private or whatever if you need to so you can be sure you won’t slip up and use the wrong one by accident.

Same thing with pronouns. Don’t misgender them. Be prepared to correct yourself right away and just move on if you somehow get it wrong — like if you accidentally misgendered a cis student because your brain had a short circuit, right?

Also, depending on what subject you’re in, you may need to change the way you say or teach a few things, or some lab activities. Like… I’m in a lab this year where there may be an activity where we take cheek swabs and do DNA things with them. I’m afraid that one of these things will involve karyotypes or sex chromosomes. I may end up getting outed, or having to out myself to the instructors, because of this. Are there things you teach which could affect someone who’s trans, or intersex, or anything like that?

Do you refer to students as “men and women” or “ladies and gentlemen” or any other binary-reinforcing or categorizing set o words? If so, you might want to consider not doing that. Likewise if you refer to everyone as “mister whatever” and “miss/ms whatsis.”

Just some thoughts from a trans guy on the binary.