Question: If a professor or another student accidentally misgenders someone during class discussion and doesn’t realize or correct themselves, how should someone else who notices respond? Should they try to tactfully find a way to work in the person’s correct pronouns during discussion? Approach the teacher/student after class? I wouldn’t want to put more pressure on the student who was called by the wrong pronouns.
Let’s start with the more complicated scenario: the professor. For me, it’s much more intimidating to correct my professors than my peers. However, if I announce my pronouns at the beginning of a semester, I do expect them to be respected. In classroom discussions, it’s generally best to work the correct pronouns into the conversation. The sooner you do this, the more likely that the professor will realize their mistake. Phrases like, “I agree/disagree with what [correct pronouns] said, especially [correct pronouns’] point about [xyz],” with emphasis on and repeated usage of correct pronouns, should help. The more you use the correct pronouns, the more likely it is for the professor to catch on. If the issue continues, depending on your relationship with the student who is being misgendered, you can ask them after class if there is anything they would like you to do. Otherwise, it’s best to let us handle the situation ourselves. In terms of other students misgendering their peers, the professor should be the one to handle that, but sometimes they don’t notice, either. Yet again, the first step is to (firmly and pointedly) work the correct pronouns into class discussions. If that doesn’t work and you feel like your trans peer’s discomfort is impacting their classroom experience, ask them if there’s anything they need. At the end of the day, it honestly helps just knowing that someone has noticed and that someone actually cares about our well-being.
Cat March ’19 is an English and women’s and gender studies major from Providence, R.I. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.