Teaching

Hey everyone,

Well I’ve had quite a lot going on this last week. I spent most of my free time rewriting a portion of my paper on the constitutionality of gendered bathroom segregation. I’m using it as a writing sample for my LGBTQ-related summer internship applications. I’m still not happy with it, but I’m not sure that I’ll ever be. I applied to mostly Georgia internships for the summer, but a couple of my top ones are actually in New York City. I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle all those Yankees, but I know that I would have the time of my life working with the firms I applied to there! Fingers crossed that I get some interviews…

So I finally had to sit through a case with a transgender plaintiff. It was for my employment law class and was a Title VII sex discrimination case. I knew it was going to be bad when I read the description of the case in the syllabus. It said “6th Cir. advances protections for transsexual workers.” I probably should have said something in class, but I was very angry. It was likely best that I said nothing to him. I was correcting him under my breath in class. Apparently I was loud enough for some of my friends sitting close by to hear me…

I understand that the case used that term. The case also constantly misgendered the plaintiff and referred to the outdated term, “gender identity disorder.” However, I think any professor teaching a case on an insular minority has an obligation to accurately represent the minority group regardless of how the Court does. When I emailed him to explain how I felt about his handling of the case, he said he used the term transsexual because the Court did. I just think it’s interesting that the very next case used the term “negro,” and I didn’t hear him use that term in class…

My email explained my thoughts on the use of various outdated and offensive terms. I also explained that I think the sex stereotyping theory used in the case is not accurate to the transgender experience. An accurate, scientifically supported theory would be to categorize gender identity as one of the many components that informs biological sex.

The email I received was not exactly the response I was looking for. He did say that he wanted to meet with me. To be fair, he did correct himself and used the correct pronouns to describe the plaintiff about halfway through. I don’t think he understands the hurtful and hateful wording that he used.

I’m not looking for an apology. I just want him to have another class discussion explaining the case the right way. I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to go up the totem poll for anything short of another class discussion. It’s so very important that the next generation of lawyers has a basic understanding of the trans experience and what terms are correct in describing it. You can’t effectively advocate for someone or something that you don’t understand.

All the best,

Harris

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