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College of Education > News and Publications > News: Oct. - Dec. 2011 > Interactive Transgender Presentation a Success

Interactive Transgender Presentation a Success

An interactive presentation on Nov. 3 informed educators how to be supportive of transgender and gender nonconforming youth.

by Patrick Beal (November 2011)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The College held an informative, interactive presentation on November 3 in Chambers Building about what educators can do to be supportive of transgender and gender nonconforming youth. The event was presented in partnership by three College of Education areas: the Office of Multicultural Student Services, the Advising and Certification Center, and the Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education.

Topics discussed included the definitions of transgender and gender nonconforming, the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, experiences of transgender youth ranging from early elementary to college, and ideas for creating gender-affirming environments in and out of the classroom.

The participants were asked to sit with each other in groups based on the age of students they work with. At various parts of the program, the participants were instructed to discuss with one another ideas on how they might use the information they were learning to inform their creation of gender-affirming environments in their work with young people. The participants seemed to appreciate the opportunity to review the material with one another, according to Kathleen Bieschke, professor of education in counseling psychology.

“Participants were clearly committed to learning more about this topic,” says Bieschke. “They had great questions and were able to think carefully about how they might use the information in a wide array of work places.” Bieschke served as the program’s speaker and was pleased by the size of the audience (about 75 people) and level of interaction among participants.

A children’s book titled My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis was also discussed. Kilodavis was inspired by her 4-year-old son who loves to wear pretty dresses and jewelry. It is a story of acceptance and advocating for children to be who they are. The group used lessons from the book and goals of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) to propose guidelines for a gender-affirming classroom. SRLP is a collective organization devoted to guaranteeing everyone’s right to clarify their gender and live free of discrimination, harassment, and violence.

Last fall, the College held a similar engagement regarding LGBTQ bullying, which also had a large participant turnout. Given the success of both presentations, a follow-up is being planned for the spring 2012 semester.