This guide provides an array of resources that may prove useful to educators looking to learn more about transgender identity, discuss transgender identity in the classroom, serve and support transgender students, and more.
This lesson has been updated and revised (September 2022). The previous version can be found here.
In this lesson, students will:
- Read an overview text about transgender identity in the United States throughout history and today.
- Review definitions of terminology important for learning about and discussing transgender identity and issues.
- Analyze social media posts as sources about transgender identity in the United States today.
- Consider the significance of personal storytelling to social justice activism.
Note: Discussions about transgender identity, issues, and discrimination against transgender people may be emotionally charged for many students from a variety of backgrounds. Before using this lesson, it is important to assess the dynamics of your classroom and adapt this lesson accordingly. Be sure to preview all aspects of this lesson before using it. If this lesson plan is not a good fit for your students, we have compiled other resources for teaching about transgender identity.
In the Classroom
1. Introduction: Begin class by informing students that they will be learning about gender identity and what it means to be transgender. Remind students that all people, even those with identities that they might not understand, deserve respect. Students should think before they speak, ask questions when they are unsure or confused, and be respectful to their classmates at all times.
After setting parameters for a respectful, safe classroom, distribute “Introduction to Transgender Identity and Issues” and “Key Terms” to the class. Have each student read the key terms. Then, as a class, read Part I of the Introduction. As you read, invite students to ask questions that arise for them and remind them to consult their key terms when necessary.
After reading Part I of the Introduction, once again invite students to ask any questions that they have. What does it mean to be transgender? Did the reading challenge or clarify any ideas that students may have had previously about transgender identity? What did students read about the Trump administration’s stance on transgender people and transgender rights?
2. Social Media Responses: Divide the class into pairs. Next, give each student a copy of “#WontBeErased Slideshow” and “#WontBeErased Questions.” Instruct students to work with their partner and follow the instructions on the handouts.
3. Class Discussion: Reconvene the class. Which posts did students choose to analyze more closely? Why did students choose these posts? Invite students to share how they summarized the overall message of the posts they analyzed. Ask students to consider the meaning of #WontBeErased. In the context of the proposed memo from the Trump administration, what do students think this means? Why do students think transgender people and their allies used this as a unifying message in their posts?
4. Current Policies: As a class, read Part II of the Introduction. As you read, invite students to ask questions that arise for them and remind them to consult their key terms when necessary. What did students read about developments regarding transgender rights across U.S. states? (You may wish to show the map from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) website, which tracks and analyzes over 50 different LGBTQ-related laws and policies throughout the United States. If you choose to use the map, ask students to analyze any patterns they notice or ask any questions they may have.) What did students read about developments in transgender rights at the federal level under the Biden administration? What differences are there between Trump administration and Biden administration policies? What key issues still remain for the transgender rights movement in the United States today?
5. Reflection: Social Media Activism and Storytelling: You may wish to continue the class discussion by asking some or all of the following questions. Alternatively, you may wish to end the lesson with quiet reflection by asking students to write a journal entry or “free write” on the power of social media activism and personal storytelling based on one or more of the following questions.
Ask students to consider the role social media plays in their lives and lives of others around the country/world. What do students think are the strengths and limitations of social media activism? (If students identify limitations, encourage them to think about how each can be addressed—for instance, through organizing marches, rallies, letter-writing campaigns, supporting political candidates, etc., in addition to social media activism.) How and why are hashtags used to rally and organize people through social media for social justice activism campaigns?
Ask students to consider the effects of personal storytelling on social media—such as the #WontBeErased posts they just analyzed. What kind of effects can telling one’s own story on social media have for a person? How can hearing or reading others’ personal stories on social media affect someone? How can it affect them if they share the other person’s identity? How can it affect them if they do not share the other person’s identity? How can it affect them if they have questions about other people’s identities or their own? Why do students think personal storytelling (online and offline) is important to social justice activism?
1. Research and Write: Have students research a specific topic on transgender identity and the fight for equal rights. Students should write a short, evidence-based essay that explains key issues within their chosen topic and analyzes its significance to the transgender rights movement. Students should write in the third person and cite evidence from their sources. Topics for research could include transgender rights and sports, health care access and equality for transgender people, state policies/laws regarding transgender rights, social and political organizing campaigns in the transgender rights movement, comparative analysis of transgender rights in different countries, forms of cultural and personal expression within the transgender rights movement, or any other important topic.
2. Compare Your State: As a class, conduct research into your own state’s (or a state of your choosing) laws and policies regarding transgender rights and compare them with other states. You may wish to begin with the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) website, which tracks and analyzes over 50 different LGBTQ-related laws and policies throughout the United States. Encourage students to act upon what they learn by writing emails or letters to their state or federal representatives regarding their views on their state’s laws and policies regarding transgender rights.
Thank you to Sarah Christensen for her work in developing this lesson.