October 2018. An updated version of this lesson is available here.
In this lesson, students will:
- Read a general 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.
Introduction to Transgender Identity and Issues
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 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 keep an open mind.
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 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 the introduction, once more, invite students to ask any questions that they have. What does it mean to be transgender? Did the reading challenge any ideas that students may have had previously about transgender people? What did students read about regarding the Trump administration’s stance on transgender people and transgender rights?
2. Social Media Responses—Next, give each student a copy of “#WontBeErased Slideshow” and “#WontBeErased Questions.” Instruct students to 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 have used this as a unifying message in their posts? Thinking about the entire lesson, ask students what they found new or surprising. Ask students to share one new thing they learned about transgender identity through this lesson.
4. Individual Reflection and Questions—After discussing as a class, ask students to take time to reflect on their own about what they learned today and questions they still have. Have each student anonymously record one question on a piece of paper. Collect student questions. At a later date, after reviewing them, you may wish to return to these questions and address appropriate ones as a class.
1. Persuasive Essay—Have students draft a short, evidence-based, persuasive essay supporting or arguing against the idea that the Trump Administration memo is an attempt to erase transgender people and their legal rights. Students should write in the third person, cite evidence, and utilize what they have learned from the class discussion and sources. You may also require students to find and cite additional sources.
2. Speak Out—Encourage your students to express their views on the Trump administration memo arguing for a narrow, strict definition of gender.
Contact Elected Officials
Students could write letters to elected officials. They can find contact information for the White House at www.whitehouse.gov/contact and their U.S. senators and representatives at thomas.loc.gov.
Students could write letters to the editor of a local paper or write articles for the school or community newspaper.