- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 7, 2018

Universities are traditionally thought of as centers of learning, but students and faculty at Temple University are “unlearning” the “binary system” of gender in order create a more inclusive environment for transgender and non-binary people on campus.

The Philadelphia university’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership (IDEAL) offers Safe Zone training programs about issues affecting the LGBTQ community.

Nu’Rodney Prad, director of student engagement at IDEAL, said people have been socialized to believe there are two sexes and two corresponding genders. Safe Zone helps people unlearn what they have learned about sex and gender, he said.

“The binary system of gender and sex has been just socialized into our society,” Mr. Prad told the Temple News. “It’s the fabric of how we think. It’s how we write our papers. [Safe Zone is] kind of like unlearning all this stuff we’ve learned about the binary system.”

The training can be taken in one five-hour session or several shorter ones. It is open to students, faculty and staff.

One thing participants learn is how to ask for someone’s gender pronouns.

Mr. Prad said it may be helpful to share one’s gender pronouns in order to make the other person more comfortable sharing his or hers. If someone’s gender pronouns are unclear, he recommended using the plural, third-person pronouns “they” or “them” to minimize the risk of “misgendering” the other person.

To avoid confusion, IDEAL encourages students, faculty and staff to disclose their preferred gender pronouns on their email signatures.

Professors at Temple University are also coming up with ways to make the classroom a more inclusive environment.

Heath Fogg Davis, a transgender man who teaches political science, said he asks students to write down their preferred gender pronouns. Asking students to disclose their gender pronouns verbally may single out transgender students, he said, or out someone who is not ready to disclose his or her gender identity to the class.

Mr. Davis is the author of “Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter?” In the book, he argues that gender should be minimized in policy and everyday life because it “infringes on people’s individual autonomy.”

“In an ideal world, I wish that we all used a gender-neutral pronoun,” he said.

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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