Gender inclusion in the classroom

UVic is committed to providing a safe and inclusive living, working and learning environment for people of all genders in our community as part of our broader commitment to creating an inclusive space for all people. This commitment is expressed through strategies and priorities in UVic’s Strategic Framework and the suite of plans and policies that describe expectations for behaviour and services on campus. While we do not currently have a framework that explicitly describes practices to support gender inclusion, such practices are increasingly used across the institution and expected under university policies and human rights law.

Responsibilities for faculty to create inclusive classrooms

Faculty are responsible for creating a space where students of all genders can safely participate in all aspects of the learning experience. Some important ways to do this include:

Take some time to learn about trans, non-binary and Two-Spirit experiences and concerns (see below and in the "Be an Ally" section).

  • Promoting Trans Literacies (UBC). Resource on creating a gender inclusive syllabus with reading suggestions at the end.
  • Gender Equity Resource Centre at the University of Berkeley. GenEq at UC Berkeley has a guide “Creating Inclusive Classrooms for Trans* and Gender Expansive Students.”

Include gender-inclusive information in the syllabus. This can include:

  • Gender-inclusive washrooms information
  • Information about pronouns and name: invitation to contact you if they would like to tell you anything about their name or pronouns, and that when they speak to you, they can discuss whether they want anything more public to happen.
  • Address confidentiality of information and privacy in the syllabus

Share your pronouns at the outset of class when you introduce yourself, and let students know that they can do the same, or come speak to you privately about how they would like this addressed in class, if at all.

When planning for the first class, consider options for taking attendance since the official class list may not reflect chosen names for trans, Two-Spirit and non-binary students. Students can indicate a “preferred name,” on their My Page, but not all students may have provided this information yet. If you need to take attendance at the first class, some options include:

  • Send a course welcome email through CourseSpaces in advance of the first class to let students know that you will be doing roll call. Remind them that they can add the first name they use to the class list online. Let them know that they can reach out to you independently.
  • Ask students to write their name on a circulating blank sheet of paper.
  • Explore other options.

Once you are aware of a preferred name, ensure that you use it whenever you need to refer to a student by name, in writing or verbally.

Don’t use gender to divide students into groups for discussions, projects, etc. Consider criteria such as the question they chose for homework; whether they moved to Victoria for school or not; different majors; favourite colours; numbering off; finding someone they haven’t worked with; etc.

Offer examples that include diverse forms of gender identity and expression. Avoid examples that reinforce the idea that there are two binary and discrete genders or that genders have clear and unvarying characteristics.

Avoid making assumptions about the identities of your students, such as asking someone for a “man’s perspective” on a given topic, or expecting a trans, Two-Spirit or non-binary student to be the point person to field questions or lead conversations around gender identity.

Be careful about initiating dialogue around gender identity in the classroom. When there are students who are not supportive of trans, Two-Spirit and non-binary people, it is very difficult to hold these conversations in a way that does not further marginalize or create a dangerous space for some students. If you do need to have such a conversation, first consider the goal of the conversation to see if it is linked to your learning outcomes. Similar to initiating conversations in which the identity of any marginalized group is being discussed, make sure that you let students know in advance about the discussion, that the purpose of the conversation is clear, that you provide concrete data points for discussion, that you frame the issue appropriately, that you do not single out any trans, Two-Spirit and non-binary individuals in the classroom, and that you set parameters for civil, respectful discourse. Be aware that even if you do all these things, the experience still may be traumatic for trans, Two-Spirit and non-binary persons in the classroom. Approach such conversations with care, and always describe and offer supports in multiple venues, formats and times for students to access.

Particularly if your course content addresses gender, prepare to manage conflict around the topics of gender identity and transition when it comes up. This includes knowing your responsibilities to support trans, Two-Spirit and students who may become distressed by these conversations and what resources are available for support. It also means holding these conversations in context, for instance, seeing homophobic or transphobic values within Indigenous communities as a direct impact of colonization and European influence, and ensuring that this is taken into consideration and acknowledged as necessary.

If you are a student

If you have questions or concerns relating to your experiences or upcoming participation in classes, field trips, practicums, co-op terms, off-site events or any other activities, you have a number of options. You can use whatever option(s) feel most appropriate to you.

Talk about your concerns with the professor, lab instructor, event organizer, or whoever is in charge of organizing the activity.

For a question or concern with an academic course, contact the chair of the department (by email, phone, or request an appointment) to discuss.

For a challenge in a co-op placement, you can contact your co-op advisor.

When things get complicated, or for any situation, you can have a confidential consultation with someone at Equity and Human Rights (EQHR). Our advisors can help you plan conversations; consult with you about how best to approach a situation of concern; and advise you on your options for complaints and reports under university policies. Where appropriate, our advisors can facilitate conversations or information-sharing on behalf of a student (or any other member of the campus community). You are welcome to bring a support person with you to any conversations with EQHR. Most staff in EQHR have participated in training on gender diversity and inclusion, and all have a commitment to creating safe, respectful, welcoming spaces for all people.

You can consult with the Office of the Ombudsperson. The ombudsperson is an independent, impartial, and confidential resource for undergraduate and graduate students and other members of the University of Victoria community. The ombudsperson helps resolve student problems or disputes fairly. For issues that fall within their jurisdiction, they can:

  • help you understand your options, rights and responsibilities
  • coach you in constructive ways of raising an issue or complaint
  • facilitate communication or problem-solve
  • assist in the use of appeal procedures
  • investigate and make recommendations
The Anti-Violence Project provides support, education and resources to all students, staff, faculty and other community members who have been impacted by gender-based violence, whether by experiencing it directly, supporting someone who has, or by causing harm themselves. Their services can be accessed during drop-in hours or by appointment, and are provided by staff and volunteers with training and lived experience supporting and being trans, non-binary and two-spirit folks.

You can approach some of the UVSS Advocacy groups for support.
When approaching someone about your concern, we hope the following points may be helpful.
  • You should feel free to bring a support person to any meetings you may have. You can consult with someone in EQHR or the Office of the Ombudsperson for ideas about who to bring. Depending on the situation, you might consider a friend, someone you know from a club, course union or advocacy group, or someone you know in the community.
  • Keep a written record of what happened (notes about your experiences) along with copies of any communications. These details can be helpful to support your questions or requests.
  • Go into a conversation with a list of questions you have, and what you are hoping for as an outcome. These can be a helpful tools to support resolution.

If you are approached about a concern, here are some points to keep in mind.

  • Use a trauma-informed approach: Practice non-judgement and empathy. Validate what the person has experienced. Offer support or to connect them with support.
  • Take the opportunity to learn and listen carefully.
  • Remember that we all have a responsibility to create an inclusive environment on campus. See this as a chance to build inclusion.
  • Try to be empathetic. Imagine what the experience has been like for the other person.
  • It is not easy to approach someone about a concern, so acknowledge their courage and appreciate that what they are saying was important enough to warrant the conversation.
  • Learn more about gender diversity