Caring Communication for a Gender-Inclusive Campus Community

To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients – care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication. ― bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions

Students with marginalized identities, including trans and nonbinary students, often feel uncomfortable bringing their authentic selves to the campus or classroom without first seeing evidence that it’s a safe enough environment. Caring communication skills and respect for gender diversity can help to reduce interpersonal harm, set the norm for respectful behavior, promote positive interactions among peers and foster a positive perception and experience of campus climate. 

Students come into college with very different experiences, beliefs, knowledge, and assumptions about gender and sexuality, all of which exist within a national and global context of widespread discrimination. Many colleges and universities know this, and offer “Trans 101” trainings at orientation to encourage gender inclusivity. These introductory trainings tend to offer a limited scope of shared understanding and language. But students need to go beyond the basics – “101” just isn’t enough!

A student sits cross-legged on a chair, gesturing and speaking into a hand-held mic. Students sitting to either side listen attentively.

Some “Trans 101” trainings (and other DEIJ trainings) can be polarizing, leading students who don’t already share the trainers’ language to feel alienated or talked down to. Instead of a sense of belonging, trans, nonbinary, and other LGBTQ+  students may witness their peers’ resistance and come away feeling less included. 

The problem with this kind of 101 training is that it focuses mostly on sharing information. This is a good start, but doesn’t necessarily give students the opportunity to understand the challenges and joys that LGBTQ+ people experience, the context to appreciate the complex interplay among multiple identities a person may hold, or an analytical framework to support further learning. And the trainings don’t typically provide  tools and skills students need in order to practice supportive behaviors for positive relationships across different backgrounds. 

water color image of two people talking. the person on the left, wearing a green shit and glasses and standing with a cane, says "He's been really busy lately," and the person on the right, with long dark hair and a yellow shirt, says "Lara? Yeah, she's had a lot on her plate"

Think Again has developed thought-provoking, intersectional, and practice-centered trainings that support students to approach gender inclusion with a full toolbox. Our Caring Communication for a Gender Inclusive Community training generates insight and self-reflection, introduces shared language with which to understand and discuss gender in nuanced ways, and normalizes gender diversity. The training teaches positive behaviors and requires students to practice using them. Caring Communication for a Gender Inclusive Community can create a safer and more productive campus climate and culture for all.

Think Again collaborates with administrators, educators and students who care about building inclusive communities at their institutions. 

We meet participants where they are using an “ok-better-best” model that interrupts perfectionism and encourages ongoing learning. Our training helps participants cultivate compassion for honest mistakes and differences in understanding, become more proficient with gender inclusive language and using gendered pronouns respectfully, increase capacity to engage in  uncomfortable conversations across difference without “canceling” or giving up on each other, and use intersectional frameworks to understand the complexity of identity and interlocking systems of oppression.

Caring Communication for a Gender Inclusive Community supports students in their transition into the college environment by providing shared knowledge and skills for honest and open communication in a campus community that is diverse both in terms of gender identity and in terms of the backgrounds, cultures and expectations around gender that people arrive with. Participants leave ready to translate their caring into action, developing relationships of real allyship and advocacy.  

To learn more about how a Think Again training can empower your campus community to make meaningful improvements that go far beyond “Trans 101”, reach out to us today.

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