Being a Super Trans Ally! authors Phoenix Schneider and Sherry Paris talk about their new book and give tips and tricks on increasing inclusion in classrooms. Read all the way through the article to find a Pride Month Promotional code!
Can you briefly outline your backgrounds?
Phoenix (he/him/his): I am a trans and queer Social Worker, trainer, and inclusion coach committed to supporting, educating, and empowering LGBTQ+ and allied people to cultivate compassion, advocate for their peers, and become agents of change in their communities. I received my Master of Social Work degree from Hunter College School of Social Work and I consider myself to be a teacher and a student for life. All of the young people that I have had the honor of meeting and working together with over the years have inspired me to continue on my lifelong mission to promote culture shifts toward full acceptance and inclusion for everyone.
Sherry (she/her/hers): I am a gay/queer cisgender woman who is an educator and Diversity Trainer. I have a Master’s Degree in the Science of Instruction from Drexel University. I taught high school Mathematics for 22 years and had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with students on a Diversity Training project during much of that time. I love holding space for young people to bring forward what matters most to them. High School Diversity Trainers would develop their empathy, allyship and leadership skills and share themselves in conversations and activities with their peers in high school and middle school. Our project furthered acceptance, inclusion and empowerment by encouraging ally action and bringing awareness to injustices regarding race/culture, socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, ability/disabilities, neurodiversity, religious differences, immigration status and mental health. I continue to offer diversity training work with educators, industry leaders, emerging clinicians, communities and young people.
What was the inspiration behind Being a Super Trans Ally?
Phoenix: For me, it was so important to have support from family and friends when I came out as trans. While I feel comfortable sharing pieces of my journey with others or to educate people about my experience as a trans person, it’s helpful to feel like I had allies to stand by me and also answer questions during these teachable moments.
Both: We recognize the challenges and triumphs transgender, gender diverse, and non-binary people experience. We know that supportive friends, family and community members can truly make a difference. Building a culture of acceptance helps foster resiliency and full inclusion. Ally action is needed at all levels from the personal to the policy level. We want to support and encourage young people to take Super Trans Ally action every day.
How could teachers and other educators, like parents currently homeschooling, use Being a Super Trans Ally! in an educational setting?
We are excited at the possibility of Being a Super Trans Ally! being used in educational settings. We suggest that educators first read through the entire book to familiarize themselves with the big ideas and pick out the activities that best fit the needs of their student(s). What most excites and delights you? Pronoun practice? Role plays? Creative writing? Start with that! Your enthusiasm for the topic will resonate with the learner(s).
Before starting any activity, begin by opening a space that recognizes the needs of gender diverse learners. Some students in the class or home may already be on their own gender journey which may or may not be visible or known to others. Instead of assuming that your learner(s) identity within the gender binary, consider that gender diverse learners are present. Be mindful of the needs of transgender and non-binary students to share the challenges of the gender binary they have experienced. Encourage those with lived experiences to share their stories and truly be supported. Encourage allies to develop their empathy and understand the depth of what is shared and keep it confidential. Consider offering those with strong beliefs in the gender binary an opportunity to speak to you (the educator) privately at a later time. Make that offer at the start of the session. Please address transphobia if it comes up, whether verbally or non-verbally. Do not allow it to go unchecked even if it feels scary to say something. Set boundaries and enforce them in a kind yet firm manner. “We treat everyone with respect and dignity here. That kind of language is hurtful.”
There are so many ways to use Being a Super Trans Ally! in a home-schooling or classroom setting.
Many activities offer an opportunity to self-reflect or create and then have a discussion. Use those prompts to help learners develop empathy by considering themselves and others. Could activities or responses which are not so important to one learner be really important to other people? Students could learn vocabulary by making flashcards from the glossary. Students can receive a star sticker as they track their ally actions on a chart and discuss their efforts with each other or the educator.
Your book contains many activities for young people. What was your favorite activity to design?
We are so excited to offer a set of innovative activities which engage people through many different channels to foster self-reflection and build the muscle of taking action. Our activities include movement/dance, drawing, song/poem writing, collage-making, role plays, creative visioning, journal prompts, matching activities, fill-in the blank exercises, multiple choice questions, a crossword puzzle, and images to color. There is something for everyone! We love them all. It’s hard to choose a single favorite!
Phoenix: One of my favorite activities is “Coloring Outside of the Lines” because it aims to get people to think about assumptions and stereotypes they may have about trans and non-binary people. It helps people step outside of what they may have learned or been socialized to believe about gender identity and expression and to realize that there are infinite ways to express one’s gender!
Sherry: I especially loved designing the role plays. Having conversations with family, peers and teachers can be challenging. It is great to practice beforehand. I like to think of a variety of ways that a person might respond, ranging from total acceptance to neutrality to refusal to listen. So, the role plays are designed to offer practice with each of those possibilities.
What are some important lessons and/or concepts people, both adults and kids, can learn from your book?
Being a Super Trans Ally! is an interactive go-to guide offering fun, age-appropriate activities to help young people discover the ways in which they can take proactive steps towards being an ally who listens, supports, and advocates with and for their transgender, gender diverse and non-binary friends and family.
People of all ages and all levels of experience, from the novice to the expert, can benefit from taking the time to complete the exercises in Being a Super Trans Ally! to reflect on their own social identities, to question assumptions about gender identity and gender expression, to think about gender from different perspectives, to recognize the ways people are harmed and excluded by the gender binary, to develop strategies to affirm and connect with their trans and non-binary friends and family, to brainstorm supportive actions, to think about what questions are ok to ask and how compliments can be complicated, to practice with pronouns, to develop their ability to move through uncomfortable situations and making mistakes, to practice interrupting transphobic incidents, and to stay in the “courage zone” and take action.
Are there any additional resources you would recommend for parents and teachers looking to further their education or make their space more inclusive?
Here are some highlights for educational and policy resources:
Welcoming Schools Lesson Plans on Gender and supporting Trans and Non-Binary students https://www.welcomingschools.org/resources/lesson-plans/transgender-youth/transgender-with-books/
Gender Diversity (support and education) www.genderdiversity.org
Gender Spectrum (support and education) www.genderspectrum.org
GLSEN (education and advocacy) www.glsen.org
National Center for Transgender Equality (advocacy) https://transequality.org
PFLAG’s Transgender Ally campaign (advocacy)
Trans Student Educational Resources http://transstudent.org
Trans Youth Equality Federation www.transyouthequality.org
Trans Youth Family Allies www.imatyfa.org
Transgender Training Institute (training, consulting, classes) www.transgendertraininginstitute.com
Happy Pride Month, everyone! Keep taking that Super Trans Ally Action!
For Pride Month, JKP is offering a 20% discount on Being a Super Trans Ally! After adding the book to your cart, enter the discount code: ALLY20 (good through June 30, 2020) https://intl.jkp.com/usa/being-a-super-trans-ally-2.html