Our Identities & Transgender Identities

Students consider their own identities and hear the voices of transgender people discussing their different identities, as well as challenges they face.  


To the teacher:  

If you are not already familiar with current understanding about gender identity and related questions, some background reading will be helpful.

Before beginning this activity, think carefully about the maturity of the students in your class and about the level of trust that exists among your students. Review the lesson and consider whether students are ready to engage in the lesson in a way that is safe and respectful for everyone in the class. Be aware that you may have students in your classroom who are transgender or gender non-conforming, or have family members who are. Be sensitive to the needs of these students, and others.  Allow them (and all students) the option of not sharing.

As always, it is helpful if your class has established community agreements about how they will treat each other. If you have these guidelines, review them. If you don’t, consider creating them. Please see these guidelines for other suggestions for teaching about difficult or controversial issues. 

Consider referring to What Does Transgender Mean from an earlier TeachableMoment lesson on transgender people and bathroom access. 




Post this image, project it on the smart board, or put it in the center piece if you are using a circle process.

Invite students to take a few minutes in silence to think about what this image brings up for them. 

Core Identities, in Our Words

Explain that today, we’re going to be looking at identity.  We’ll start by looking at how people view and describe themselves. 

Hand out index cards and invite students to fill in the name badge ("I am ...") by describing themselves using three to four nouns only.  Ask them to pick some of their most important identities, identities that make them who they are today.  

You might note that there is obviously much more to us than these three or four identities, but the idea is to come up with some of the identities that are core to who we are as people. Explain that there are no wrong answers. Consider modeling what you might write on your own index card:  e.g. Black, a woman, a mother, religious, Korean-American, an immigrant, bilingual, a teacher ...

Consider showing some of the images on this pdf as examples of how other people identify, before asking students to fill out their own index cards.

Give students a few minutes to decide which words to jot down. Then, in a go round (with a talking piece if you are using a circle format), invite students to share some or all of the identity nouns they wrote on their cards. 

Next ask students next to consider:

  • Why did these identifiers come to your mind (at least today)?
  • Why do you think you might be more aware of some identities than of others? 
  • Why do you consider the identities you shared in the circle more important than others that might also accurately describe you?  

If you are short on time, just have students contemplate these questions in silence for now.  No need to share out. 

Additional materials on identities can be found at:  http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/10/individual-difference-and-group-similiarity/#sthash.xaHFUvey.dpbs


Transgender Identities, in Their Words  

Explain that next, we’ll watch a video in which people have been asked to describe themselves.  This group of people has an identity in common, yet they use a range of words to describe that identity. They also identify in other ways that make them different from each other.

Show this CNN video, Transgender Identity, In Their Words in which six transgender individuals speak about their gender identity, and what it means to be transgender, for them.

Show the video once all the way through and ask students for their overall thoughts and feelings about it.

  • How does it connect to the activity we did earlier? 
  • Why do you think "transgender" is an important identity to these six people?
  • Is it an identity they could forget about or ignore easily?  Why or why not?
  • Is it an identity that you think is easy to share with others?  Why or why not?

Consider showing the video a second time. This time, ask students to pay special attention to how words and language are used and discussed in the clip. What words and language do people in the clip see as positive and affirming? What language to they see as negative? What language rejects or denies who people are? 

Invite students to take notes, if they’d like, of things that stand out to them or things they might have questions about.

Discuss the video using some or all of the following questions:

  • What do the people in the video say about the words people use or abuse when it comes to their identities?
  • What are some words people in the video use to describe how they identify?
  • What do the people in the video say about the slurs that people use when describing them?  How does that make them feel?
  • What do those in the video say about people who refuse to use certain words to describe them? How do you think that makes them feel?
  • What are some misconceptions that people in the video describe?
  • What are some of the fears that people in the video express? 
  • What does the video say is the average age of a black, transgender woman in the South?  What are your thoughts and feelings about that?




Invite students to either share a take away from today’s lesson, something they learned, or a question they have as a result of today’s lesson that we might want to explore further.