A Note from the Associate Dean for Diversity & Inclusion: “Practicing Gender Inclusion in CAS Learning Environments”

The May 29, 2014 issue of Time magazine focused on the increased cultural visibility of people who identify outside of the gender binary and featured African-American transgender actress LaVerne Cox on its cover titled “The Transgender Tipping Point.” For transgender, non-binary, and gender variant people, the story may have reiterated some familiar aspects of their reality. For many readers, however, it introduced them to an expanding national conversation about cultural notions of gender identity.

Within primary, secondary, and postsecondary education, the ways students and personnel identify on the gender spectrum has gained increased attention that reflects ongoing cultural conversations about inclusion. Some key outcomes of this discourse in higher education have included the designation of all gender or single gender restrooms on campuses, more options in the room selection process for residential students, and the integration of pronoun usage in classroom and professional settings, among others. This is the focus of this letter and the attached materials.

Student organizations, such as the Queer Activist Collective; individual faculty and staff advocates; and the LGBTQIA+ Faculty and Staff Task Force (2019) have been at the vanguard of institutional changes regarding gender inclusion at BU. These efforts have culminated in  several important developments, including a gender neutral restroom map for the CRC developed by the Center for Gender, Sexuality & Activism; a recent change in data gathering protocols from the Analytical Services and Institutional Research requiring gender options beyond the binary and the inclusion of multiple gender pronoun options; and the forthcoming LGBTQIA+ Center.

Our colleagues in the School of Public Health created a guide for individuals seeking more context and information about inclusive practices regarding gender identity in the classroom in 2019.  With the permission of its author Julia Lanham (she/her/hers), Director, Advising, Relationship Management and Career Equity Career and Practicum Office, SPH, I have adapted their materials as a resource for members of the CAS community. Please distribute the attached resources (you can download at these links), a guide to pronouns and a guide for “Respecting and Affirming Gender Identity,” to colleagues as a teaching resource. Julia (jlanham@bu.edu) has conducted workshops for personnel and students from various departments, and may be available to facilitate a conversation with your department. Further resources are at the bottom of this letter.

BU’s students and personnel have shared experiences of misgendering in various forums, and we have the opportunity to address these concerns. Though cultural visibility can foster greater acceptance and inclusion, LGBTQIA+ identified people remain vulnerable to bias-related crimes. Bias, harassment, and discrimination tend to be underreported. Several reporting agencies, however, have identified patterns of increased violent crimes against LGBTQ+ people over the last few years including gender non-conforming individuals. Transgender women of color, especially black and brown identified women, are particularly vulnerable. While addressing social tensions regarding deep-seated cultural issues entails multiple solutions and approaches, creating inclusive and supportive learning and working environments is one way we can all foster a sense of belonging in our community.

Best wishes,

Vincent L. Stephens
Associate Dean for Diversity & Inclusion

Further resources related to gender inclusive practices in higher education:

    For more information on bias-related hate crimes, please consult the following: